Healthy Diet During Pregnancy

  • Medical Author:
    Erica Oberg, ND, MPH

    Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Pregnancy Pictures Slideshow: What Not to Eat When Pregnant

Foods that comprise a healthy diet during pregnancy

A well-balanced, micronutrient dense diet is the key to a healthy pregnancy. Ideally, women should start eating this way before conception, but making healthier choices at any time will always help.

A well-balanced diet should contain:

  • carbohydrates from whole grain sources and fruits and vegetables;
  • protein from beans, nuts, seeds and hormone-free animal products like meat and dairy; and
  • healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, and the fats that occur in nuts, seeds, and fish.

Pregnant women need more iron, folic acid, calcium, zinc, iodine, and vitamin D, and higher amounts of most other nutrients, than nonpregnant women. The US Recommended Daily Allowance2 sets the level of nutrient intake that is estimated to meet the nutritional needs of 97.5% of pregnant women. Malnutrition increases the risk of having a low birth weight baby or going into preterm labor. Pregnant women need the following daily:

  • 600mcg of folic acid
  • of iron
  • 1000mg of calcium
  • 11mg of zinc
  • 220 mcg of iodine
  • 600 IU vitamin D

In general, women will get high levels of these nutrients by choosing a diverse, colorful diet that focuses primarily (but not entirely) on plant-based foods.

  • For example, healthy breakfast choices could be;
    • fresh fruit and unsweetened Greek yogurt (higher in protein and lower in fat that regular yogurt) with herbal tea or oatmeal (steel-cut or low-sugar) with walnuts and a banana, or
    • an omelet made with 2 hormone-free eggs, spinach, and tomato.
  • Good lunch options are salads with added protein like garbanzo beans smoked salmon, diced chicken) or vegetable-based soups.
  • Dinners should have half the plate filled with:
    • vegetables,
    • a quarter with protein (beans, lentils, lean meat or fish), and
    • a quarter with unrefined carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato).
  • Healthy snacks include:
    • fruit,
    • nuts,
    • vegetable juices,
    • protein shakes,
    • celery, and
    • peanut butter, and
    • more.

Other important micronutrients during pregnancy are omega-3 fatty acids, DHA specifically, and probiotics. DHA is necessary for healthy development of brain and nervous system and may have beneficial effects on the cognitive development of the child.

Probiotics, when taken by the mother during pregnancy, have been demonstrated to reduce allergy and atopic disease in children 3.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2015

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