What to Eat When You're Eating For Two
What to Eat When You're Eating For Two

Healthy Eating for You and Your Baby

Eating for TwoHealthy Food for Pregnancy

For good nutrition during pregnancy, eat a wide variety of foods from all food groups. The following are the USDA MyPlate food group guidelines based on a 2,000 calorie food pattern – your nutrient needs during pregnancy may be slightly higher so ranges are given:

Dairy: Milk, Yogurt, Cheese (3 cups)
One cup = 1 cup milk; 1 cup yogurt; 1.5 cup cottage cheese; 1.5-2 ounces cheese

Protein: Meat, Beans, Nuts (5.5 - 6 ounces)
One ounce = 1 ounces meat, fish or poultry; 1 eggs; 1 Tablespoon peanut butter; ½ cup legumes

Vegetables (2.5 – 3 cups)
One cup = 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables; 2 cup raw leafy vegetables

Fruits (2 cups)
One cup = 1 cup fruit or 100% fruit juice; 1 medium banana, apple or orange; ½ cup dried fruit

Grains: Breads, Cereals, Pasta (5.5 - 6 ounces)
One ounce = 1 slice bread; 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal; ½ cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta

Fats, Oils and Sweets Group (Small amounts)
Oils contain essential fatty acids that are good for health but they are still high in calories. Many foods already contain oils, such as peanut butter, avocados, nuts and salad dressings

No level of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy

Nutrients During Pregnancy

Some nutrients are especially important during pregnancy so you'll want to be sure you get the amounts recommended:

Calcium helps keep your bones strong, as well as your baby's. It's important that you get 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium every day. Find out if you are getting enough calcium in your diet by taking our online Calcium Quiz. Food sources of calcium include: milk, yogurt and cheese, which are high-calcium foods; dark leafy greens, broccoli and almonds, which are medium- and low-calcium foods.

Folate helps prevent neural tube defects and possibly facial abnormalities. You need 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate before and during your pregnancy. Your doctor may also prescribe a folate supplement. Food sources of folate include: asparagus, broccoli, spinach, oranges, peas, legumes, whole grains and fortified breads and cereals.

Iron helps make red blood cells, which carry oxygen. The baby needs red blood cells for its new blood. You need more red blood cells too, since your body makes as much as 50 percent more blood during pregnancy. Without enough iron, you can become anemic, which leads to low energy and poor concentration. The recommended amount of iron is 27 milligrams (mg) per day. Food sources of iron include: meat, poultry, salmon, fortified cereals, beans, whole grains, eggs and dark leafy green vegetables.

Your physician will test your iron levels to see if a low-dose iron supplement is necessary during the last six months of your pregnancy.

Fiber will help ease problems with constipation. Whole grain breads and cereals, legumes such as dried beans and lentils, and fruits and vegetables are great sources of fiber.

Fluids will help alleviate constipation. Although not exactly a nutrient, be sure to drink plenty of fluids during pregnancy—at least 8 cups (8 ounces each) of liquids every day is recommended. Water, milk, juice, broth or soups can all provide the fluids you need. Go easy on soft drinks and other drinks that contain a lot of sugar and calories, as they provide very little in the way of nutrition.

Vegetarian Diets for Pregnant Women

Vegetarians who do not eat dairy or meat products may need calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D supplements. Be sure to tell your doctor about any dietary restrictions you have. Ask your physician or a registered dietitian to help you plan a vegetarian diet that will provide all of the nutrients you and your baby need during pregnancy.

Food Safety During Pregnancy

Not all foods are safe for pregnant women. Here is some information to protect you and your baby from potentially serious illnesses.

  • Do not eat swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish. These fish can contain potentially risky levels of mercury. Mercury can be transferred to the growing fetus and cause serious health problems.
    In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has advised pregnant women to eat no more than six ounces (one average meal) of canned albacore ("white") tuna per week. However, it is safe to eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury.
    Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, Pollock and catfish.
  • Avoid raw fish, especially shellfish (oysters, clams) or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood and hot dogs. Cook all meat, poultry and seafood thoroughly to kill bacteria. Cook hot dogs until they are steaming hot. Deli meats (such as ham, salami, and bologna) are an occasional cause of food poisoning; pregnant women may choose to avoid them or reheat them before eating.
  • Avoid soft-scrambled eggs and all foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs.
  • Do not eat unpasteurized milk and any foods made from it. This includes unpasteurized soft cheeses such as Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort and Mexican-style such as queso blanco fresco.
  • Avoid unpasteurized juices
  • Avoid raw sprouts, especially alfalfa sprouts

Supplements During Pregnancy

If you take a vitamin/mineral supplement, check the label to make sure you are getting no more than 100 percent of daily recommendations for any nutrient without clearing it with your doctor. Certain vitamins can increase the risk of serious birth defects when taken in the large quantities available in some supplements.

Be sure to consult with your physician or pharmacist before taking any medications (prescription and over-the-counter) or herbal supplements while pregnant.

Sources: U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service, ChooseMyPlate.gov

Positive Approach

Do you know what foods you should be eating? Start with the Healthy Eating Planner to make a plan for eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods.