Nutrition During Pregnancy

This will be one of the most physically-demanding times in a woman's life, and her body requires sufficient nutrients every day to support a growing baby. During pregnancy, more calories and essential nutrients are needed than ever before, to ensure that the baby develops normally. Because certain tissues and organs develop during certain weeks of pregnancy, it is important to eat the right foods every day. Mom's good-health depends on this too. Her body is delivering nutrients to the baby, but Mom still needs the same nutrients as she did before. If her diet was well-balanced diet prior to becoming pregnant, she probably won't need to make big changes. However, every little thing she can do to promote healthiness can make a big difference for baby and herself during this time.

General Nutrition

Good nutrition and a balanced diet are important to everyone, regardless of age. Whether a baby, toddler, teen or adult, steps may be taken to improve existing eating habits. Because of their role, moms play the most important part of establishing healthy nutrition habits for the family.

Included in that role is the need to:

  • Become a role model, eating healthy foods and following the recommended food pyramid guidelines.
  • Serve and make readily available a variety of healthy food and snacks.
  • Introduce the tradition of 'family meals'.
  • Educate the family on the benefits of healthy eating.

Eating for Two

While you are pregnant, you will need additional nutrients to keep you and your baby healthy. But this does not mean you need to eat twice as much. You should only eat an extra 300 calories per day. A baked potato has 120 calories. So getting these extra 300 calories doesn't take a lot of food.

Serving Size

For optimal health, pay attention to serving size. Portions at restaurants are often 2-3 serving sizes larger than need be, providing excesses in calories, fats, sugars and nutrients. This can increase risk for obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. It is just as important not to overeat during pregnancy as it is to make sure you eat enough for two.


A women beginning her pregnancy at an average weight needs an extra 340 calories per day in the second trimester and 450 calories per day in the third trimester. Underweight women may need more calories, overweight women less. Getting more calories usually is not difficult. During your pregnancy, focus not only on how much you eat, but making healthy choices about what you eat. The ADA (American Dieticians Association) recommends that pregnant women eat a total of 2,500 to 2,700 calories every day. These calories should come from a variety of healthy foods.

Never diet during pregnancy. This is a time to feed your body and the body of your developing baby. Low calorie diets can lead to the break down of a pregnant woman's stored fat. This causes the production of substances called ketones. Ketones can be found in the mother's blood and urine and are a sign of starvation. Constant production of ketones can affect the health and neurological development of the growing baby and may result in mental retardation.

Meal Preparation While Pregnant

Have someone else handle raw meat, poultry, or fish. If you can't avoid it, wear clean latex gloves and clean any cutting boards, sinks, knives and counters well. Wash your hands well after handling meat. Only eat meat that is cooked medium-well to well-done. Avoid meat that is pink in the middle. Raw meat, poultry, and fish potentially harbor bacteria or parasites that could be harmful to you and your baby.

Peanuts, Peanut Butter & Allergies

Peanuts and peanut butter are good sources of folic acid and protein, and they may also have other benefits such as promoting a healthy cardiovascular system. However, approximately 1% of the U.S. population - and 1 out 4 allergic individuals - will have an allergic reaction with severe respiratory or gastro-intestinal symptoms if they ingest peanut-based products.

There have been suggestions that a fetus (that is exposed to these allergens by a woman eating peanut products while pregnant) may develop a predisposition to the peanut allergy. However, there has yet to be an extensive amount of research on fetal sensitization.

It is recommended that parents with family histories of nut allergies - or severe food allergies in general - try to avoid early infant exposure to formulas or foods made with nut products. These same mothers may want to avoid peanut consumption while breastfeeding.

Women who may have reason to believe their fetus or infant may be adversely affected by peanuts or peanut products should check with a physician trained in food allergies. The same is recommended for women of childbearing age with a strong family history of other major allergies such as asthma, atopic dermatitis or allergic rhinitis.

Healthy Foods

A pregnancy diet must provide mom & developing baby with protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. A balanced diet includes eating from each of the 4 food groups every day. The March of Dimes also recommends an appropriate number of portions for each food group. Choose from the following foods every day.

Protein Foods

Meat, fish, eggs and beans will be the building blocks of your baby's growth. Pregnant women require 10 more grams of protein than non-pregnant women, approximately 60 grams of protein every day. Two or more 2-3 ounce servings of cooked lean meat, fish, or poultry without skin, or two or more 1 ounce servings of cooked meat contain about 60 grams of protein. Eggs, nuts, dried beans, and peas also are good sources of protein. But don't rush out and buy high protein drinks! Women in the United States regularly eat more protein than they need. So you probably won't have to make an effort to eat the needed 60 grams of protein a day.

  • Choose 3-4 servings per day
  • One serving = 2-3 ounces of lean-meat, poultry or fish, or one egg.
  • If you are a vegetarian, be sure to eat complete proteins like tofu and other soy products or nuts. A complete protein supplies all the essential amino acids that our body can not make itself and must get from food. Beans combined with a wide variety of whole grains also create a complete vegetarian protein.

