Get Your Folic Acid

The 10 rules of pregnancy nutrition.


1. Get your folic acid. By eating foods high in folate, such as broccoli and dark leafy greens, or taking a daily supplement that contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid before you become pregnant, you can help protect your baby against neural-tube defects such as spina bifida. During pregnancy, increase your daily intake to 600 micrograms.

2. Choose from all five food groups every day. You need three servings from the milk, yogurt and cheese group; two to three servings from the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts group; three servings from the fruit group; four servings from the vegetable group; and nine servings from the bread, cereal, rice and pasta group.

3. Get enough calories. Try to eat about 2,200 calories a day during your first trimester. During the second and third trimesters, add 300 calories a day to your diet, for a total of about 2,500.

4. Focus on fiber. To help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids, aim to consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day.

5. Gain the right amount of weight. If you were of normal weight when you became pregnant, aim to gain 25 to 35 pounds over the course of your pregnancy; 28 to 40 pounds if you were underweight and 15 to 25 pounds if you were overweight.

6. Indulge your cravings in moderation. Give in to what your body craves—it may help reduce nausea.

7. Stay hydrated. Drink 64 ounces of fluid daily, more if you're active and during hot weather.

8. Steer clear of certain foods. To reduce the risk of illness from the listeria bacterium, steer clear of unheated deli meats and unpasteurized cheeses such as feta, brie, Camembert, and blue-veined or Mexican-style cheeses. Never eat raw or undercooked animal foods such as meat, sushi, seafood and eggs. Avoid fish that may contain excessive mercury, such as swordfish, shark, and king mackerel. Limit shellfish and canned fish to 12 ounces a week.

9. Avoid alcohol. Drinking even small amounts of alcohol during pregnancy can cause physical malformations and developmental difficulties in your baby that can last a lifetime.

10. Take your vitamins. Take a daily supplement formulated for pregnancy, as recommended by your physician, that supplies 100 to 150 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake for all vitamins and minerals.

What you eat will impact the health of your growing baby and possibly the health of that baby for the rest of her life. At the same time, eating well is not a monumental task; it's easy to get what you need.