During pregnancy, it is important to be conscientious of your diet. You will need to eat approximately 300 additional calories per day. Although there are some restrictions to what you can eat and drink we recommend maintaining regular eating habits. It is important to eat a well balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein. A helpful resource to use is MyPlate by the US Department of Agriculture which can provide recommendations based on your current diet and how far along you are. Maintaining a healthy diet can reduce some pregnancy symptoms, like nausea and constipation. Below you will find a list of foods to avoid during pregnancy and frequently asked questions. Our frequently asked questions are provided by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, for more information you can access their website here.
Foods to Avoid
- Unpasteurized milk and foods made with unpasteurized milk
- Hot dogs, luncheon meats, and cold cuts unless they are heated until steaming hot just before serving
- Refrigerated pate and meat spreads
- Refrigerated smoked seafood
- Raw and undercooked seafood, eggs, and meat
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.
What is folic acid and how much do I need daily?
Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin that is important for pregnant women. Before pregnancy and during pregnancy, you need 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to help prevent major birth defects of the fetal brain and spine called neural tube defects. Current dietary guidelines recommend that pregnant women get at least 600 micrograms of folic acid daily from all sources. It may be hard to get the recommended amount of folic acid from food alone. For this reason, all pregnant women and all women who may become pregnant should take a daily vitamin supplement that contains folic acid.
Why is iron important during pregnancy and how much do I need daily?
Iron is used by your body to make a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your organs and tissues. During pregnancy, you need extra iron—about double the amount that a nonpregnant woman needs. This extra iron helps your body make more blood to supply oxygen to your fetus. The daily recommended dose of iron during pregnancy is 27 mg, which is found in most prenatal vitamin supplements. You also can eat iron-rich foods, including lean red meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereals, and prune juice. Iron also can be absorbed more easily if iron-rich foods are eaten with vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes.
Why is calcium important during pregnancy and how much do I need daily?
Calcium is used to build your fetus's bones and teeth. All women, including pregnant women, aged 19 years and older should get 1,000 mg of calcium daily; those aged 14–18 years should get 1,300 mg daily. Milk and other dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, are the best sources of calcium. If you have trouble digesting milk products, you can get calcium from other sources, such as broccoli; dark, leafy greens; sardines; or a calcium supplement.
Why is vitamin D important during pregnancy and how much do I need daily?
Vitamin D works with calcium to help the fetus’s bones and teeth develop. It also is essential for healthy skin and eyesight. All women, including those who are pregnant, need 600 international units of vitamin D a day. Good sources are milk fortified with vitamin D and fatty fish such as salmon. Exposure to sunlight also converts a chemical in the skin to vitamin D.
How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?
The amount of weight gain that is recommended depends on your health and your body mass index before you were pregnant. If you were a normal weight before pregnancy, you should gain between 25 pounds and 35 pounds during pregnancy. If you were underweight before pregnancy, you should gain more weight than a woman who was a normal weight before pregnancy. If you were overweight or obese before pregnancy, you should gain less weight.
Can being overweight or obese affect my pregnancy?
Overweight and obese women are at an increased risk of several pregnancy problems. These problems include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, preterm birth, and cesarean delivery. Babies of overweight and obese women also are at greater risk of certain problems, such as birth defects, macrosomia with possible birth injury, and childhood obesity.
Can caffeine in my diet affect my pregnancy?
Although there have been many studies on whether caffeine increases the risk of miscarriage, the results are unclear. Most experts state that consuming fewer than 200 mg of caffeine (one 12-ounce cup of coffee) a day during pregnancy is safe.
What are the benefits of including fish and shellfish in my diet during pregnancy?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat found naturally in many kinds of fish. They may be important factors in your fetus’s brain development both before and after birth. To get the most benefits from omega-3 fatty acids, women should eat at least two servings of fish or shellfish (about 8–12 ounces) per week before getting pregnant, while pregnant, and while breastfeeding.
What should I know about eating fish during pregnancy?
Some types of fish have higher levels of a metal called mercury than others. Mercury has been linked to birth defects. To limit your exposure to mercury, follow a few simple guidelines. Choose fish and shellfish such as shrimp, salmon, catfish, and pollock. Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, marin, orange roughy, or tilefish. Limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week. You also should check advisories about fish caught in local waters.
How can food poisoning affect my pregnancy?
Food poisoning in a pregnant woman can cause serious problems for both her and her fetus. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause your body to lose too much water and can disrupt your body’s chemical balance. To prevent food poisoning, follow these general guidelines:
- Wash food. Rinse all raw produce thoroughly under running tap water before eating, cutting, or cooking.
- Keep your kitchen clean. Wash your hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after handling and preparing uncooked foods.
- Avoid all raw and undercooked seafood, eggs, and meat. Do not eat sushi made with raw fish (cooked sushi is safe). Food such as beef, pork, or poultry should be cooked to a safe internal temperature.