When you are pregnant, you need more of certain nutrients like protein, iron, folic acid, and iodine. It’s also important to get enough calcium.
Making smart food choices can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Here are some ideas to help you eat healthy during pregnancy.
Follow a healthy eating pattern.
Eating healthy means following a healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of nutritious foods and drinks.
- Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and protein foods.
- Choose foods and drinks with less added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium (salt).
- Limit refined grains and starches, which are in foods like cookies, white bread, and some snack foods.
- If you are feeling sick, try eating a piece of whole-grain toast or whole-grain crackers.
Get the right amount of calories for you.
Being pregnant doesn't mean you need to eat twice as much food.
- First trimester (first 12 weeks) – Most women don’t need any extra calories.
- Second trimester (13 to 26 weeks) – Most women need about 340 extra calories a day.
- Last trimester (after 26 weeks) – Most women need about 450 extra calories a day.
Ask your doctor or midwife how many calories you need during pregnancy.
Make healthy snack choices.
Examples of healthy snacks include:
- Low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fruit (look for options with no added sugar)
- Whole-grain crackers with fat-free or low-fat cheese
- Carrots with hummus
Take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, iron, and iodine every day.
- Folic acid helps prevent some birth defects of the brain and spine.
- Iron and iodine help keep you and your baby healthy.
Talk with your doctor or nurse about a prenatal vitamin that’s right for you.
Eat 8 to 12 ounces of seafood each week.
Fish and shellfish have healthy fats that are good for you and your baby. But some fish is high in mercury, a metal that can hurt your baby’s development. It’s a good idea to eat seafood that is high in healthy fats but lower in mercury.
These choices are lower in mercury, so you can eat 8 to 12 ounces a week.
- Canned light tuna
You can eat 4 ounces of these fish a week if you don’t eat any other seafood that week.
- Canned or fresh white (albacore) tuna
- Chilean sea bass or striped bass
- Yellowfin tuna
Fish to avoid
Don’t eat bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, or tilefish. They are high in mercury.
Don’t eat certain foods.
These foods may have bacteria in them that can hurt your baby. Stay away from:
- Raw (uncooked) or rare (undercooked) fish or shellfish, like sushi or raw oysters
- Soft cheeses (like feta, Brie, and goat cheese), unless they are pasteurized
- Raw or rare meats, poultry, or eggs
- Unpasteurized juices or milk
- Lunch or deli meats, smoked seafood, and hot dogs – unless they are heated until steaming hot
- Prepared salads like ham salad, chicken salad, or seafood salad
- Raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts
Limit drinks with caffeine and added sugars.
- If you drink coffee or tea, choose decaf. Pick unsweetened options and don’t add sugar.
- Drink water or seltzer instead of drinks with added sugars like soda, fruit drinks, and energy or sports drinks.
Don’t drink alcohol.
No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on healthy eating during pregnancy was adapted from materials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Office on Women’s Health, and the National Institutes of Health Weight-control Information Network (WIN).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidance Review Committee