Pregnant women should eat a balanced diet containing whole grains, a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat or fat-free dairy, and healthy fats.
Essential nutrients during pregnancy include folic acid or folate, iron, and calcium.
Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much.
Congratulations on your pregnancy! Over the next nine months, as you dream of holding your future bundle of joy, there’s plenty you can do to get ready for motherhood.
To give your baby a healthy start, it’s incredibly important to take proper care of your own health. And because March is National Nutrition Month, it’s the perfect time to focus on eating a healthy diet that will benefit both you and your little one.
What should you be eating? Here are some tips to get started:
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that pregnant women eat a balanced diet from all of the following food groups:
- Whole grains: Breads, cereals, pastas and brown rice.
- Fruits: All types of fruits, including fresh, frozen or canned without added sugars.
- Vegetables: A variety of colorful vegetables, fresh, frozen or canned with no added salt should be included. Raw sprouts should be avoided.
- Lean protein: Choose lean protein from meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and peas, peanut butter, soy products and nuts. Pregnant women should avoid eating tilefish, shark, swordfish and king mackerel, and limit white (albacore) tuna to six ounces per week. Deli, luncheon meats and hot dogs should be reheated if consumed.
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy: This includes milk, cheese and yogurt. Unpasteurized milk and some soft cheeses that are made from unpasteurized milk also should be avoided.
- Healthful fats: From foods such as avocados, nuts and seeds as well as vegetable oils including canola and olive oil.
You can create a personalized MyPlate Plan to make sure you’re getting essential nutrients required for a healthy pregnancy. Important nutrients for pregnant women include:
- Folate or Folic Acid: At least 400 micrograms daily can reduce the risk of birth defects affecting the spinal cord. It can be found in legumes, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and fortified cereals, pastas, and breads. Your doctor will likely recommend prenatal supplements.
- Iron: Pregnant women should consume at least 27mg daily. Iron can be found in red meat, chicken and fish, fortified cereals, spinach, some leafy greens, and beans.
- Calcium: For pregnant women, the recommendation is 1,300mg per day (for adolescents 14 to 18 years old) — and 1,000mg per day (for women 19 to 50 years old). Calcium can be found in low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese, or fortified plant-based beverages, cereals and juices. Before, during, and after pregnancy, women should consume at least three servings of calcium-rich foods daily.
Eating for two doesn’t actually mean eating twice as much. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following calorie guidelines during pregnancy:
- First trimester (first 12 weeks) – Most women don’t need any extra calories.
- Second trimester (13 to 26 weeks) – Most women need about 340 extra calories a day.
- Last trimester (after 26 weeks) – Most women need about 450 extra calories a day.
What else should pregnant women know?
- Pregnant women should avoid added sugars, solid fats, regular soft drinks, sweets, and fried snacks.
- Foodsafety.gov offers a convenient checklist of foods to avoid while pregnant. Potential bacteria in these foods may harm your baby.
- While it’s important to take prenatal supplements as prescribed, supplements can’t replace an unhealthy diet. These supplements should be taken in addition to, not instead of, a healthy and nutrient-rich diet.
- Along with healthy eating, be sure to also exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and avoid harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco.
- No amount of alcohol is considered safe during pregnancy.
Ask your doctor about referral to a Swedish registered dietitian for maternity nutrition counseling. Need a primary care provider? Find a Swedish provider near you.
For more pregnancy-related health advice, download Swedish’s free pregnancy and parenting app, Circle by Swedish. Swedish also offers a wide variety of childbirth and parenting classes: Learn more and register today.
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