Protein: Beans, Eggs, Lean Meat and Fish

Meat, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts will provide protein which is the building blocks for your baby's growth. This food group also provides valuable minerals. Pregnant women require 10-15 more grams of protein than non-pregnant women, approximately 60 grams of protein every day. Two or more 8 ounce servings of dairy products, 3 ounce servings of cooked lean meat, fish, or poultry without skin contain about 60 grams of protein. Avoid fatty cuts, frying, and leaving on the skin. Eggs, nuts, and beans are also good sources of protein. Choose 3-4 healthy servings of protein per day. Eat small amounts throughout the day to help balance blood sugar, maintain energy, and decrease morning sickness.

One serving of protein = 2-3 ounces (the size of the palm of an average female) of lean meat, poultry or fish, one egg, 1/2 cup cooked beans, 2 tablespoons of nut butter or 1/4 cup nuts.

Dietary Sources of Protein

Food Serving Protein Grams
Cottage Cheese 1 cup 31g
Low-Fat Yogurt 8 ounces 10g
Milk 8 ounces 8g
Cheese 1 oz (1 slice) 7g
Soy Milk 8 ounces 6g
Chicken Breast 3 ounces 26g
Turkey 3 ounces 25g
Tuna in water 3 ounces 22g
Lean Beef 3 ounces 22g
Salmon 3 ounces 20g
Egg One 7g
Soy Burger 4 ounces (1 patty) 14g
Kidney Beans 1 cup cooked 18g
Lentils 1 cup cooked 16g
Black Beans 1 cup cooked 15g
Quinoa 1 cup cooked 22g
Rice 1 cup cooked 6g
Bagel One 6g
Oatmeal 1 cup cooked 5g
Whole Wheat Bread 1 slice 3g
Peanuts, dry roasted 1/4 cup 9g
Sunflower Seeds 1/4 cup 9g
Almonds 1/4 cup 6g
Peanut Butter 1 tablespoon 4g

Fruits and Vegetables

Pregnant women should try to eat 7 or more servings of fruits and vegetables combined (for example: 3 servings of fruit and 4 of vegetables) daily.

Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Fruits and vegetables with vitamin C help you and your baby to have healthy gums and other tissues. Vitamin C also helps your body to heal wounds and to absorb iron. Examples of fruits and vegetables with vitamin C include strawberries, melons, oranges, papaya, tomatoes, peppers, greens, cabbage, and broccoli.

Fruits and vegetables also add fiber and minerals to your diet and give you energy. Plus, dark green vegetables have vitamin A, iron, and foliate, which are important nutrients during pregnancy.

One serving of fruit = 1 medium apple, 1 medium banana, 1/2 cup of chopped fruit, 3/4 cup of fruit juice.

One serving of vegetables = 1 cup raw leafy vegetables, 1/2 cup of other vegetables (raw or cooked), 3/4 cup vegetable juice.


Choose 2-4 servings of fruit every day, including fruit or 100% juice that is rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C helps you and your baby to have healthy gums and other tissues. Vitamin C also helps your body to heal wounds and to absorb iron. Examples of fruits that are rich in vitamin C include citrus fruit (oranges and grapefruits), strawberries, melons, oranges, mango and papaya. Choose only 100% juices which are pasteurized for safety or make your own juice at home with fresh fruits or vegetables. Be sure to drink 100% juices in moderation, as a way to get more fruit in your diet rather than to replace fruit as they are higher in natural sugars and calories and lower in fiber. Fruit drinks and fruit sodas do not count as juice.


Pregnant women should try to eat 3-5 servings or more of vegetables daily. Vegetables are rich sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also low in fat and sodium. Dark green vegetables provide necessary nutrients like Vitamin A, iron, folate and other B vitamins, and Vitamin K. Orange and yellow vegetables like yellow squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes are good sources of Vitamin A precursors. Red vegetables like tomatoes and red peppers provide Vitamin C.

Milk and Dairy Products

Dairy products provide the calcium you and your baby need for strong bones and teeth. Dairy products are also sources of vitamin A and D, protein, and some B vitamins. Vitamin A helps growth, immune function, and vision. Vitamin D is important in our bodies' ability to utilize calcium to mineralize our bones (and the bones of our baby). B vitamins support our ability to manage stress, make new cells, and produce neurotransmitters (our brain's hormones).

Pregnant women should try to eat 3 servings of low-fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, cheese or other dairy products every day. You may choose to eat low-fat or non-fat milk and milk products to lower your fat intake. If you are lactose intolerant, can't digest dairy products, or choose not to consume dairy products, you can still get enough calcium. Other sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds, tofu, or fortified orange juice or soy milk. There are also several reduced-lactose products available. Prenatal vitamins will provide some of your daily intake of calcium, and in some cases, your doctor might recommend a calcium supplement.

One serving of dairy = 8 ounces of milk, yogurt, soy milk, cottage cheese, or 1.5-ounces of natural cheese (I slice or two 1 inch cubes).