The Healthy Pregnancy Eating Guide

Our simple, nutritious meal plan has all the vitamins, minerals and calories you need now.

M&Ms, jelly beans, pizza and Cap’n Crunch cereal are just a small sampling of the foods women crave during pregnancy. With strong aversions and cravings, it’s hard to eat well throughout the entire nine months (even if you’re a nutritionist). But eating well doesn’t mean eating a lot. Don’t fool yourself into thinking, “Hey, I’m eating for two, pass the doughnuts.” Contrary to what some people might think, now is not the time to win the gold medal in the food Olympics. Cramming in lots of high-calorie foods more than likely will leave you with extra pounds to lose after the baby is born. In fact, your calorie requirements increase by only about 150 extra calories a day during the first trimester (most women will need approximately 2,000–2,200 total), and around 300 extra calories a day during the second and third trimesters. These are only general guidelines, though. Caloric requirements vary depending on prepregnancy weight and activity level. It’s the quality of your food selections that counts most now, since it directly affects your growing baby. Eat plenty of foods loaded with nutrients, and you’ll shower that growing bambino with all the right ingredients. Don’t deprive yourself of cravings and urges — that’s one of the fun things about being pregnant. Just try to be smart with your food choices 90 percent of the time, and follow our guide to simple eating for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Take a closer look at some of the key ingredients that are responsible for supplying your baby with the right stuff, then check out our five-day meal plan. Calcium Your daily calcium requirement shoots up from 800–1,200 milligrams when you become pregnant. This adds up to four servings of dairy products or three servings and one 8-ounce glass of calcium-fortified orange juice. “It’s even a good idea to aim for a range of 1,200–1,500 milligrams of calcium,” says Elyse Sosin, M.S., R.D., nutritionist for the women’s health program at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, “especially if you’re at risk for falling short because of a special diet, like a vegan one [no meat or dairy products].” If you are lactose-intolerant (unable to digest milk products properly), look for lactose-reduced or lactose-free products, stock up on calcium-fortified juices and grains, and speak with your doctor about supplemental calcium. Calcium is especially critical because it not only protects your bones, tissues and teeth, but it also helps in the formation of the baby’s. When you skimp on calcium-rich foods and don’t supplement, the calcium in your bones could be used to meet the increased demands of the growing fetus by decreasing your bone density, which may be critical in later years. Calcium-rich foods include milk and milk products, cheese, yogurt (opt for low-fat dairy whenever possible), fortified juices, fortified cereals and other grains, tofu (processed with calcium), sardines and salmon canned with bones, almonds, kale, collard greens, spinach and broccoli.

Protein Pregnancy also demands some extra protein: The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council recommends eating 60 milligrams a day vs. 50 when you’re not pregnant. Consuming extra dairy products and larger servings of lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs and legumes will ensure that you’re getting enough.

Iron During pregnancy, your iron requirement jumps from 15 milligrams to 30 milligrams a day; most prenatal vitamins supply 60 milligrams. Iron in the blood is responsible for carrying and delivering oxygen to every cell in your body and your baby’s body. Pregnant women have an expanded blood volume, so it makes sense that more blood requires more iron. The downside of getting the extra iron you need from prenatal vitamins is that sometimes it can cause heartburn, dark stools and uncomfortable constipation. Some simple remedies to relieve these plumbing problems include increasing your dietary fiber by eating more fresh fruit, veggies and whole-grain breads and cereals, drinking tons of fluids — guzzle, guzzle and guzzle away — and incorporating a safe and effective exercise plan into your schedule. The best sources of iron are lean red meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, pork, lamb, veal and eggs. Plant sources of iron include beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, iron-fortified cereals and other grains, dried fruit, spinach, broccoli, collard greens and blackstrap molasses. You can increase the absorbability of iron by coupling iron-rich foods with vitamin C: oranges, grapefruits, mangoes, strawberries, papayas, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, raspberries, tangerines, kiwis, orange juice, grapefruit juice or other vitamin C- fortified juices.

Folic acid (folacin, folate) The Recommended Daily Allowance for folic acid is 400 micrograms per day for pregnant women; but the March of Dimes recommends 800 micrograms a day. This vitamin is needed to make the genetic material DNA, in addition to playing a vital role in cell division and red blood cell formation (along with vitamin B12). In recent years, folic acid has gained attention for its ability to reduce neural-tube birth defects. Recently, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women with an intake of less than 240 micrograms of folic acid a day had about a twofold greater risk for preterm delivery and low infant birth weights. Foods rich in folic acid include green leafy vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and orange juice. If you don’t think you’re getting enough through food, by all means, supplement. Continue to keep your intake high in between babies.

