pregnancy nutritional tips

What to eat when you are expecting

Pregnancy brings all sorts of changes into our lives. We start thinking differently and acting differently. Nothing is as important during pregnancy than eating a balanced diet. Everything you eat or drink goes through your baby and can have a big affect on how healthy your child is when they come into this world.

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There's no special magic formula for eating for two healthy. While you are pregnant the principles of healthy eating remain the pretty much same, what is good for you is good for the baby too -- be sure to eat plenty of raw fruits, lightly cooked vegetables, nutritious whole grains and very lean protein. There are a few nutrients in a pregnancy that you should be extra aware of and deserve special attention. Here is our list and some sample meals courtesy of the USDA. If you have access to pregnancy multivitamins by all means take them regularly for you and your baby.

Folate and folic acid -- Prevent birth defects

Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent serious defects of the brain and spinal cord. Lack of folate in a pregnancy diet may also increase the low birth weight and preterm delivery risks. Folic acid is the synthetic (manmade) for of folate and can be taken as a vitamin supplement.
How much you need: 800 micrograms of folate or folic acid a day before conception and throughout pregnancy.
Good sources: Fortified cereals are great sources of folic acid. Leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and dried beans and peas are good sources of naturally occurring folate.


Serving size

Folic acid content


3/4 cup (15 to 45 grams) 100 percent fortified ready-to-eat cereal

100 to 700 micrograms -- choose a cereal with at least 400 micrograms


1/2 cup (90 grams) boiled spinach

131 micrograms


1/2 cup (88 grams) boiled Great Northern beans

90 micrograms


4 boiled spears (60 grams)

89 micrograms


1 ounce (28 grams) dry roasted

41 micrograms


1 orange (159 grams)

48 micrograms

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23

Calcium -- Strengthen bones

Strong bones and teeth require calcium. Your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems also need calcium to function normally.
How much you need: 1,000 milligrams a day. Pregnant teenagers need 1,300 milligrams a day.
Good sources: Dairy products are the richest sources of calcium. Many fruit juices and breakfast cereals are fortified with calcium, too.


Serving size

Calcium content


8 ounces (237 milliliters) calcium-fortified orange juice

500 milligrams


1 cup (237 milliliters) skim milk

299 milligrams


6 ounces (170 grams) low-fat fruit yogurt

258 milligrams


1 ounce (28 grams) part-skim mozzarella cheese

222 milligrams


3 ounces (85 grams) canned pink salmon with bones

181 milligrams


1/2 cup (90 grams) raw spinach

122 milligrams


1 cup (20 to 60 grams) calcium-fortified ready-to-eat cereal

3 to 1,000 milligrams

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23

Vitamin D -- Promote bone strength

Vitamin D also helps build your baby's bones and teeth.
How much you need: 600 IU a day.
Good sources: Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, are great sources of vitamin D. Other options include fortified milk and orange juice.


Serving size

Vitamin D content


3 ounces (85 grams) cooked sockeye salmon

447 IU


8 ounces (237 milliliters) calcium- and vitamin D-fortified orange juice

137 IU


1 cup (237 milliliters) skim milk

115 IU


4 steamed spears (60 grams)

89 micrograms


1 large hard-boiled egg (50 grams)

44 IU

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23

my Plate for Moms

Since this article was originally posted, the USDA has introduced a "MyPlate Daily Checklist for moms and moms-to-be" that helps create a personalized eating plan based on your age, weight, stage of pregnancy and other factors.

To get started, visit

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