Healthy Diet

A nutritious, balanced diet is important throughout your life, but especially during your pregnancy.

Your body needs extra fuel to grow a baby, so most pregnant women are advised to add about 300 extra calories to their diets. Though you could get those extra 300 calories from two cans of soda and a few cookies, it’s best to get them from nutritious food, like an extra handful of almonds and a banana. You don’t need to eat lots of extra food to gain the appropriate amount of weight.

What to Eat While You’re Pregnant

Your healthy diet should include:

BreadPlenty of grain products, like bread, rice, pasta, and cereal. These carbohydrates give you energy. You should eat 9-11 servings daily. Examples of a serving are: 1 slice of bread, a cup of cereal, or half a cup of pasta or rice.

Baby spinach leaves isolated on white backgroundVegetables, especially green leafy ones. These foods provide vitamins and minerals. You should eat 4-5 servings daily. Examples of a serving are: 1 cup of leafy vegetables, ½ a cup of other vegetables, or ¾ cup of vegetable juice.

Close up of two bunches of grape, isolated on white. Concept ofFruits, especially fresh ones, for vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You should eat 3-4 servings daily. Examples of a serving are: 1 medium sized piece of fruit, ½ a cup of chopped, cooked, or canned fruit, ¾ cup of fruit juice.

Dairy products and eggs isolated on white backgroundDairy products, like milk, cheese, and yogurt for protein and calcium. You should eat 3 servings daily. Examples of a serving are: 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

ProteinProtein-rich foods like meat, eggs, beans and nuts. You should eat 3 servings a day. Examples of a serving are: 2-3 ounces of meat, poultry, or fish, 1 cup of beans or tofu, or two eggs.

Collection of nuts, seeds and dried fruits on white backgroundHealthy fats and oils, like those found in nuts and fish- a limited amount is necessary for your health, long-term energy, and baby’s brain development.

Yellow tablets on a white backgroundA prenatal vitamin that includes folic acid. You should take 400-800 mcgs of folic acid each day during your pregnancy, and 500 mcgs if you are breastfeeding. Your doctor can make specific recommendations for you.

If you want to make a food plan for your pregnancy, check out the Choose My Plate supertracker tool for moms.

Avoid While You’re Pregnant

While you are pregnant, some foods are not good for you or your growing baby. These include:

  • Raw fish, such as sushi
  • Unpasteurized milk, and soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk
  • Certain kinds of fish, like shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tilefish (golden or white snapper)
  • Unpasteurized juice or cider
  • Raw eggs, and anything containing them, like unbaked cookie dough or cake batter
  • Raw shellfish
  • Raw sprouts (bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, etc.)
  • Prepared salads from the store
  • Processed meats like hot dogs, lunch meat or cold cuts.

Pregnant women should have no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day. This is the amount of caffeine in about one 12-ounce cup of coffee.

Other foods require more cooking to be safe. Make sure any meats, eggs, seafood or poultry you eat is thoroughly cooked. For a complete list of foods to avoid or be cautious about while you’re pregnant, see the Food Safety site of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Cravings and Aversions

During your pregnancy, you may have strong cravings for particular foods. That means that you really, really have a taste for something.  As long as these cravings are for healthy food, it’s okay to enjoy them. However, if you start to crave things that are not food, like chalk, dirt, clay, paint chips, or ice, consult your doctor. This is a condition called pica, which may be a symptom that you need more iron or zinc.

You may also develop aversions to foods. That means that a food seems disgusting to you, and you might feel nauseated when you smell or even think about eating them. Even foods you have previously enjoy may suddenly seem terrible to you. These aversions are usually not permanent, often disappearing by the second trimester.