Pregnancy: The best Nutrition you must have

Congratulations! You are now eating for you and your baby. While there are 2 of you now, you only need to increase your calorie intake by 500 calories. This guide will help you choose a variety of healthy foods for you and your baby to get all the nutrients you need.

What foods should I eat?

You will need an additional 200 to 300 extra calories from nutrient-dense foods such as lean meats, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grain products. It will be important to carefully consider the foods you consume during your pregnancy. This is a time to eat more foods that are nutrient-dense, and fewer sweets and treats. Eat a variety of foods. Use the website www.choosemyplate.gov as a guide to choose the amounts of foods in each food group.

Daily guidelines for eating healthy during pregnancy

  • Calcium: Calcium is needed in the body to build strong bones and teeth. Calcium also allows the blood to clot normally, nerves to function properly, and the heart to beat normally. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day for pregnant and lactating (breastfeeding) women. Women 19 years or younger need 1,300 mg a day. Eat or drink 4 servings of dairy products or foods rich in calcium. Dairy products are the best source of calcium. Other sources of calcium are dark, leafy greens, fortified cereal, breads, fish, fortified orange juices, almonds and sesame seeds.
  • Folic acid: Folic acid is used to make the extra blood your body needs during pregnancy. ACOG and the March of Dimes recommend 400 micrograms (mcg) per day for pregnant women. This amount is included in your prenatal vitamins. The March of Dimes suggests that 70% of all neural tube defects can be avoided with appropriate folic acid intake. Some women are at an increased risk for having a baby with an open neural tube defect (including but not limited to women with a family history of spina bifida, women on anti-epileptic medication, etc.). ACOG recommends additional folic acid for women at an increased risk for neural tube defect. Your doctor can discuss this with you and in some instances, refer you for genetic counseling to discuss further. Foods rich in folic acid include lentils, kidney beans, green leafy vegetables (spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, and broccoli), citrus fruits, nuts and beans. Folic acid is also added as a supplement to certain foods such as fortified breads, cereal, pasta, rice, and flours.
  • Iron: Iron is an important part of red blood cells, which carry oxygen through the body. Iron will help you build resistance to stress and disease, as well as help you avoid tiredness, weakness, irritability, and depression. ACOG recommends you receive 27 total mg of iron a day between food and your prenatal vitamin. Good sources include whole grain products, lean beef and pork, dried fruit and beans, sardines and green leafy vegetables.
  • Vitamin A: ACOG recommends you receive 770 mcg of Vitamin A daily. Foods rich in Vitamin A are leafy green vegetables, deep yellow or orange vegetables (e.g., carrots or sweet potatoes), milk, and liver.
  • Daily recommendations: Include 2 to 3 servings of vegetables, 2 servings of fruits, at least 3 servings of whole grain bread, cereals, pasta, 2 to 3 servings of lean protein (e.g., meat, fish, and poultry).
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D works with calcium to help the baby’s bones and teeth develop. It also is essential for healthy skin and eyesight. All women, including those who are pregnant, need 600 international units of vitamin D a day. Good sources are milk fortified with vitamin D and fatty fish such as salmon. Exposure to sunlight also converts a chemical in the skin to vitamin D.
  • DHA: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), recommends pregnant and lactating women should aim for an average daily intake of at least 200 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) a day in addition to your prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamins, as well as DHA, can be purchased over-the-counter or with a prescription.
  • Protein: Protein is an important nutrient needed for growth and development. Protein is needed for energy and to build and repair different parts of your body, especially brain, muscle and blood. A pregnant woman needs additional protein for her baby’s growth. Each person needs different amounts of protein depending on their size. A woman weighing 150 pounds needs 75 grams of protein every day. (To estimate, use your pre-pregnant weight and divide by 2.) Choose a variety of protein-rich foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. Use labels on packaged food to determine how many grams of protein each food provides.
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol has been linked with premature delivery and low birth weight babies, as well as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
  • Caffeine: It is recommended to limit your caffeine intake. You may choose: two 5-ounce cups of coffee, three 5-ounce cups of tea, or two 12-ounce glasses of caffeinated soda.
  • Eat salty foods in moderation. Salt causes your body to retain water and could lead to an elevation in your blood pressure.
  • Do not diet! Even if you are overweight, your pregnancy is not an acceptable time to lose weight. You or your baby could be missing essential nutrients for good growth.