Recommendations for Health Eating
Good nutrition during pregnancy is important for you and your baby. Eating a balanced diet will allow your baby to grow and develop and help you feel your best. You need about 300 more calories a day than before you were pregnant. Try to choose plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as foods high in fiber, such as whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta and rice. Eating calcium-rich foods, such as milk and yogurt, will help your baby develop strong bones and a healthy heart. In addition, eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and walnuts, will help nourish baby’s brain development. Taking a prenatal vitamin daily will help you get all the important nutrients you need, such as iron and folic acid.
Below are more tips for healthy eating during pregnancy.
- Folic acid is one of the minerals that can help your baby's brain and spine develop properly. It is recommended to take a supplement at least a month before becoming pregnant. Folic-acid rich foods include beans, peas, oranges, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and mustard greens, enriched bread, flour, pasta, rice and grains, including ready-to-eat cereals.
- Iron supplements can protect you from developing anemia, which will make it less likely that your baby is born early or underweight. Iron can be found in foods like nuts, beans, whole grains, dark leafy vegetables and tofu.
- Instead of eating three big meals a day, eat healthy snacks and add small meals throughout the day so that you can get all the nutrients you need.
- Alcohol is not healthy for you or your baby at this time.
- Drinking 8-10 cups of water per day will help you stay hydrated, especially when you are active.
- Limit high sugar and fat foods such as soft drinks, desserts, fried foods, cheese, whole milk and fatty meats.
- During this time, you want to reduce the amount of coffee you drink to about 12oz so that you will not be nauseous, light-headed, dehydrated, have problems sleeping or excessive urination. There is also some evidence that too much caffeine is not good for your baby.
- Seafood can help you get some important minerals. Fish oil can help provide you with Omega-3 fatty acids. These acids can increase the likelihood that your child will be born healthy, with an adequate weight and on time. However, you should limit foods like tilefish, shark, swordfish, shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish and king mackerel to about 12oz or less per week, as they have a lot of mercury which is not good for your baby.
It is also important to avoid some foods while you are pregnant to reduce the likelihood of developing food-borne illnesses. Some of these foods include:
- Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and fish.
- Prepared meats such as deli meats and hot dogs, unless heated until steaming hot.
- Soft-scrambled eggs and foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs.
- Unpasteurized juices, milk, and soft cheeses (brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, queso fresco, and panela).
- Refrigerated pates, meat spreads, or smoked seafood (does not include canned and shelf-stable versions).
- Herbal supplements and teas.
- Fish high in mercury (albacore tuna, shark, swordfish, kind mackerel, tilefish).
- Nonfoods such as clay, starch, detergents, waxes and coffee grounds. If you feel some strong urges to eat non-foods please consult your doctor. It is important that you do not eat these substances for your safety.
Throughout your pregnancy it is important to eat a balanced diet with the right proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. The table below can help guide you in choosing the right foods.
These vegetables are sources of vitamin A and potassium
Choose "low-sodium" or "no-salt-added" varieties
These fruits are great sources of potassium and may also provide vitamin A
Make sure you choose fruit canned in "100% fruit juice" or "water instead of syrup"
These sources provide calcium and potassium
Make sure you choose items that are fortified with vitamins A and D
Foods fortified with folic acid such as grain products reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in the United States
Fortified foods make folic acid more available and easier to consume, as women can eat breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid daily
Beans and peas are sources of iron, potassium, and fiber
Nuts and seeds provide vitamin E
Meats provide heme-iron, which is most readily absorbed by the body
Seafood provides Omega-3 fatty acids
* Limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces per week and low-mercury fish and seafood such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish to 12 ounces per week. Avoid the following four types of fish: tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel
Table 1. Example of Healthy Food Groups
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Health and Nutrition Information for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women. ChooseMyPlate.gov. Available at: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html Accessed June 19, 2012.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Nutrition During Pregnancy Frequently Asked Questions. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq001.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120614T1520585132 Accessed June 2, 2012.
American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietician Association: Nutrition and lifestyle for a healthy pregnancy outcome. American Dietetic Association. 2008;108(3):553-561.
Greenberg JA, Bell SJ, Van Ausdal W. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2008;1(4):162-169.
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disorders. Facts About Folic Acid. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/about.html Accessed April 24, 2012.