Your Healthy Pregnancy Diet
Pregnancy is a crucial time in a woman’s life when good nutrition is essential for both her own health and the healthy development of her growing baby.
Eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet is one of the best things a woman can do to promote her and her baby’s health during pregnancy. However, there are some misconceptions about eating habits during pregnancy, such as the belief that pregnant women should “eat for two”. In reality, most pregnant women only need an extra 300-350 calories per day to support their baby’s growth. Women carrying twins should consume around 600 extra calories a day, and women carrying triplets should consume around 900 extra calories a day.
It’s essential to make healthy food choices to ensure that both the mother and the baby get the necessary nutrients by eating a balanced diet that includes foods from each of the five food groups every day. It’s also important to watch the serving sizes and avoid fatty foods and sweets, which don’t provide the necessary nutrients for the baby’s growth. The goal is to balance getting enough nutrients to support the growth of the fetus and maintaining a healthy weight.
How much should I eat of each food group?
Grains: 6 ounces per day
Grains provide carbohydrates which are a key source of energy for the body. Whole grains are also an important source of fiber, which helps maintain regular bowel movements and can help prevent constipation during pregnancy. They also provide essential vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins and iron, which are important for fetal brain development and healthy blood.
The daily recommendation for grains is six ounces per day, and half of your grain servings should be whole grains. Whole grains include the entire kernel, and you can find them in products such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, and barley. Bread, pasta, cereal, and tortillas are also part of the grains group. When selecting grains, it’s best to look for the words “whole grain” on the product label.
One ounce of grains is equal to:
- 1 slice bread
- 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal
- 1/2 cup cooked rice, pasta or cereal
- 1 small pancake (4 1/2″ in diameter)
- 1 small tortilla (6″ in diameter)
Vegetables: 2 ½ cups per day
Vegetables provide a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are necessary for the development of the fetus, such as folic acid, which is important for preventing birth defects of the brain and spine. They are also a good source of fiber, which helps with digestion and can help prevent constipation.
The daily recommendation for vegetables is two and a half cups, and you can eat them in various forms such as raw, cooked, canned, frozen, or dried. Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale are ideal for salads. Make half your plate fruit and vegetables during mealtimes.
One cup of vegetables is equal to:
- 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables
- 1 cup vegetable juice
- 2 cups raw, leafy greens
- 1 medium baked potato (2-1/2″ to 3″ in diameter; go easy on the butter, bacon bits and sour cream)
Fruits: 1-1/2 to 2 cups per day
Fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which is important for the development of the immune system and iron absorption. They are also a good source of fiber, which helps with digestion and can help prevent constipation.
The daily recommendation is one and a half to two cups. Like vegetables, you can eat fresh, canned, frozen, or dried fruit. Eating whole fruit is preferable to fruit juice because it contains fiber, which is beneficial for digestion. Make half your plate fruit and vegetables during mealtimes.
A half cup of fruit is equal to:
- 1/2 cup 100% fruit juice
- 1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or canned fruit
- 1/2 a fruit (small orange, apple or banana)
- 1/4 cup dried fruit
Dairy: 3 cups per day
Dairy products are a good source of calcium, which is essential for building strong bones and teeth in both the mother and the fetus. They are also a good source of protein, which is important for fetal growth and development.
Milk and milk products, such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, make up the dairy group. Make sure any dairy foods you eat are pasteurized. Choose fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) varieties.
1 cup of dairy products is equal to:
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup yogurt
- 1 1/2 ounces natural cheese (cheddar, parmesan)
- 2 ounces processed cheese (American cheese)
It’s recommended to consume three cups of milk products per day. Yogurt, cheese, and ice cream are all dairy products, and it’s best to choose fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) varieties.
Protein: 5 to 5-1/2 ounces per day
Protein is essential for the growth and repair of cells, and is necessary for the development of the fetus. It is also important for maintaining a healthy immune system and repairing tissue damage during pregnancy.
The daily recommendation for proteins is five to five and a half ounces, and you can obtain protein from sources such as meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds. Variety is key when selecting protein sources, so it’s best to mix up your protein sources throughout the day.
One ounce of protein is equal to:
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 1/4 cup cooked dried beans
- 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or fish
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios)
Oils and Fats:
Oils and fats play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. They are a vital source of energy, help to build the placenta, and support the development of many fetal organs. It is essential to consume them in moderation as they are high in calories. Most of the oils in food come from plant sources, such as olive oil, nut oils, and grapeseed oil. These oils contain healthy fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease. In addition to oils, fats are also found in certain foods, such as avocados, nuts, and olives.
The daily recommendation for oils and fats is that at least 20% of a pregnant woman’s daily calories should come from fats. For someone who weighs 150 lbs, this would equate to 34-68g fat per day.
14g of oils and fats is equal to:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 avocado
- 1/4 cup nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts)
- 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Guidance – Nutrition during pregnancy, key vitamins and minerals, planning healthy meals, weight gain, and many more frequently asked questions
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans – See pages 107-120 (chapter 5) for dietary guidance for women who are pregnant or lactating
- WIC – The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
- Healthy Eating for Women Who Are Pregnant or Breastfeeding – Fact sheet about the MyPlate Plan
- MyPlate Plan – Calorie and nutrient needs are different during pregnancy and when you are breastfeeding. Get your MyPlate Plan to learn your estimated calorie needs and how to meet your food group goals.
- Advice about Eating Fish – Eating seafood during pregnancy may benefit your baby’s growth and is a healthy protein source for you during both pregnancy and breastfeeding. Choose options lower in methylmercury, like cod, salmon, or tilapia. Learn more at FDA’s Advice About Eating Fish webpage.
- Healthy Eating on a Budget – Healthy food choices don’t have to cost a lot. Use this tool to find cost-saving opportunities in your local area and discover new was to prepare budget-friendly foods. Open Shop Simple with MyPlate on your phone, tablet, or computer.
- Pregnancy and Breastfeeding – Make your health a priority during this special time. Making healthy food choices and staying active will support your baby’s growth. This will also help you stay healthy during your pregnancy and while breastfeeding.