Nutrition During Pregnancy

The importance of good nutrition during pregnancy

About 300 extra calories are needed every day to maintain a healthy pregnancy. These calories should come from a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Sweets and fats should be kept to a minimum. A healthy, well-balanced diet during pregnancy can also help to reduce some pregnancy symptoms, like nausea and constipation.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises these key components of a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy:

  • Gaining the right amount of weight for you

  • Eating a balanced diet

  • Exercising regularly

  • Taking vitamins and minerals, as your healthcare provider directs

 

Fluid intake is also an important part of healthy pregnancy nutrition. You can get enough fluids by drinking 8 glasses of water each day. Talk with your healthcare provider about limiting caffeine and artificial sweeteners. Don't drink alcohol while pregnant.

Also don't eat these foods:

  • Unpasteurized milk and foods made with unpasteurized milk

  • Soft cheeses, including feta, queso blanco and fresco, Camembert, brie, or blue-veined cheeses (unless labeled "made with pasteurized milk")

  • Hot dogs and luncheon meats, unless they are heated until steaming hot before serving 

  • Refrigerated pâté and meat spreads

  • Refrigerated smoked seafood

Also follow these general food-safety guidelines:

  • Wash. Rinse all raw produce thoroughly under running tap water before eating, cutting, or cooking.

  • Clean. Wash your hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.

  • Avoid. Raw and undercooked seafood, eggs, and meat. Do not eat sushi made with raw fish (cooked sushi is safe). 

  • Cook. Beef, pork, or poultry should be cooked to a safe internal temperature checked with a food thermometer.

  • Chill. Promptly refrigerate all perishable food.

Why is folic acid important?

The U.S. Public Health Service advises that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms (0.4 mcg) of folic acid each day. Folic acid is a nutrient found in some green leafy vegetables, most berries, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, and some vitamin supplements. It can help reduce the risk for birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (called neural tube defects). These defects can lead to varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence, and sometimes intellectual disability.

Folic acid is most helpful during the first 28 days after conception. This is when most neural tube defects happen. Unfortunately, many women do not realize they are pregnant before 28 days. So folic acid intake should start before conception and continue through pregnancy. Your healthcare provider will advise the right amount of folic acid for you.

Most healthcare providers will prescribe a prenatal supplement before conception, or shortly after, to make sure that a woman's nutritional needs are met. But a prenatal supplement does not replace a healthy diet.

Online Medical Reviewer: Daniel N Sacks MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2020
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