Foods contain nutrients that help you stay healthy and full of energy. The nutrients you need include calcium and protein, as well as carbohydrates, water, and some kinds of fats. Your growing baby needs nutrients too. Like you, your baby gets them from the foods you eat. As you continue to read, you'll find out how many servings of each nutrient you need daily. You'll also learn how much you need to eat of a food (serving size) to get enough of a specific nutrient.
Right now you need enough of each nutrient to help your baby grow and to keep your own body healthy. That's why you need to eat healthy foods (those that are rich in nutrients). When you choose healthy foods, your baby is:
Less likely to be born too early or too small
Less likely to have certain types of birth defects
And you are:
Less likely to feel tired
More likely to have an easier pregnancy
Although you need more nutrients, you don't need many more calories. In fact, you only need about 300 more calories a day than before you were pregnant.
When you're pregnant, you need extra calcium to help build your baby's bones and teeth. You also need calcium to keep your own bones strong. Eat at least three servings of foods high in calcium each day. If you don't eat enough calcium-rich foods, your body will take calcium for the baby from your bones. This means your bones may become weak later in life.
Ounce for ounce, dairy foods have more calcium than any other food. But they can be high in fat. So try eating low-fat or fat-free forms of:
Hard cheeses (1-1/2 oz)
Milk (1 cup)
Ricotta (1/2 cup) or cottage cheese (2 cups)
Yogurt (1 cup)
If you don't like dairy foods, there are still plenty of ways to get enough calcium. Try these foods:
Broccoli, bok choy, collards, turnip greens (1-1/2 to 2 cups cooked)
Calcium-added: soy cheeses (1-1/2 oz), soy milk or soy yogurt (1 cup), tofu (9 oz), rice milk or orange juice (3/4 cup)
Canned fish with bones: mackerel (1 cup), salmon (1/2 cup), sardines (5 medium fish)
If you have a hard time digesting dairy foods, ask your health care provider about:
Lactose-reduced milk or yogurt
Lactase enzymes (you can find these in drops or pills in many grocery stores)
If your health care provider suggests taking extra calcium, look for calcium carbonate pills. Calcium in this form is easy to absorb.
Think of protein as building blocks. Millions of these protein "blocks" go into making nearly every part of your baby. Without them, your baby can't grow. That's why you need to eat enough protein - at least three servings of protein each day. If you don't, your body will take protein from you to meet your baby's needs.
Your body can easily use the type of protein that comes from animals. Good sources of high-quality protein include:
Chicken, turkey, lean red meat, fish (2 oz)
If you eat dairy foods and eggs, you're likely to get all the protein and other nutrients you need. But if you don't eat any animal products, talk to your health care provider. You may need more of certain nutrients. Good protein choices for vegetarians include:
Peanuts or pumpkin or sunflower seeds (1/2 cup), other nuts (2/3 cup)
Soy milk or soy yogurt (1 cup)
Split peas, lentils, dried beans such as pinto and garbanzo beans (1 cup cooked)
Tofu (6 oz) or soy cheeses (2 oz)
Iron helps make the extra blood you need, as well as all the blood your baby needs. Iron is found in many foods, but some of the best sources are lean red meats, dark greens, and enriched grains. Your health care provider may also suggest taking iron pills or prenatal vitamins. If these pills make you nauseated or constipated, tell your health care provider.
Fruit, vegetables, and grains are all carbohydrates (your body's main source of energy). Be sure to eat at least nine servings of grains, four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit each day. Like other healthy foods, carbohydrates are rich in many of the vitamins you and your baby need. When you eat fruit and vegetables of many colors each day, you're likely to meet most of your vitamin needs.
Vitamin A helps your baby's cells grow. It also keeps your own skin smooth and clear. It's found in dark yellow, green, and red fruit and vegetables such as:
Apricots (3 raw or 1/4 cup dried)
Cantaloupe or mango (1/4 fruit)
Carrots (1 small or 1/2 cup sliced)
Bok choy, collards, dandelion, spinach, mustard greens (1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw)
Squash, such as acorn or butternut (1/2 cup)
Sweet potatoes (1/2 cup)
Tomatoes (2 medium) or tomato sauce (1/2 cup)
Try to eat at least one food that is high in vitamin A each day. Do not take vitamin A pills unless told to by your health care provider. Taking in too much of this vitamin may affect your baby's growth.
The B vitamins help your body use the food you eat. They also keep your nerves healthy and help make red blood cells. Whole-grain foods are some of the best sources of B vitamins. So reach for whole-grain forms of:
Bagels or English muffins (1/2)
Bread (1 slice)
Pasta or noodles (1/2 cup)
Tortillas (1 small) or pita bread (1/2)
Cereals (3/4 cup) or rice (1/2 cup)
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins. Getting enough folic acid in the first weeks of pregnancy reduces the risk of certain birth defects. Good food sources include dark leafy greens and black-eyed peas, as well as pinto, kidney, and navy beans. But you may need even more folic acid. Talk to your health care provider about taking folic acid pills.
Vitamin C helps make the tissue that supports your baby's bones and muscles. When you think of vitamin C, you may think of orange juice. You can also get healthy amounts of C in many types of fruit and vegetables. Here are a few:
Bell peppers-red, green, or yellow (1 medium or 1 cup)
Bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower (1/2 cup)
Grapefruit or cantaloupe (1/2 fruit)
Kiwi fruit, orange, mango (1)
Papayas or strawberries (1/2 cup)
Tangerines or tomatoes (2 medium)
Be sure to drink plenty of liquids - at least 8 to 10 cups each day. Your body will use the water in the liquids to make the extra blood you need and the fluid your baby floats in. Don't worry. Drinking a lot of liquids won't make you feel bloated. In fact, the more you drink, the less puffy you'll feel.
When it comes to liquids, water is best. But here are some other good sources of liquid:
Water or seltzer water with a slice of lemon or lime (these can help ease a queasy stomach too)
Clear soups that are low in salt
Low-fat or fat-free milk, or soy or rice milk with calcium added
Fruit juices mixed with water
Popsicles or gelatin
While you are pregnant, avoid or limit drinking some types of liquids. They contain things that may be harmful to your growing baby. If you have questions, talk with your health care provider. Otherwise:
Avoid alcohol, including beer and wine.
Limit coffee and tea to 2 cups a day, both regular and decaf.
Limit soft drinks, both regular and diet.
If you work out, you'll need more liquids. Try to drink an extra cup of water for each 30 minutes of walking or swimming. Drink more water if you bike, jog, or do aerobics.
Fats are energy powerhouses. So are simple sugars such as white and brown sugars, honey, and syrups. But a little bit of fat or sugar goes a long way. To get just what you need, choose low-fat foods and foods without added sugars.
Fats give you long-lasting energy and help your body use certain vitamins. They also help your baby's brain grow. But fats are high in calories. So limit the amount of fat you add to meals. Also, if you must add fat, use a type that comes from a vegetable source. Here are some better choices:
Avocado (1/8 medium) or olives (5)
Nut butters such as peanut butter or tahini (1 to 2 tsp)
Oils such as olive, canola, or corn (1 tbsp per meal)
Sugar may taste good and give you a quick lift. But it's high in calories and low in nutrients. Too much added sugar can also affect your moods and energy levels. So when you want something sweet, don't always add sugar or eat candy. Instead, try eating a healthy food that is naturally sweet. Have an orange, a few raisins, or a ripe banana. Also, try not to use artificial sweeteners, like saccharin, or foods sweetened with them. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions.
Limit these foods. They are high in hidden fats and sugars: