Pregnancy: Ages 18-24 Community
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Healthy Eating During Pregnancy...

Eating well can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy newborn. Being physically active may help you have a more comfortable 9 months and an easier delivery. Use the ideas and tips below to improve your eating plan and become more physically active before, during, and after your pregnancy. Make changes now, and be a healthy example for your family for a lifetime.


What is a healthy eating plan for pregnancy?

A healthy eating plan for pregnancy includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods. In January 2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture jointly released the 2005, Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These new guidelines outline recommendations to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic disease through nutritious eating and physical activity. The recommendations include some of the nutritional needs of pregnancy. For more information about food groups and nutrition values, visit

How many calories should I eat?

Eating a variety of foods that provide enough calories helps you and your baby gain the proper amount of weight. During the first 3 months of your pregnancy, you do not need to change the number of calories you get from the foods you eat.

Normal-weight women need an extra 300 calories each day during the last 6 months of pregnancy. This totals about 1,900 to 2,500 calories a day. If you were underweight, overweight, or obese before you became pregnant, or if you are pregnant with more than one baby, you may need a different number of calories. Talk to your health care provider about how much weight you should gain and how many calories you need.


Each of these healthy choices has about 300 calories:

  • 1 cup of fat-free fruit yogurt and a medium apple
  • 1 piece of whole-wheat toast spread with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 1 cup of beef and bean chili sprinkled with 1/2 ounce of cheddar cheese (You can also substitute various vegetables for the beef.)
  • 1 cup of raisin bran cereal with 1/2 cup of fat-free milk and a small banana
  • 3 ounces of roasted lean ham or chicken breast and 1/2 cup of sweet potatoes
  • 1 flour tortilla (7-inch), 1/2 cup of refried beans, 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli, and 1/2 cup of cooked red pepper

Why is gaining a healthy amount of weight important?

Gaining a healthy amount of weight may help you have a more comfortable pregnancy and delivery. It also may help you have fewer pregnancy complications, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, constipation, and backaches.


Gaining too little weight during your pregnancy makes it hard for your baby to grow properly. Talk to your health care provider if you feel you are not gaining enough weight.

If you gain too much weight, you may have a longer labor and more difficult delivery. Also, gaining a lot of extra body fat will make it harder for you to return to a healthy weight after you have your baby. If you feel you are gaining too much weight during your pregnancy, talk with your health care provider.

Do not try to lose weight if you are pregnant. If you do not eat enough calories or a variety of foods, your baby will not get the nutrients he or she needs to grow.

How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?

Talk to your health care provider about how much weight you should gain during your pregnancy. General weight-gain recommendations listed below refer to weight before pregnancy and are for women expecting only one baby.


If you are underweight, you should gain about 28 to 40 pounds.


If you are normal weight, you should gain about 25 to 35 pounds.


If you are overweight, you should gain about 15 to 25 pounds.


If you are obese, you should gain at least 15 pounds.

Do I have any special nutrition needs now that I am pregnant?

Yes. During pregnancy, you and your growing baby need more of several nutrients. By eating the recommended number of daily servings from each of the five food groups, you should get most of the nutrients you need.

Be sure to include foods high in folate, such as orange juice, strawberries, spinach, broccoli, beans, and fortified breads and breakfast cereals. Or get it in a vitamin/mineral supplement.

To help prevent birth defects, you must get enough daily folate before as well as during pregnancy. Prenatal supplements contain folic acid (another form of folate). Look for a supplement that has at least 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folic acid.


Although most health care providers recommend taking a multi-vitamin/mineral “prenatal” supplement before becoming pregnant, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding, always talk to your health care provider before taking any supplements.

Can I continue to follow my vegetarian diet during pregnancy?

Yes, you can continue a vegetarian eating plan during pregnancy, but talk to your health care provider first.

To make sure you are getting enough important nutrients, including protein, iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, your health care provider may ask you to meet with a registered dietitian who can help you plan meals, and may also recommend that you take supplements.

Tips for Healthy Eating

Meet the needs of your body and help avoid common discomforts of pregnancy by following these tips:


  • Eat breakfast every day. If you feel sick to your stomach in the morning, choose dry whole-wheat toast or whole-grain crackers when you first wake up—even before you get out of bed. Eat the rest of your breakfast (fruit, oatmeal, cereal, milk, yogurt, or other foods) later in the morning.
  • Eat high-fiber foods. Eating whole-grain cereals, vegetables, fruits, beans, whole-wheat breads, and brown rice, along with drinking plenty of water and getting daily physical activity, can help you prevent the constipation that many women have during pregnancy.
  • Keep healthy foods on hand.A fruit bowl filled with apples, bananas, peaches, oranges, and grapes makes it easy to grab a healthy snack. Fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables make healthy and quick additions to meals, as do canned beans.
  • If you have heartburn during your pregnancy, eat small meals more often, eat slowly, avoid spicy and fatty foods (such as hot peppers or fried chicken), drink beverages between meals instead of with meals, and do not lie down right after eating.
  • If you have “morning sickness,” or hyperemesis, talk with your health care provider. You may need to adjust the way you eat and drink, such as by eating smaller meals more frequently and drinking plenty of fluids. Your health care provider can help you deal with morning sickness while keeping your healthy eating habits on track.

What foods should I avoid during pregnancy?

There are certain foods and beverages that can harm your baby if you eat or drink them while you are pregnant. Here is a general list of foods and beverages that you should avoid:

  • Alcohol. Instead of wine, beer, or a mixed drink, enjoy apple cider, tomato juice, sparkling water, or other nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Fish that may have high levels of methyl-mercury (a substance that can build up in fish and harm an unborn baby). Do not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish during pregnancy. Eat no more than 12 ounces of any fish per week (equal to four 3-ounce servings—each about the size of a deck of cards).
  • Soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, and goat cheese and ready-to-eat meats including lunch meats, hot dogs, and deli meats. These foods may contain bacteria called listeria that are harmful to unborn babies. Cooking lunch meats, hot dogs, and deli meats until steaming hot can kill the bacteria and make these meats safe to eat.
  • Raw fish such as sushi, sashimi, or ceviche and raw or undercooked meat and poultry. These foods can contain harmful bacteria. Cook fish, meat, and poultry thoroughly before eating.
  • Large amounts of caffeine-containing beverages. If you are a heavy coffee, tea, or soda drinker, talk to your health care provider about whether you should cut back on caffeine. Try a decaffeinated version of your favorite beverage, a mug of warm low-fat or fat-free milk, or sparkling mineral water.
  • Anything that is not food. Some pregnant women may crave something that is not food, such as laundry starch or clay. Talk to your health care provider if you crave something that is not food.

Ask your health care provider for a complete list of foods and beverages that you should avoid.



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