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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Quick GuidePregnancy: What Not to Eat When Pregnant

Pregnancy: What Not to Eat When Pregnant

Getting enough protein

Protein requirements in pregnancy are increased by 50%. On average, a pregnant woman needs about 70 grams of protein per day. Protein will not only ensure good growth of the baby, it will help keep the mother's blood sugar stable and may help reduce morning sickness. Research studies have shown better birth outcomes (fewer underweight or early babies) when a mother's daily diet is at least 25% protein. Most people think of meat when they think about protein, but there are many excellent vegetarian sources. Additionally, relying only meat sources can increase your intake of saturated fat and other components of meat that are wise to limit in the diet. Here are some examples of good sources of healthy proteins.

  • 1 egg, 6g
  • 1 c Greek yogurt, 14g
  • 1 c edamame, 29g
  • 2T hummus, 9g
  • 2T almond butter, 8g
  • 1c cooked spinach, 5g
  • 3.5oz chicken breast, 30g
  • 3.5 oz. fish, 22g
  • 1 scoop protein powder, 14g

Getting enough calcium, even if you are lactose intolerant

Calcium is critical for developing bones. It also reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia and hypertension. Women who get enough calcium during pregnancy have a 35% lower risk of high blood pressure and a 55% lower risk of preeclampsia. If the mother isn't getting enough additional calcium in the diet, the fetus will still get enough, but it will come from the reserves in her bones. The mother's ability to absorb calcium is greatly increased during pregnancy. This is why the RDA for calcium doesn't increase during pregnancy. However, most adult women don't get enough calcium in the first place.

When they think about calcium, most people think about milk, but there are numerous non-dairy sources of calcium. Women who are lactose intolerant can choose non-dairy sources. Pregnant women need 1000mg of calcium per day9. This can be reached with a few serving per day from the food list below. The minerals in vegetables sources, like spinach, can be increased by cooking them with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice. Try sautéing kale with apple cider vinegar and walnuts.

  • 8 oz. skim milk, 300mg
  • 8 oz. soy milk, 368mg
  • 8 oz. Greek yogurt, 452mg
  • 8 oz. regular yogurt, 415mg
  • 1 cup collards, 356mg
  • 1 cup spinach, 230mg
  • 1 cup kale, 122mg
  • 8 oz. juice with calcium, 300mg
  • 1 packet oatmeal, ~110mg
  • ½ c edamame (soy), 130mg
  • ½ c white beans, 113mg
  • 3 oz. canned sardines, 325mg
  • 3oz canned salmon, 181mg

Getting enough iron, even if you don’t eat meat

Iron is a common deficiency during pregnancy. Iron is an essential mineral needed to transport oxygen to tissues. It is also necessary for DNA repair and mitochondrial energy production. Insufficient iron can cause anemia and symptoms of:

Anemia has been linked to pre-term births, low birth weight, and even autism and increased maternal mortality10. Thus, it's really important to get enough iron during pregnancy. The RDA for iron is 27mg during pregnancy; your obstetrician may recommend 40mg per day to correct a deficiency. Cooking in cast-iron skillets can also increase iron intake – you can add 5mg of additional iron for each per saucy, vitamin C-rich dish you cook in cast iron.

These are some good food sources of iron:

  • 3 oz. canned clams, 24mg
  • 1 packet instant oatmeal, 11mg
  • 1 oz. Floradix or other liquid herbal iron, 10mg
  • 1 oz. pumpkin seeds, 4.5mg
  • ½ c lentils, 3.5mg
  • 1 cup spinach, 6mg
  • ½ c chickpeas/garbanzos, 2.5mg
  • 3 oz. duck, lamb, turkey or other DARK meat, 2.5mg
  • 1 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses, 3.5mg
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2015

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  • Healthy Diet During Pregnancy - Goal Setting

    Please share your experience for goal setting for a healthy diet during pregnancy.

  • Healthy Diet During Pregnancy - Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

    Please share your experience and any helpful information in regard to a vegan or vegetarian diet during pregnancy.

  • Healthy Diet During Pregnancy - Morning Sickness, Hearturn

    What foods helped relieve morning sickness, heartburn, or other trouble physical symptoms during pregnancy?


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