Eating right during pregnancy is not just a matter of eating more. You must also consider what you eat. What you eat right before and during your pregnancy can affect both your health and the health of your growing baby.
A healthy diet includes proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and plenty of water. If you are unsure about eating healthy during pregnancy, in addition to reviewing the information on this website, make sure to talk to your doctor or midwife.
The following information has been adapted from the websites listed at the bottom of this page.
Eating More During Pregnancy
While you are pregnant you will need additional nutrients but, in general, you should only eat an extra 300 calories per day. The ADA recommends that pregnant women eat a total of 2,500 to 2,700 calories every day with the calories coming from a variety of healthy foods.
Without the advice of your health care provider you not cut back on your food intake. If you do, your unborn baby might not get the right amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals. Low-calorie diets, for example, can break down a pregnant woman's stored fat and this can lead to problems for your baby.
Food Cravings and Pregnancy
Some women develop specific food cravings during pregnancy. Some pregnant women crave chocolate, spicy foods, fruits, and comfort foods. As long as these foods you crave fit into an overall healthy diet, you should not worry about fulfilling the craving. However, sometimes a woman may crave non-food items; this is known as pica. If you do crave non-food items it does not mean anything is wrong with you but you need to discuss this with your health care provider.
There is no clear explanation for food cravings and no substantial evidence that such food cravings indicates that a woman's body lacks the nutrients that food contains.
Food and Drinks to Avoid During Pregnancy
Avoid all alcohol since no level of alcohol consumption is considered safe during pregnancy. Also, check with your doctor before you take any vitamins or herbal products. Some of these can be harmful to the developing fetus.
Caffeine is a stimulant found in colas, coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, and some over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Large quantities of caffeine can cause irritability, nervousness and insomnia as well as low birth-weight babies. Caffeine can also lead to a reduction in the amount of valuable water your body needs. Some studies show that drinking caffeine during pregnancy can harm the fetus therefore you should be cautious and limit your caffeine consumption. Some health care providers believe that one or two 6- to 8-ounce cups per day of coffee, tea, or soda with caffeine will not hurt your baby, but they note that high caffeine consumption has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.
Foods you should avoid include:
unpasteurized cheeses such as feta, goat, Brie, Camembert, and blue cheese
unpasteurized milk, juices, and apple cider
raw eggs or foods containing raw eggs
raw or undercooked meats, fish, or shellfish
processed meats such as hot dogs and deli meats (these should be well-cooked)
fish that are high in mercury, including shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish
Take Multivitamins During My Pregnancy
Most health care providers will advise you to take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin every day in help ensure that you and your baby get enough important nutrients like folic acid. Remember to take only the vitamins and minerals approved by your health care provider.
Weight Gain During Pregnancy
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends an average weight gain during pregnancy of 25 to 30 pounds during pregnancy. But the amount of weight you should gain depends on your weight before you became pregnant and your height. In general, if you were underweight before becoming pregnant, you should gain between 28 and 40 pounds and if you were overweight before becoming pregnant, you should gain between 15 and 25 pounds. You should gain weight gradually during your pregnancy, with most of the weight gained in the last trimester. Make sure to check with your health care provider to find out how much weight gain is best for you and your baby.
Common Nutrients and the Foods that Contain Them
What pregnant women eat is more important than how much.
cell growth and blood production
lean meat, fish, poultry, egg whites, beans, peanut butter, tofu
daily energy production
breads, cereals, rice, potatoes, pasta, fruits, vegetables
strong bones and teeth, muscle contraction, nerve function
milk, cheese, yogurt, sardines or salmon with bones, spinach
red blood cell production (needed to prevent anemia)
lean red meat, spinach, iron-fortified whole-grain breads and cereals
healthy skin, good eyesight, growing bones
carrots, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes
healthy gums, teeth, and bones; assistance with iron absorption
citrus fruit, broccoli, tomatoes, fortified fruit juices
red blood cell formation; effective use of protein, fat, and carbohydrates
pork, ham, whole-grain cereals, bananas
formation of red blood cells, maintaining nervous system health
meat, fish, poultry, milk
healthy bones and teeth; aids absorption of calcium
fortified milk, dairy products, cereals, and breads
blood and protein production, effective enzyme function
green leafy vegetables, dark yellow fruits and vegetables, beans, peas, nuts
body energy stores
meat, whole-milk dairy products, nuts, peanut butter, margarine, vegetable oils
Folic Acid and Other Critical Nutrients
Folic acid, a B vitamin, helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. The best way to get enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it and eat a healthy diet. Folic acid is found in the following foods:
Fortified breakfast cereals
Peanuts (only if you do not have a peanut allergy)
Orange juice (from concentrate is best)
Enriched breads and pasta
Pregnant women need twice as much iron, approximately 30 mg per day, than other women. It is recommended that a pregnant woman take a low-dose iron supplement (30 mg/day) or a multivitamin with iron. A pregnant woman can also eat lots of iron-rich foods like lean red meat, fish, poultry, dried fruits, whole-grain breads, and iron-fortified cereals.
It is recommended that a pregnant woman get approximately 1,000 mg/day of calcium and many pregnant women will have to change their diets to get their fill of this important mineral. Low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or other dairy products, green leafy vegetables, calcium-fortified foods like orange juice and breakfast cereal can also provide calcium.
It is easy to overlook the important role that water plays in the diet of a pregnant woman. Water carries the nutrients from the food you eat to your baby, it helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids, excessive swelling, and urinary tract or bladder infections, and prevents you from becoming dehydrated. You may think coffee, tea, and soft drinks are replacing needed water in their body but this is typically not the case. You should drink at least 6 eight-ounce glasses of water, just plain water, per day while adding another glass of water per day for each hour of activity.