Are You Food-Smart?

Take our pregnancy-nutrition quiz and find out.


Congratulations! You’re pregnant. Now what? Do you get to eat everything in sight? Can certain foods harm your baby? We designed a quiz (with help from nutritionist Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.) to test your prenatal-nutrition knowledge and help you find out what you and your baby need to stay healthy during the entire 40 weeks. 1) Your body will require additional calories to build that baby. But how many—and when? a. Show restraint. An extra 100 calories a day beginning in the second trimester are all most women need. b. You’re eating for two. Add 300 calories a day as soon as you discover you’re pregnant. c. Get an extra 300 calories a day starting in your second trimester. d. Woohoo! You need 500 extra calories a day throughout pregnancy. Bring on the pecan pie.

2) A woman who starts out at a normal weight should ideally gain how much during her pregnancy? a. Less than 25 pounds. b. 25 to 35 pounds. c. 30 to 40 pounds. d. Up to 45 pounds.

3) Consuming 400 micrograms (mcg) of folate (or folic acid) every day before you get pregnant helps prevent certain types of birth defects. Which of the following meets this daily requirement? a. One daily prenatal vitamin (check the label to make sure). b. 1 1/4 cups of cooked lentils. c. One large spinach salad, five spears of broccoli, one medium orange and 1 cup of cooked fava beans. d. Four cups of orange juice. e. Any of the above.

4) To get enough calcium (which helps build your baby’s bones and teeth), you should: a. Double your usual calcium intake. b. Drink at least five glasses of 1% or nonfat milk each day. c. Eat your weight in oyster shells. d. Consume the same amount of calcium you did before getting pregnant.

5) Drinking adequate fluids will help your pregnant body increase its blood volume while warding off such diverse problems as water retention, preterm labor, constipation, urinary-tract infections and dehydration. Which is the best way to get the liquid you need? a. Four glasses of water, three glasses of milk and one glass of juice. b. Six glasses of water and four glasses of milk. c. Eight glasses of water, one glass of milk and one glass of 100% fruit juice. d. Just forget the glasses and go for an Olympic-size pool and a 9-foot straw.

6) You may not be able to avoid inviting your mother-in-law for an extended visit after the baby is born, but you can ward off constipation and hemorrhoids by eating adequate fiber. Which of the following will get you at least halfway to your recommended 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day?

a. Six prunes. b. Four slices of whole-wheat bread. c. 3/4 cup of bran cereal. d. Two medium pears. e. Three bales of hay. 7) You’ve decided to go out to dinner. Which of the following menu items is not off-limits? a. Grilled swordfish. b. Classic Caesar salad. c. Seared ahi tuna. d. Carpaccio. e. California roll sushi. f. Greek salad with feta cheese.

ANSWERS 1) c. Assuming you ate healthfully before you became pregnant, add 300 calories a day during your second and third trimesters. A total daily intake of 2,500 calories is about right; eat more if you’re very active. Also—need we say it—pecan pie is not the most nutritionally sound way to get your calories.

2) b. Normal-weight women may gain 3 to 5 pounds during the first trimester (although some women don’t gain any weight and some lose a few pounds, which is normal), and up to 1 pound a week thereafter, for a total of 25 to 35 pounds. That’s a substantial but reasonable amount of heft, meant to be nurtured and not despaired or dieted away. Weight-gain guidelines differ for women who are under- or overweight, so check with your doctor.

3) e. However, some of these menu options are more practical than others. Adding foods rich in folate, such as dried legumes, dark green vegetables and oranges, to your diet is wise. But since getting enough of these on an everyday basis can be challenging (the requirement jumps to 600 mcg of folate a day once you’re pregnant), take a multivitamin containing 100 percent of the daily value of folic acid as insurance. And while drinking 4 cups of orange juice will fulfill your daily requirement for folate before you are pregnant, it’s not recommended (unless you own stock in the citrus industry and you don’t mind taking on the shape of an orange from all those extra calories).

4) d. According to the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C., a woman needs 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day, whether or not she is pregnant. That’s the equivalent of 3 1/3 cups of milk, or way more oyster shells than your teeth can safely pulverize.

5) c. The Institute of Medicine recommends 101 ounces of liquid a day from water, milk, juice, other beverages and food (especially fruit and vegetables). We recommend that at least 64 ounces (eight glasses) come from water. Juice and soda are fine in moderation, but one serving a day of either is ample.

6) c. Although prunes (now called dried plums; prunes have an image problem), pears and whole-wheat bread are fine sources of fiber—weighing in at 3.6 grams for a half-dozen prunes, 7.6 grams for four slices of bread and 7.8 grams for two pears—100% bran cereal wins, with nearly 15 grams of fiber per 3/4 cup serving. No reliable data are available on hay.

7) e. A California roll made with cooked crabmeat (not raw fish) is the safest choice on this menu. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish may contain unacceptable levels of mercury. The raw egg used in classic Caesar salad dressing may harbor salmonella (though plenty of so-called Caesar salads are not made using raw eggs, so investigate further). While not raw, seared ahi tuna usually is served very rare. Raw and undercooked fish, meat and poultry pose a food-poisoning risk, so carpaccio (raw beef) is off-limits. Avoid unpasteurized cheeses, such as Camembert, brie, feta, any blue-veined and soft Mexican-style cheeses. Also stay away from unpasteurized milk, fruit or vegetable juice.