Dietary Do's & Don'ts for a Healthy Pregnancy
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Dietary Do's & Don'ts for a Healthy Pregnancy

Many people are under the impression that being pregnant is essentially a license to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. And while occasional indulgences to satisfy cravings are okay, parents-to-be need to be mindful that food choices not only impact the mother’s health during and after pregnancy, but also the future health of the baby.

Regarding how much to eat, the American Council of Gynecologists and Obstetricians (ACOG) notes that for expectant moms with one baby on board, no extra calories are needed during the first trimester. Your growing, little one will do just fine with the amount of food a mother consumes normally.

Once you hit the second trimester (13-26 weeks), you need an extra 340 calories per day. To put that in perspective, that's roughly equal to a glass of skim milk and half a sandwich. At the third trimester mark (after 26 weeks), you only need to add another 100 calories (think of an apple, 2 ½ oranges, or a handful of peanuts—not the whole bag). 

Keeping calories in check make it possible to maintain a healthy pregnancy weight, which can contribute to a safer pregnancy overall and get you back to feeling and looking like yourself post-delivery.

As for what goes into the total needed calories, here’s a quick look at the types of food you should—and shouldn’t—be enjoying:

What to eat:

You have lots of options for eating healthy while pregnant or breastfeeding. Focusing on the following food groups will ensure you and your baby get the nutrition you need:

Fruit:  All types of fruits and 100% fruit juices. Fruit can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, canned, or dried.

Whole grains: Found in whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, cereal, oatmeal, tortillas, and quinoa

Dairy or soy-fortified alternatives: Including low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, or soy beverages. NOTE: all dairy products should be labeled pasteurized.

Oils and fats: Found in vegetable or olive oil, fish, avocado, and nuts

Protein foods: Including chicken, eggs, lean meat, beans, tofu and other soy products, nuts and seeds, peas

What to skip:

× Raw or rare fish or shellfish, including sushi or raw oysters

× High-mercury fish like king mackerel, marlin, shark, swordfish, and bigeye tuna

× Raw or rare meats, poultry, or eggs

× Unpasteurized juice, milk, or cheese

× Cold, processed deli meats, smoked seafood, and hot dogs

× Processed meat or seafood salads like ham salad, chicken salad, or tuna salad

× Raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts

× Foods with added sugars, including cakes, cookies, candy, and soda

× Salt, when possible, skip packaged meals which are high in salt. Replace salt in your cooking with fresh or dried herbs

× Caffeine, limit to 200 mg (roughly one 12-ounce cup of coffee per day) and limit intake of teas, energy drinks, chocolate, chocolate milk, and sodas, all of which may contain caffeine

× Alcohol, given all types can be harmful to your developing baby, no amount is considered safe

For help choosing healthy foods or planning meals, click here.


Malcolm Paine, MD, is a member of the SVMC OB/GYN team. 


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