It’s a common belief: if you’re pregnant, you can eat anything you want. After all, you’re going to gain weight anyway so why worry about calories? Instead, indulge yourself, right?
The truth is, during pregnancy, your body is working harder than ever to provide everything your baby needs to survive and to keep you healthy too. Contrary to what many believe, during pregnancy, most women only need an additional 300-500 calories per day—and only during the second and third trimester. The phrase “eating for two” really comes down to making smart food choices to get all the nutrients the two of you need.
What To Eat During Pregnancy
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a nonprofit organization of women’s health care physicians, recommends eating a balanced diet of nutritionally dense foods, such as:
• Grains, such as bread, oatmeal, pasta, and tortillas.
• Fruits, fresh, canned, frozen or dried. 100% fruit juice also counts.
• Vegetables, cooked or raw, fresh, frozen, canned or dried. 100% vegetable juice counts as well.
• Protein, including meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, and nuts.
• Dairy, such as cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a free online tool called Supertracker that helps you keep track of the foods you need and the foods you’ve eaten, to ensure you maintain a healthy balance.
In addition to eating a variety of foods, it is also important to take in specific nutrients each day to help your baby develop properly. The ACOG suggests:
• A prenatal vitamin supplement for additional nutritional coverage.
• Folic acid (400 mg), which is a B vitamin that helps the baby’s brain develop.
• Iron, (27 mg), which helps make a substance in the blood that carries oxygen to your and your baby’s organs.
• Calcium, to strengthen your baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnant women and women 19 and over should get 1000 mg a day. If you’re 14 -18, you should get 1300 mg a day.
• Vitamin D, which is essential for eyesight and skin and also works with calcium to strengthen bones and teeth. Pregnant women should have 600 international units of Vitamin D per day.
What Not to Eat During Pregnancy
Good nutrition during pregnancy isn’t only about what TO eat—it’s also about what to avoid. In addition to the well-documented dangers from using drugs, nicotine or alcohol, doctors also suggest limiting or eliminating:
• Caffeine—some studies suggest that caffeine can increase the risk of a miscarriage. The ACOG suggests limiting caffeine to the equivalent of one 12-ounce cup of coffee a day.
• Certain fish. Doctors recommend not eating shark, swordfish and king mackerel, which have high levels of mercury, and have been associated with birth defects.
• Foods that are more likely to cause food poisoning. Avoid eating raw meat, fish or eggs.
• Foods that may carry food-borne bacteria that causes Listeriosis. Pregnant women are 13 times more likely to get this illness that can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth. Avoid hot dogs, cold cuts, unpasteurized milk, refrigerated meat spreads and raw or undercooked meat, fish or eggs.
When you eat a well-balanced diet during pregnancy, you give your body what it needs for the tremendous task it is performing, and you provide both you and your baby the best opportunities for a healthy life.