When you are pregnant, it is important to eat a well-balanced, healthful diet. This includes getting the right amount of calories and key nutrients to support both you and your baby.
CaloriesSince the amount of calories you need will vary depending on age, weight, and physical activity among other things, talk with your healthcare provider about a calorie plan that is right for you.
Key NutrientsAlong with talking about the amount of calories and types of foods you need to consume to achieve a well-balanced, healthy diet during pregnancy, your healthcare provider may also discuss the kinds of nutrients you will need. There are some key nutrients, such as folic acid and iron , which deserve extra attention during pregnancy. Many women may also benefit from a vitamin supplement.
Folic AcidWomen who are pregnant or may become pregnant should consume 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid, or folate, every day. This mineral is most important during the first several weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Getting enough folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida . It may also help prevent other birth defects like cleft lip and congenital heart disease. You may also reduce your chance of having a miscarriage or stillbirth . You can meet this requirement by eating a variety of foods rich in folic acid. For extra insurance, you may also want to take a folic acid supplement before you become pregnant and through your first trimester. (If you are taking a prenatal vitamin that contains folate, you do not need a separate folic acid supplement.) Foods rich in folic acid include:
- Fortified breakfast cereal
- Whole-wheat breads
- Orange juice and citrus fruits
- Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, and romaine lettuce
IronIron is a mineral that helps red blood cells transport oxygen around the body. The recommended amount of iron for pregnant women is 27 milligrams (mg). Not getting enough of this mineral can lead to iron-deficiency anemia and pregnancy complications. Good sources of iron include:
- Lean red meat
- Dried fruits
- Fortified breakfast cereals
CalciumDuring pregnancy you also need calcium . When you do not consume enough calcium, your body takes it from your bones, increasing your risk of osteoporosis later in life. Good sources of calcium include:
- Low-fat or nonfat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese
- Fish canned with bones
- Green leafy vegetables
- Fortified soy milk or rice milk
- Fortified orange juice
- Other calcium-fortified foods