Nutrition During Pregnancy
We recommend that you practice healthy habits from the time you start trying to get pregnant until the end of your pregnancy. These include eating a well-balanced diet and taking at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily.
In addition, it is critical that you do not smoke or use illegal drugs, stop drinking alcohol and limit your intake of coffee and other caffeinated beverages. Talk to your doctor about any medications you may be taking to see if they can affect your unborn baby.
If you have any chronic medical problems, such as high blood pressure, kidney problems, or diabetes, talk to your doctor before trying to get pregnant. Seeing a prenatal provider before trying to get pregnant or early in the pregnancy can help prevent, or detect and control, health risks to the mother and fetus during pregnancy.
It is important for men to be careful, as well. Smoking and alcohol consumption may cause problems with the unborn baby. Smoking, alcohol and marijuana use have also been shown to lower sperm count.
Maintaining a balanced pregnancy diet
- Do not skip breakfast
- Eat at least three meals each day
- Eat foods from each of the food groups at every meal
The most important step to eating a balanced diet is to educate yourself about what your body needs, and to read the nutrition label and ingredients of all the food you eat.
New dietary guidelines from the United States Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) recommend fewer calories and smarter food choices.
Recommendations on nutritional foods during pregnancy:
- Follow a balanced diet that is low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt and alcohol, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan.
- Balance your calorie intake with exercise. Slowly decrease the amount of calories you take in while increasing exercise to prevent gradual weight gain over time. Exercise regularly and reduce activities in which you sit (such as watching TV).
- Eat 2 cups (4 servings) of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables (5 servings) daily on an average 2,000-calorie diet.
- Eat 3 ounces or more of whole-grain products per day.
- Consume 3 cups per day of fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products.
- Get fewer than 7% of calories from saturated fatty acids.
- Avoid trans fatty acids, which are unhealthy fats. They are found in fried foods, commercial baked goods such as donuts, cookies and crackers, in processed foods, and in margarines.
- Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg/day.
- Make total fat intake no more than 20 - 35% of total calories. Choose "good" fats such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils containing polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Lean, low-fat or fat-free meats, poultry, dry beans and milk or milk products are preferable. Total fat intake can approach 35% if most of the fats are "good" fats.
- Stay away from added sugars.
- Consume fewer than 2,300 mg (approximately one teaspoon) of sodium daily, and limit added salt when you prepare food.
- Read the nutrition labels on all foods. This will help you know what kind of fats, and how much, the food contains.