Nutrition During Pregnancy

Armen Hareyan's picture

Healthy eating in pregnancy, and enough of it, is very important for your baby to grow and develop. You should consume 200 to 300 more calories than you did before you became pregnant.

Although, nausea and vomiting during the first few months of pregnancy can make this difficult, try to eat a well balanced diet and take prenatal vitamins. Here are some recommendations to keep you and your baby healthy.

Goals for healthy eating

  • Eat a variety of foods to get all the nutrients you need. Recommended daily servings: 6-11 servings of breads and grains, 2-4 servings of fruit, 4 or more servings of vegetables, 4 servings of dairy products, 3 servings of protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs or nuts). Use fats and sweets sparingly.
  • Choose foods high in starch and fiber such as whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fruits and vegetables.
  • Make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your daily diet. You should take a prenatal vitamin supplement to make sure you are consistently getting enough vitamins and minerals every day. Your doctor can recommend an over-the-counter brand or prescribe a prenatal vitamin for you.
  • Eat and drink at least 4 servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day to help ensure that you are getting 1200 mg of calcium in your daily diet.
  • Eat at least three servings of iron-rich foods per day to ensure you are getting 30 mg. of iron in your daily diet.
  • Choose at least one good source of Vitamin C every day, which include: oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, honeydew, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, green peppers, tomatoes and mustard greens.
  • Choose at least one good source of folic acid every day, which include: dark green leafy vegetables, veal and legumes (lima beans, black beans, black-eyed peas and chickpeas). Every pregnant woman needs .4 mg of folic acid per day to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
  • Choose at least one source of Vitamin A every other day. Sources of Vitamin A include carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, spinach, water squash, turnip greens, beet greens, apricots and cantaloupe.

Are there foods I should avoid?

  • Avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol has been linked to premature delivery and low birth weight babies.
  • Limit caffeine to no more than 300 mg. per day (two 5-ounce cups of coffee, three 5-ounce cups of tea or two 12-ounce glasses of caffeinated soda). Remember, chocolate contains caffeine -- the amount of caffeine in a chocolate bar is equal to 1/4 cup of coffee.
  • The use of saccharin is strongly discouraged during pregnancy because it can cross the placenta and may remain in fetal tissues. But, the use of non-nutritive or artificial sweeteners approved by the FDA is acceptable during pregnancy. These FDA-approved sweeteners include aspartame and acesulfame-K. Talk with your health care provider about how much non-nutritive sweetener is acceptable during pregnancy.
  • Decrease the total amount of fat you eat to 30% or less of your total daily calories. For a person eating 2000 calories a day, this would be 65 grams of fat or less per day.
  • Limit cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams (mg) or less per day.
  • Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish, because they contain high levels of mercury.

Can I diet while I am pregnant?
No. Do not diet or try to lose weight during pregnancy -- both you and your baby need the proper nutrients in order to be healthy. Keep in mind that you will lose some weight the first week your baby is born.

Can I maintain my vegetarian diet while pregnant?
Just because you are pregnant doesn't mean you have to diverge from your vegetarian diet. Your baby can receive all the nutrition he or she needs to grow and develop while you follow a vegetarian diet if you make sure you eat a wide variety of healthy foods that provide enough protein and calories for you and your baby.

Depending on the type of vegetarian meal plan you follow, you may need to adjust your eating habits to ensure that you and your baby are receiving adequate nutrition (you should consume 200 to 300 more calories than you did before you became pregnant).


Why do I need more calcium?
Calcium is a nutrient needed in the body to build strong teeth and bones. Calcium also allows blood to clot normally, muscles and nerves to function properly, and the heart to beat normally. Most of the calcium in your body is found inside your bones.

Your growing baby needs a considerable amount of calcium to develop. If you do not consume enough calcium to sustain the needs of your developing baby, your body will take calcium from your bones, decreasing your bone mass and putting you at risk for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes dramatic thinning of the bone, resulting in weak, brittle bones that can easily be broken.

Pregnancy is a critical time for a woman to consume more calcium. Even if no problems develop during pregnancy, an inadequate supply of calcium at this time can diminish bone strength and increase your risk for osteoporosis later in life.

How much calcium should I consume during pregnancy?
The following guidelines will help ensure that you are consuming enough calcium throughout your pregnancy:

  • The U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) for calcium is 1200 milligrams (mg) per day for pregnant and lactating (breastfeeding) women over age 24. The USRDA for women under age 24 is 1200 to 1500 mg. of calcium per day.

  • Eating and drinking at least four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods a day will help ensure that you are getting 1200 mg. of calcium in your daily diet.

  • The best sources of calcium are dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt, cream soups and pudding. Calcium is also found in foods including green vegetables (broccoli, spinach and greens), seafood, dried peas and beans.

  • Vitamin D will help your body use calcium. Adequate amounts of vitamin D can be obtained through exposure to the sun and in fortified milk, eggs and fish.

How can I get enough calcium if I am


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