Eat Right for You, and Baby, too!

The 40 weeks of pregnancy will go quickly – so start now taking steps to build a healthy foundation for you and your baby.

  • Achieve a healthy weight before becoming pregnant;
  • Eat right and balance calories for appropriate weight gain;
  • Participate in regular physical activity;
  • Take recommended vitamin and mineral supplements;
  • Practice safe food handling; and
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking and other harmful substances during pregnancy.

When you're pregnant, eating right is important for you and your developing baby.

Build your healthy plate around these food groups:

Vegetables:

Fill half your plate with colorful produce, including a variety of nonstarchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, tomatoes and leafy greens.

Vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and other components. And they fill you up without adding too many calories.

Fresh, frozen and canned varieties all count towards your daily quota. Opt for reduced or no added salt varieties to keep tabs on sodium.

Aim for at least 3 servings daily. One serving = 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables or 2 cups leafy salad greens.

Fruits:

Along with vegetables, plan to fill half your plate with a variety of colorful fruits. Plus, fruit is naturally sweet so it makes for a delicious dessert or snack, too!

Opt for fresh, frozen and canned varieties without added sugar. Go easy on dried fruit, which is more concentrated in calories.

Aim for 2-3 servings daily.  One serving = 1 cup raw or cooked fruit, 1 cup 100% fruit juice, ½ cup dried fruit or a "tennis ball-sized" piece of whole fruit such as an apple, peach or orange.

Grains:

Make at least half of your grain servings the whole grain variety.  Whole grains contain all parts of the grain kernel (bran, endosperm and germ) so you'll get more fiber and nutrition in every serving.

Oatmeal, quinoa, popcorn, whole-wheat pasta and bread, barley and brown rice are some examples of whole grains.

Aim for 6-8 servings daily.  One serving = 1 slice of bread, ½ of a hamburger bun, ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal or 1 ounce of dry cereal.

Lean Protein:

Choose skinless poultry, fish, eggs, beans, peas, soy products, nuts and seeds.  For the leanest cuts of red meat, look for the words lean, tip, top or round on the label.

Nutrition experts recommend eating fish twice a week. Pregnant women are encouraged to eat 8-12 ounces per week of a variety of fish to meet omega 3- fatty acid needs.

Note: Avoid fish containing high levels of mercury such as swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and shark. Limit canned white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces per week. Canned "light" tuna is lower in mercury.  Talk to your health care provider, dietitian, or local health department for advice about eating fish.

Aim to include more plant-based protein at meals and snacks, too.  To add more plant-based protein to your plate, trade ground meat for an extra can or two of beans when making chili or serve a meatless meal once a week.

When it comes to lean protein, aim for 6-8 ounces daily. Beginning in the second trimester, pregnancy requires an additional 25 grams of protein daily over your prepregnancy needs.  Your health care provider or dietitian can help you determine the amount right for you.

One ounce = 1 ounce of lean meat, fish or poultry, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon nut butter or ½ ounce nuts or ¼ cup cooked beans.

Low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese:

These dairy foods provide important nutrients such as calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein.

Calcium contributes to healthy bone development and maintenance.  Calcium also works along with potassium to regulate fluid balance in the body.

Nearly all milk and many yogurts are fortified with vitamin D.  Check the label on your selections.

Aim for 3 servings daily.  One serving = 1 cup of milk, kefir or yogurt, 1 ½ ounce of natural cheese or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

Plant-based fats:

Good choices include oils, such as olive and canola in addition to foods like avocados, nuts, seeds and ground flax seed.

Small amounts of healthy fats add flavor to your plate as well as essential fatty acids and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Did you know fat helps you absorb these vitamins, too?

Aim for up to 7 servings of healthy fats daily.  One serving = 1 teaspoon oil, 2 teaspoons soft tub margarine or salad dressing.

Sweets and added sugars and fats

Sweets and added sugars and fats can pack extra calories quickly! Limit foods such as sugary beverages, desserts, fried foods and processed snack foods.

Focus on key nutrients during pregnancy

Along with building a healthy plate, your health care provider may recommend a prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure your meeting your need for important nutrients such as folate, iron, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.

Folic acid (folate) can help prevent neural tube defects (birth defects of the spinal cord) in addition to other birth defects. Current dietary guidelines recommend that women who may become pregnant consume 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. The recommendation increases to 600 micrograms daily during pregnancy.

Good sources of folate include: spinach, black-eyed peas, fortified breakfast cereals and enriched grains, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, kidney beans, peanuts, wheat germ, broccoli and green peas.

Iron can help prevent anemia during pregnancy. Current guidelines recommend that pregnant women consume 27 milligrams of iron daily.

Blood volume increases 35 -50% during pregnancy and more iron is needed to carry oxygen to your muscles and organs in addition to your developing baby. Iron also helps remove carbon dioxide from your body.

Dietary iron is either heme or non-heme. Heme iron is the better-absorbed type and is found in animal foods such as lean red meat, fish and poultry. Non-heme iron is found in plant foods such as leafy greens, beans and fortified and enriched foods. This type of iron is not absorbed by the body as well as heme iron.

To increase your body's absorption of non-heme iron, eat plant food sources along with a good source of vitamin C (such as an orange or broccoli) and avoid coffee and tea with meals (these beverages contain a natural substance called tannins that interfere with absorption).

Calcium helps in the development of your baby's teeth, bones, heart, nerves and muscles. And, if your diet does not provide enough calcium, calcium may be taken from your bones to meet the needs of your developing baby.

Current guidelines recommend that pregnant women consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily.

For pregnant women who do not consume milk products, calcium-fortified foods or beverages (such as some cereals, soy milk or orange juice) or a calcium and vitamin D supplement may be necessary. Antacids containing calcium carbonate can count towards total calcium intake.

Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for the development of your baby's brain and eyes. Eat 8 to 12 ounces of a variety of fish per week during pregnancy – especially oily fish such as salmon, trout and sardines, which are low in mercury. Limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week. Avoid King mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish because of their higher mercury levels.

We're here to help

It can be a bit overwhelming and we are here to help. Sign up for our Eat Right class or contact our registered dietitians (RD) at 314-996-4987 for one-on-one counseling, or email us.