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Eating for Two

Proper nutrition and healthy weight gain help ensure good health for you and your baby throughout pregnancy and nursing. It is important to have enough Folic Acid (a B vitamin) in your system right before and early in your pregnancy. Folic Acid may reduce the risk of having a baby with certain neural tube birth defects.

Foods high in folic acid include: orange juice, green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, liver and other organ meats, fortified cereals, asparagus and more. A vitamin containing 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of Folic Acid is recommended, ideally before your pregnancy and especially during the first trimester and after delivery and before you get pregnant again.

How should my diet change now that I am pregnant?

Even before pregnancy begins, nutrition is a primary factor in the health of mother and baby. If you are eating a well-balanced diet before you become pregnant, you will only need to make a few changes to meet the nutritional needs of pregnancy.

A healthy eating plan includes a variety of foods. The amount of servings depends on individual calorie needs. Visit Choose My Plate to calculate and print out your personalized eating plan.

Example: 2,000-calorie diet per day would include:

  • 6 oz of grains (make ½ whole grains)
  • 2 ½ cups of vegetables
  • 2 cups of fruit
  • 3 cups of milk (includes cheese, yogurt)
  • 5 ½ ounces of meat and beans (Go lean) (there are certain fish that should be avoided)

There is a slight increase in calories needs during pregnancy.

  • First 3 months the calorie level is no different than normal. No need to eat more food than usual, as long as your choices are healthy choices.
  • Normal weight women only need about 300 more calories each day during the last 6 months. (Roughly 1,900 - 2,500 per day) (Calculate your BMI)

To help control cravings; honor the craving in a small serving, as long as it is an appropriate food item. The more you deny yourself the food, the more likely you are to over eat when you give in. Or you might eat everything else in an effort to try and fill the craving with little or no success. This will lead to overeating and eventually unnecessary weight gain. Some women get cravings for non-food items (PICA) or for foods such as baking soda. These types of cravings would not be appropriate to honor.

What should I make sure to include in my diet?

Eating a well-balanced diet while you are pregnant will help to keep you and your baby healthy. Most physicians agree that the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs), except those for iron and folate, can be obtained through a proper diet. As a pregnant woman, you need more nutrients to help your baby grow and be healthy. There are other dietary additions you will need:

Calcium

The daily recommended amount of calcium in pregnancy increases by 400 milligrams for women over 24 years of age and 600 milligrams for teenage women. The minimum number of servings from the milk group needed per day is two to three. One serving of milk is 1 cup. One serving of cheese is 1 1/2 ounces.

Folate

To help prevent birth defects, it is important to get enough daily folate before as well as during pregnancy. Be sure to include foods high in folate, such as orange juice, strawberries, spinach, broccoli, beans and fortified breads and breakfast cereals.

Prenatal supplements contain folic acid (another form of folate). Look for a supplement that has at least 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folic acid and always talk to your health care provider before taking any supplements.

Fluids

Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, during pregnancy. A woman's blood volume increases dramatically during pregnancy. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can help prevent common problems such as dehydration and constipation. To find out what other nutrients are important during pregnancy and how much you need, ask your health care provider any questions you may have.

Source: "Fit For Two" NIH Publication No. 02-5130 NIDDK Dec., 2002