Vitamin B6 This vitamin is vital for chemical reactions involving proteins. It also participates in the formation of red blood cells, antibodies and insulin for both you and your growing baby. During pregnancy, your daily requirement jumps to 2.2 milligrams, so be sure to eat plenty of lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, green, leafy vegetables, whole-grain cereals and bananas.

Other vital nutrients There are a few other vitamins and minerals crucial to a healthy pregnancy and baby.

  • You need 15 milligrams of zinc, which you can get from lean meats, seafood, whole grains, dried beans and peas.
  • B12 is a special concern for vegetarians since it is found only in animal food — lean meats, low-fat dairy products and eggs. You need 2.2 milligrams a day.
  • Citrus fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, green peppers and strawberries are sources for the 70 milligrams of vitamin C you need each day.
  • Fiber is another special concern during pregnancy, especially if you are regularly constipated; you need between 20 and 35 grams, but shoot for the high end of that range.
  • Your demand for fluids increases because of your expanded blood volume. Make sure you drink eight
  • 8-ounce glasses of water, club soda, vegetable juice, fruit juice or low-fat milk each day. Avoid coffee, tea, soft drinks, diet colas and other artificially sweetened drinks.
  • Go ahead and dig into fresh fruits, veggie concoctions, whole-grain breads and cereals, low-fat dairy and lean sources of protein. Remember, as long as you eat smart and stay on top of your nutritional needs, you and your growing baby both will reap the benefits of a healthful diet.

Here’s a look at the general daily requirements for pregnant women.

Food Group Daily Servings Sample servings Grains 6+ 1 slice bread, 1/2 small bagel, 1 serving cereal (serving size varies by brand; check package) or 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta Fruits 3+ 1 medium fruit, 1 cup berries or melon, or 1/2 cup fruit juice Vegetables 3+ 1 cup raw, leafy veggies or 1/2 cup cooked veggies Dairy 4 1 cup milk, 1 cup yogurt, 3/4 cup cottage cheese or 1/2 ounces of hard cheese (Try to stick with low-fat varieties.) Proteins 2–3 2–3 ounces lean meat, 2 eggs (limit to 2 times per week), 2/3 cup tofu or 2–3 ounces of fish or poultry Fluids 8+ 8 ounces of water, seltzer, club soda, vegetable juice, fruit juice or low-fat milk Fats and Sweets In moderation As long as you are gaining weight appropriately (according to your doctor), a few treats a week won’t hurt you.

