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A Balanced Diet for a Healthy Pregnancy

The saying "you are what you eat" is never more true than during pregnancy. In fact, it's more like, "you and your baby are what you eat." If you've become accustomed to eating junk food or less than nutritious foods, now is the time to change your eating habits. You and your baby will benefit greatly from a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, whole grains, protein and vital nutrients. Here are the recommended nutritional guidelines for pregnant women and nursing mothers. As always, remember to check with your doctor about your specific nutritional needs. Each pregnancy is unique, and requires nutritional supervision from a doctor.


The concept of "eating for two" should not mean doubling your caloric intake to accommodate your growing baby. On average, you only need an extra 300 calories (the equivalent of two glasses of skim milk and one hard-boiled egg) daily during pregnancy. Making the most of those calories is important during pregnancy; choose foods wisely and avoid loading up on sweet, fatty, processed foods. Use the chart below to determine specific food group needs, as well as types of foods for each group:

Food Group Each Day Serving Size
Protein 4
  • Dairy (2-3 oz. milk, cheese, cottage cheese)
  • Meat, poultry, fish, shellfish or seafood (4 oz.)
  • Nuts, seeds, miso (3 oz.)
  • Peanut butter (5 tbs.)
Vitamin C Foods 2
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup berries
  • 1/2 fresh citrus fruits
  • 1 cup citrus fruit juice
  • 1/2 - 1 cup spinach, greens, cabbage or peppers
  • 1/2 tomato or 1 cup tomato juice
Calcium 4
  • 1 1/2 - 3 oz. hard cheese (Cheddar, bleu, whole milk mozzarella, provolone)
  • 1 cup low-fat, skim or low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup low-fat or non-fat yogurt
  • 1/2 cup evaporated or powdered skim milk
  • 3/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 3/4 cup cooked frozen chopped kale, collard or turnip greens
  • 9 oz. tofu, prepared with milk
  • Soy milk and soy protein
  • 3-4 oz. canned salmon, mackerel or sardines (with bones)
Yellow Fruits 2
  • 2 medium raw apricots or
  • 4 dried apricot halves
  • 1/4 mango
  • 1 large yellow peach
  • 1 cup canned plums in natural juice
Green and Yellow Vegetables 2
  • 1/2 cup cooked greens (beet, collard, dandelion, mustard or turnip)
  • 1/2 cup cooked or raw asparagus, broccoli, carrot slices, red, green and yellow bell peppers
  • 1/4 yam or sweet potato
  • 1/8 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cups large leafy lettuce (red, romaine, Boston or Bibb)
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato or vegetable juice
Complex Carbohydrates and Whole Grains 5
  • 1/2 cup brown or wild rice
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat, soy, or whole rye flour
  • 1/2 cup cooked kasha, bugler, millet, or unparsed barley
  • 1 serving of cooked whole grain cereal or oatmeal
  • 1 serving of cold whole wheat cereal
  • 1 serving of whole grain bread, muffins, crackers, bread sticks, and pasta
  • 1 cup air-popped popcorn
  • 1 tbs. brewer's yeast
  • 1 oz. pumpkin seeds
Iron-Rich Foods 2
  • Beef
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Chickpeas (garbanzos)
  • Dried peas or beans
  • Dried fruit
  • Oysters (cooked)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sardines
  • Soy beans and products
  • Spinach
  • Spirulina (seaweed), dried
Fats/Oils 1-2
  • 1 tbs. safflower or corn oil
  • 1 tbs. margarine or butter
  • 1 tbs. light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 small avocado
  • 3 tbs. light cream
  • 2 tbs. cream cheese
  • 3 tbs. pecan, peanut or walnut pieces
  • 2 tbs. peanut butter

For nursing mothers, increase your caloric intake to 500 calories per day, with the following servings of each food group:

  • 3 servings of protein
  • 2 servings of vitamin-C foods
  • 5 servings of calcium
  • 3 servings of both green leafy and yellow vegetables and fruits
  • 6 or more servings of complex carbohydrates and whole grains
  • 1 serving of iron-rich foods
  • 1 serving of high-fat foods
  • Moderate amounts of salt and sugar

Also be sure you drink plenty of non-alcoholic, decaffeinated beverages (preferably water). Avoid carbonated soft drinks (including diet) and carbonated waters, as these deplete the body of calcium and other vital nutrients.


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