Tips for Healthy Eating During Pregnancy

Your unborn baby needs you to eat more calories than usual - but not too much! How many calories do you need, and what should you be eating?

Get the nutrition you need

Now that you are pregnant, you're probably wondering just how many calories you need. The old saying about a pregnant woman eating for two is true. However, that doesn't mean you should eat twice as much. In fact, you need to add 300 calories a day to what you ate before. To give you an idea, a baked potato, blueberry yogurt and a can of vegetable juice adds about 310 calories. Don't worry about calories. Instead, focus on healthy eating, and you will gain only the weight you need to have a healthy baby.

Protein: You need about 60 grams of protein each day, which should come from low-fat sources. Get protein from a 2-ounce to 3-ounce serving of lean meat, chicken (skinned with fat removed) or fish. Meat isn't your only choice. One ounce of meat has about the same amount of protein as 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans, one egg, 1/2 cup of tofu, 1/3 cup of nuts or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.

More about fish: Some fish has mercury, which can harm your baby's developing nervous system. Don't eat fish that have high mercury levels, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish (also called golden or white snapper). If you are uncertain, talk with your doctor.

You can eat up to 2 servings (12 ounces) per week of:

  • Salmon
  • Pollock
  • Catfish
  • Canned "light" tuna
  • Shrimp, crabs, clams, oysters, scallops

You can eat up to 1 serving (6 ounces) a week of:

  • Tuna steaks
  • Canned albacore or chunk white tuna
  • Halibut
  • Snapper

Check before eating fish caught in local waters. You can get local fish advisories at the US Environmental Protection Agency Web site: If you're not sure about the safety of a fish from local waters, only eat 6 ounces of it per week and don't eat any other fish that week.

IMPORTANT: Don't eat uncooked or undercooked meat or fish.

Calcium: 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day for women age 19 and older and 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day for women under age 19, which can come from foods such as milk and low-fat yogurt.

Folic acid: 400-800 micrograms each day, which can be taken as a supplement. This is especially important to take in the first trimester because your baby's nervous system is developing. Since many pregnancies are unplanned, all women of childbearing age should take folic acid. If you are taking certain medications or have had a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect before and are planning to become pregnant again, you may need to take a higher amount of folic acid. Check with your doctor about how much you should take.

Iron: Iron is important for healthy blood - yours and your baby's. You can get the iron you need in prenatal vitamins or those prescribed by your doctor. Eat iron-rich foods, such as red meat, fish, poultry, dried fruits, whole-grain breads and cereals fortified with iron.

Some tips

  • Don't eat foods high in sugar and saturated fat. Skip the junk food. If you are craving fatty sweets, you're probably not getting enough protein. Eat some low-fat yogurt or some cheese on whole-wheat crackers before you give in to that craving for a chocolate bar.
  • Treat yourself. Allow yourself treats once in a while so you don't get frustrated and eat too much later on.
  • Talk to your doctor before you have anything with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, sodas, and chocolate.

Rely on your scale

Use your scale to track your weight. Talk to your doctor about how much weight is appropriate for you to gain during your pregnancy. Ask him or her for help in setting up a pregnancy food plan.



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