five-day sample dietThe following sample menus are for the second and third trimesters. For the first trimester, which demands fewer calories, simply subtract the indicated food items from each day. See recipes for those dishes marked with an asterisk (*).day one Breakfast1 cup whole-grain cereal with 1 cup 1percent milk, topped with 1 tablespoon chopped nuts1/2 cantaloupe (or 1 cup blueberries or pineapple chunks)1 cup grapefruit juiceLunchTurkey and cheese sandwich (2 ounces turkey breast, 11/2 ounces Swiss cheese topped with roasted red peppers on 2 slices of whole-wheat bread)1 cup vegetable soup4 ounces seltzer water with 4 ounces cranberry juiceSnackYogurt/fruit shake (In a blender, mix 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt with 1 banana and 1 cup fresh strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.)DinnerTossed salad (lettuce, tomato, carrots and green pepper) drizzled with 2 tablespoons Italian dressing5 ounces grilled chicken breast, cut into chunks and stir-fried with 1 cup assorted vegetables (e.g., mushrooms, broccoli and onions) with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce1 cup brown rice1 cup seltzer or club soda with a squeeze of lemonSnack1 cup 1 percent milk4 graham crackers topped with 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butterNutrition information: 2,544 calories, 26 percent fat (74 grams), 53 percent carbohydrate, 21 percent protein, 25 milligrams iron, 1,645 milligrams calcium, 465 micrograms folic acid, 4.7 milligrams B6, 18 milligrams zinc, 38 grams fiber.For the first trimester, skip the snack of milk, graham crackers and peanut butter, and you’ll get the following: 2,288 calories, 24 percent fat (62 grams), 54 percent carbohydrate, 22 percent protein, 24 milligrams iron, 1,335 milligrams calcium, 438 micrograms folic acid, 4.5 milligrams B6, 16 milligrams zinc, 37 grams fiber. day two Breakfast1 cup oatmeal with 1/4 cup raisins Whole-wheat pita bread topped with 2 teaspoons margarine and 1 tablespoon jam 1 cup 1 percent milkLunchOpen-faced tuna melt (whole-wheat English muffin, sliced in half with 3 ounces water-packed tuna, 2 teaspoons reduced-fat mayonnaise, sliced tomato and 2 slices low-fat Cheddar cheese) Vegetable crudités (carrot sticks, celery sticks, red and yellow peppers) with 2 tablespoons sour cream dipBaked apple sprinkled with cinnamon8 ounces orange juiceSnack 1 cup low-fat fruit yogurt 2 oatmeal raisin cookiesGlass of seltzer or club soda with lemonDinner 4 ounces broiled beef sirloin 11/2 cups linguini with 1/2 cup marinara sauce1 cup steamed spinach topped with 1 clove garlic, crushed and roasted in 1 teaspoon olive oil 1 cup fruit salad with 1 tablespoon chopped walnutsGlass of seltzer or club sodaSnackFrozen yogurt pop6 flavored mini rice cakes Nutrition information: 2,517 calories, 24 percent fat (67 grams), 55 percent carbohydrate, 21 percent protein, 20 milligrams iron, 1,772 milligrams calcium, 406 micrograms folic acid, 2.5 milligrams B6, 19 milligrams zinc, 34 grams fiber.For the first trimester, skip the snack of frozen yogurt pop and rice cakes, and you’ll get the following: 2,342 calories, 24 percent fat (63 grams), 54 percent carbohydrate, 22 percent protein, 20 milligrams iron, 1,667 milligrams calcium, 402 micrograms folic acid, 2.4 milligrams B6, 19 milligrams zinc, 34 grams fiber.day threeBreakfast2 whole-grain waffles topped with 1 tablespoon margarine, 1 cup strawberries (or small banana) and 1 cup low-fat yogurt1 cup 1 percent milkLunchEgg White–Veggie Omelet* Toasted bagel with 2 tablespoons cream cheese and 1 tablespoon jam1 serving canned peaches in light syrupGlass of seltzer or club sodaSnackGranola bar1 cup frozen seedless grapes8 ounces orange juiceDinnerTossed salad (romaine lettuce, tomato, carrots, onion and peppers) with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing 4–5 ounces grilled flounder 1 1/2 cup couscousBraised Leeks* Frozen fruit bar Glass of seltzer or club soda with lemonSnack1 slice whole-grain toast with 11/2 ounces melted low-fat cheeseNutrition information: 2,554 calories, 25 percent fat (70 grams), 55 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent protein, 15 milligrams iron, 1,827 milligrams calcium, 457 micrograms folic acid, 2.1 milligrams B6, 10 milligrams zinc, 30 grams fiber.For the first trimester, skip the snack of whole-grain toast and cheese, and you’ll get the following: 2,322 calories, 24 percent fat (63 grams), 57 percent carbohydrate, 19 percent protein, 13 milligrams iron, 1,363 milligrams calcium, 435 micrograms folic acid, 2.0 milligrams B6, 8 milligrams zinc, 27 grams fiber.day fourBreakfastFrench toast à la mode (Beat 2 egg whites or egg substitute with 1/3 cup 1 percent milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Melt 1 tablespoon reduced-fat margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Cut 6 slices of bread into diagonal slices and dip both sides into batter. Brown each side and top with a scoop of low-fat fruit-flavored yogurt and fresh blueberries. Serves 3.) 