Nutrition in Pregnancy

Health & Wellness

Why does a pregnant woman’s diet matter?

Healthy eating is important during and after pregnancy. A healthy diet allows your body to meet the metabolic demands needed for the baby’s growth and development and is important while breastfeeding after the baby is born. This also means choosing the right diet in order to have a balance of nutrients for mother and the growing baby. Pregnancy is also an excellent time to develop healthy habits that can be passed on to your children.

Should a pregnant woman’s diet be different than a non-pregnant woman?

– Women with a normal body mass index (BMI) should increase calorie requirements by about 300 in the first trimester, then 500 in the second and third trimester. BMI can be calculated at

– A pregnant woman’s diet should include proteins, carbohydrates and foods high in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Omega 3 fatty acid are important for brain development.

– Pregnant women need more folic acid and iron, which can come from prenatal vitamins (these should be taken prior to conceiving for optimal benefit). I recommend that all women of child-bearing age take prenatal vitamins. Other nutrients and vitamins can be supplied by a well-balanced diet.

– Eat at least eight ounces of fish per week (see fish to avoid below). Fish are high in omega 3 fatty acids, which benefit fetal nervous system development (which includes brain development).

– Weight gain should be zero to five pounds total in the first trimester for average BMI women and one half to one pound per week in the second and third trimester. Recommended Weight gain is dependent on BMI.

Total recommended weight gain in pregnancy:

Underweight: 28-40 pounds
Normal weight: 25-35 pounds
Overweight: 15-25 pounds
Obese: 11-20 pounds
Excessive weight gain increases maternal risk of gestational diabetes, hypertension for mother and increased fetal risk of macrosomia (large baby).


– Sugary drinks and foods with added sugar. These are digested quickly and are high in calories without the added benefit of providing long-term energy. Simple carbohydrates should be limited to those that naturally occur in food.

– Fish high in mercury such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces per week.

– Uncooked or undercooked seafood, meats or eggs.

– Unpasteurized milk and foods. This can lead to listeriosis, which can present food poisoning and leads to fetal complications. Also, pregnant women are more susceptible to listeriosis.

ACOG has excellent sources for nutrition in pregnancy

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