Nutrition During Pregnancy
The importance of good nutrition during pregnancy
Approximately 300 extra calories are needed daily to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
These calories should come from a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables, and
whole grains, with sweets and fats kept to a minimum. A healthy, well-balanced diet
during pregnancy can also help to reduce some pregnancy symptoms, like nausea and
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the following key components of
a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy: appropriate weight gain, eating a balanced diet,
exercising regularly, and appropriate and timely vitamin and mineral supplementation.
Fluid intake is also an important part of healthy pregnancy nutrition. Women can take
in enough fluids by drinking several glasses of water each day, in addition to the
fluids in juices and soups. An expectant mother should talk with her healthcare provider
or midwife about restricting her intake of caffeine and artificial sweeteners. All
alcohol should be avoided in pregnancy.
Avoid eating the following foods during pregnancy:
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
Clean. Wash your hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing
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 using a food
Chill. Promptly refrigerate all perishable food.
Why is folic acid important?
The U.S. Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume
400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day. Folic acid, a nutrient found in some
green leafy vegetables, most berries, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast
cereals, and some vitamin supplements can help reduce the risk for birth defects of
the brain and spinal cord (called neural tube defects). This 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. Therefore, folic acid intake should begin before conception
and continue through pregnancy. Your healthcare provider or midwife will recommend
the appropriate amount of folic acid to meet your individual needs.
Most healthcare providers or midwives will prescribe a prenatal supplement before
conception, or shortly afterward, to make sure that all of the woman's nutritional
needs are met. However, a prenatal supplement does not replace a healthy diet.