8 ounces grapefruit juiceLunchChef salad (toss lettuce, tomato, carrots, 1 ounce roast beef, 2 ounces turkey breast, 11/2 ounce Swiss cheese), with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette dressing1 whole-grain roll1/2 cup dried apricots mixed with 2 tablespoons almondsGlass of seltzer or club sodaSnack1 cup frozen yogurt topped with granola1 nectarineDinnerShrimp/veggie pasta (Toss 11/2 cup cooked rotelli or ziti with 3 ounces shrimp, 1 cup cooked broccoli, or pea pods and carrots and 1/2 cup marinara sauce.)1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries with 3 tablespoons whipped creamGlass of seltzer or club sodaSnack1 slice angel food cake1 cup 1 percent milkNutrition information: 2,550 calories, 25 percent fat (71 grams), 55 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent protein, 23 milligrams iron, 1,764 milligrams calcium, 446 micrograms folic acid, 2.3 milligrams B6, 14 milligrams zinc, 32 grams fiber.For the first trimester, skip the snack of angel food cake and milk, as well as the granola on the frozen yogurt midday, and you’ll get the following: 2,232 calories, 25 percent fat (61 grams), 55 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent protein, 21 milligrams iron, 1,400 milligrams calcium, 406 micrograms folic acid, 2.0 milligrams B6, 12 milligrams zinc, 29 grams fiber.day fiveBreakfast1 cup whole-grain cereal with 1 cup mixed berries1 cup 1 percent milk1 slice raisin bread with 1 tablespoon peanut butter4 ounces orange juice (calcium-fortified)Lunch 11/2 cup rice and 1 cup black beans1 cup fresh-fruit salad topped with 2 tablespoons granola and 1 tablespoon chopped walnutsGlass of club soda seltzerSnackYogurt/fruit shake (In blender, mix 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 1 banana, 1/2–1 cup fresh strawberries.) 1 chocolate chip cookieDinner5 ounces Seasoned Swordfish Steaks* 1 cup steamed kale drizzled with 1 teaspoon olive oil and garlic1 baked sweet potato sprinkled with a pinch of brown sugar and 2 teaspoons margarine1 baked apple with cinnamonGlass of seltzer or club soda Snack1 cup frozen seedless grapes or a frozen fruit bar1 cup 1 percent milkNutrition information: 2,485 calories, 25 percent fat (69 grams), 58 percent carbohydrate, 17 percent protein, 26 milligrams iron, 1,443 milligrams calcium, 642 micrograms folic acid, 3.4 milligrams B6, 16 milligrams zinc, 53 grams fiber.For the first trimester, skip the snack of milk and grapes and the chocolate chip cookie midday, and you’ll get the following: 2,246 calories, 25 percent fat (62 grams), 58 percent carbohydrate, 17 percent protein, 26 milligrams iron, 1,100 milligrams calcium, 625 micrograms folic acid, 3.2 milligrams B6, 15 milligrams zinc, 54 grams fiber. recipesEgg White–Veggie Omelet Serves 2 8 egg whites 4 tablespoons low-fat milk Pepper to taste 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms 1/2 cup sliced onions 1/4 cup chopped tomato Nonstick vegetable spray 2 ounces low-fat shredded Cheddar cheeseMix the egg whites together with milk and pepper, set aside. Place the mushrooms, onions and 2 tablespoons of water in a separate dish. Cover and microwave the vegetables for approximately 2–3 minutes on high (depending on how soft you like your veggies). Drain vegetables, and mix in the chopped tomato and egg whites. Apply nonstick spray to a large skillet, and pour in the entire concoction over medium-high heat. When eggs begin to set, sprinkle on the shredded cheese and allow to melt. When omelet appears cooked but moist, fold over one side and gently lift onto plate. Braised LeeksServes 4 6 small (or 4 large) leeks, cleaned and quartered 1–2 heaping teaspoons low-salt instant vegetable broth 1 teaspoon canola oil Fresh ground pepper to tasteAdd leeks to skillet, sprinkle with broth and fill with water until leeks are just covered. Add canola oil and simmer on low heat 20–30 minutes until broth is absorbed and leeks are soft. (Add water if necessary.) Toss leeks with fresh ground pepper. This dish is also delicious when the leeks are substituted with endive, fresh spinach or escarole. Seasoned Swordfish SteaksServes 3 2 teaspoons olive oil 1/2 bunch fresh parsley 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro 1 fresh squeezed lemon Fresh coarsely ground black pepper to taste 1 pound swordfish steak, cut into 3 piecesPut all ingredients except pepper and swordfish into a blender and blend well for about 1 minute. Thoroughly coat and marinate the swordfish steaks for 2–12 hours (depending on how much time you have). Remove steaks from marinade and sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper to taste. Grill or broil for approximately 4 minutes on each side; time will vary depending on the thickness of the swordfish and personal preference.

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