Eat Right During Pregnancy
Pregnant women should eat a balanced, nutritional diet and increase their calorie intake to meet the needs of the developing fetus and their changing bodies. Eating a range of wholesome and nutritious foods during pregnancy is one of the most important things that women can do to ensure the normal development and growth of the fetus. And it can help prevent prematurity and low birth weight. For the mother, good nutrition helps prevent anemia, infection, and poor healing.
During the second trimester, pregnant women need an additional 340 calories each day. Make these extra calories count by choosing healthy, low-fat foods that pack a solid nutritional punch.
Talk to your caregiver about how to round out your diet and address any nutritional shortcomings -- particularly if you're a vegetarian, lactose intolerant, or follow a special diet for any other reason. Vegetarians, in particular, need to make a special effort to get all of the essential amino acids their babies need in order to develop normally.
Check the modified food plate, courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture, to find out how many servings of each food group to aim for when you're pregnant.
Good nutrition during pregnancy depends on eating a variety of wholesome foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. It is important for pregnant women to drink plenty of fluids and have an adequate intake of nutrients such as:
- Protein: for proper development of the fetus and placenta
- Calcium: for healthy development of the fetus
- Iron: for the developing blood supply of the fetus and to prevent anemia in the mother
- Folic acid: to reduce the risk of spina bifida, anencephaly, and related birth defects
It is recommended that women who wish to become pregnant take a prenatal vitamin containing folic acid and other essential vitamins and minerals, including iron. Folic acid has been shown to decrease the risk of certain abnormalities.
Bread, Cereal, Rice, and Pasta: 5 to 7 Ounces a Day
These foods provide carbohydrates, which supply energy for your body and for your baby's growth. Whole-grain and fortified products contain folic acid and iron, too. (For details on what these and other nutrients do during pregnancy, see the Recommended Daily Allowances Chart). One ounce equals: 1 slice bread, 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal, ½ cup cooked rice or pasta, or 1 English muffin. Make sure at least half of your choices are whole-grain.
Vegetables: 3 Cups or More a Day
Vegetables are a good source of vitamins A and C, folic acid, iron, and magnesium. Try to get at least one cup of dark green or orange vegetables each day. One cup equals 2 cups raw leafy vegetables, 1 cup cooked vegetables, or 8 fluid ounces low-sodium vegetable juice. If you are having difficulty finding your favorite vegetables at the grocery store, look for frozen varieties with no added sodium. The only thing listed on the ingredients list should be the vegetable.
Fruit: 2 Cups or More a Day
Fruit packs plenty of vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. Eat a variety of different fruits, and stock up on vitamin C-rich foods (such as citrus fruits, melons, and berries). Choose whole fruits over fruit juices, which lack fiber. One cup equals 1 medium piece of fresh fruit or ½ a piece of larger fruits such as mangos and grapefruits; 1 cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit; ½ cup dried fruit; or 8 fluid ounces 100% fruit juice.
Dairy (Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese): 3 Cups a Day
Dairy products are a great source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. To keep calories and saturated fat in check, choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Milk and yogurts have more potassium and less sodium than most cheeses. One cup equals: 1 cup milk, 8 ounces of yogurt or cottage cheese, 1.5 ounces natural cheese, or 2 ounces processed cheese. If you are lactose-intolerant you can substitute Lactaid Milk or soy milk that has been fortified with calcium.
Protein (Meat, Poultry, Fish, Beans, Eggs, and Nuts): 5 to 6 Ounces a Day
Foods from this group are excellent sources of B vitamins, protein, iron, and zinc. One ounce equals 1 ounce meat, fish, or poultry; one large egg; ¼ cup tofu; ½ cup cooked beans; or 1 tablespoon peanut of butter. Whenever possible, opt for lean cuts and low-fat cooking methods.
Fats, Oils, and Sweets: Use Sparingly
Since they're made up mostly of "empty" calories with little or no nutritional value, go easy on butter, margarine, salad dressing, cooking oil, and desserts. But don't cut fats oils out of your diet entirely. They provide long-term energy for growth and essential brain development.
Reviewed By: Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. A.D.A.M. Editorial Update: 06/11/2014