Eating and nutrition
During pregnancy, your baby is counting on you for the nutrients she needs to grow healthy and strong. You can’t eat all the junk food you want, but you also don’t have to give up all the foods you love when you’re pregnant. You just need to eat smart and make sure that most of your choices are healthy ones.
Try to eat foods from each of the five food groups every day. The five food groups include grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and proteins. Also, be sure you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals you’ll need to keep you and baby healthy, such as folic acid and calcium.
Most women need around 300 extra calories per day during pregnancy. For example, one healthy snack like four fig bars and a glass of skim milk will provide these extra calories. However, the exact amount of extra calories you need depends on your weight before pregnancy. Talk to your health provider to learn more about a healthy eating plan that’s right for you.
There are certain things you’ll want to limit or avoid, like caffeine, or foods that can cause an allergic reaction. You’ll also want to make sure you’re taking extra steps to handle food safely and keep food fresh and safe to avoid food-borne illnesses.
Most common questions
How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?
The exact amount of weight you need to gain depends on how much you weigh before pregnancy and your Body Mass Index (BMI). Below are some guidelines, but talk to your health provider about your specific pregnancy weight gain goals.
If you began pregnancy at a healthy weight, you should gain 25 to 35 pounds over the 9 months. If you gain between 1 and about 4 ½ pounds in the first trimester, you should put on about 1 pound every week in the second and third trimesters.
If you began pregnancy underweight, you should probably gain about 28 to 40 pounds. If you gain between 1 and about 4 ½ pounds in the first trimester, try to gain slightly over a pound a week in the second and third trimesters.
If you began pregnancy overweight, you should gain only 15 to 25 pounds over the 9 months. If you gain between 1 and about 4 ½ pounds in the first trimester, you should put on slightly over ½ pound every week in the second and third trimesters. While you don't want to gain too much weight, never try to lose weight during pregnancy because that could harm your baby.
If you were obese (with a BMI over 30) at the start of your pregnancy, you should gain only 11 to 20 pounds over the 9 months. If you gain between 1 and about 4 ½ pounds in the first trimester, aim for gaining slightly under ½ pound every week in the second and third trimesters.
Is it safe to eat cold cuts when I'm pregnant?
It's not safe for pregnant women to eat deli meats (such as ham, turkey, salami and bologna) or hot dogs unless the food has been thoroughly heated and is steaming hot. These foods can cause a form of food poisoning called listeriosis and is caused by bacteria. Heating deli meats until steaming hot will kill the bacteria if it's present.
Listeriosis is especially dangerous during pregnancy. Most people don't get sick when they eat food contaminated with listeria. But healthy pregnant women are more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis and are more likely to become dangerously ill from it.
The flu-like symptoms of listeriosis can sometimes advance to potentially life-threatening meningitis (infection of the membranes covering the brain, with symptoms such as severe headache and stiff neck) and blood infection. Contact your health care provider if you're pregnant and you develop any of these symptoms.
Is it safe to eat fish raw or seared during pregnancy?
You should avoid all raw or seared fish when you're pregnant. (Seared fish are typically not fully cooked throughout.) Raw fish, including sushi and sashimi, and undercooked finfish and shellfish (including oysters, clams, mussels and scallops) are more likely to contain parasites or bacteria than cooked fish.
Avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish, even when cooked. These fish have more mercury than other fish. Mercury can be transferred to your growing baby and cause serious health problems. Stay away from game fish, too, until you check its safety with your local health department. A game fish is any fish caught for sport, such as trout and bass.
The USDA recommends that pregnant women limit their fish consumption to 12 ounces of a variety of cooked fish per week.