When you are pregnant, it is important to eat a well-balanced, healthful diet. During pregnancy, you need more of all nutrients, and starting in the second trimester you will need about 300 extra calories per day. Most pregnant women need between 2,500-2,700 calories a day.

Adding 300 calories per day is easy to do:

One medium apple with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter

about 250 calories

6-ounce serving of low-fat yogurt with ¼ cup granola

about 280 calories

Eggs and toast (whole wheat English muffin and two scrambled eggs)

about 285 calories

The chart below is based on the current US food guide, MyPyramid. At the MyPyramid website, you can create an individualized pregnancy plan. To make sure you get all the nutrients you need for you and your developing baby, eat a variety of foods from all of the different food groups. There are some key nutrients, including ]]>folic acid]]> and ]]>iron]]>, which deserve extra attention during pregnancy. Many women may also benefit from a vitamin supplement.

Eating Guide for a Healthy Pregnancy

Food GroupDaily Amount*Key Suggestions
Grains9 ounces (1 ounce = 1 slice bread, ¼ bagel, ½ cup cooked pasta or rice, 3 cups popcorn)
  • Consume at least ½ of your grains as whole grains
  • Whole grains include : whole wheat products, oatmeal, brown rice, barley, bulgur, popcorn
Vegetables3.5 cups (1 cup = 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables, 2 cups raw leafy vegetables)
  • Eat a variety of different vegetables every day
  • Eat more of the following types of vegetables:
    • Dark green (eg, broccoli, spinach, bok choy, romaine lettuce)
    • Orange (eg, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash)
    • Dry beans and peas (eg, chickpeas, black beans, lentils, split peas, kidney beans, tofu)
Fruits2 cups (1 cup = 1 cup fresh fruit, 1 cup fruit juice, ½ cup dried fruit)
  • Eat a variety of fruit
  • Choose fresh fruit over fruit juices
Milk3 cups (1 cup = 1 cup milk or yogurt, 1½ ounces natural cheese)
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Milk alternatives include calcium-rich or -fortified foods and beverages
Meats and Beans6.5 ounces (1 ounce = 1 ounce meat, fish, or poultry; ¼ cup cooked, dry beans; 1 egg; 1 tablespoon peanut butter; ½ ounce nuts)
  • Choose lean meats and poultry
  • Eat more fish and vegetarian sources of protein, such as beans, peas, nuts, and seeds
Oils8 teaspoons
  • Choose healthful oils such as those found in canola and olive oil, fish, and nuts
Fats and Sweets<410 calories
  • Limit or avoid solid fats such butter, stick margarine, lard, and shortening
  • Limit foods high in added sugar or solid fats

*Based on a 2,600 calorie diet.

Key Nutrients for Pregnant Women

Folic acid

Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid (ie, folate) every day. This mineral is most important during the first several weeks of pregnancy—often before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Getting enough folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects, such as ]]>spina bifida]]>. Taking this vitamin along with iron may offer additional benefits, like reducing the number of infants born with low birth weight and reducing infant mortality.

You can meet this requirement by eating a variety of foods rich in folic acid. For extra insurance, you may also want to take a folic acid supplement before you become pregnant and through your first trimester. (If you are taking a prenatal vitamin that contains folate, you don’t need a separate folic acid supplement.)

Foods rich in folic acid include:

  • Fortified breakfast cereal
  • Whole-wheat breads
  • Orange juice and citrus fruits
  • Green leafy vegetables (eg, spinach, broccoli, and romaine lettuce)
  • Legumes


Iron is a mineral that helps red blood cells transport oxygen around the body. During pregnancy you need twice as much iron as you did before you were pregnant. Not getting enough of this mineral can lead to ]]>iron-deficiency anemia]]> and pregnancy complications.

Good sources of iron include:

  • Lean red meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Dried fruits
  • Fortified breakfast cereals

Eating ]]>vitamin C]]> -rich foods along with iron-containing foods can help with iron absorption. On the other hand, drinking tea or coffee at the same time can inhibit iron absorption.

Because it can be difficult to get all the iron you need from food alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all pregnant women take an iron supplement or a prenatal vitamin that contains iron. Talk to your physician about iron supplementation.


During pregnancy you need about the same amount of ]]>calcium]]> as before you were pregnant: women aged 19-50 need 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day and younger women need 1,300 mg per day. However, most women fall short on this recommendation. When you don’t consume enough calcium, your body takes it from your bones, increasing your risk of ]]>osteoporosis]]> later in life.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • Low-fat or nonfat dairy products (eg, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese)
  • Fish canned with bones
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Fortified soy milk or rice milk
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Other calcium-fortified foods

If you don’t eat dairy products or enough foods fortified with calcium, talk to your physician about calcium and ]]>vitamin D]]> supplementation. (Vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb and use the calcium.)

Additional Considerations


During pregnancy the body becomes extra efficient at absorbing the nutrients in food. If you are eating a variety of healthful foods every day, as suggested in the Eating Guide, you may not need a supplement. But many women may benefit from taking a prenatal multivitamin. Some may need only an iron or folic acid supplement. Talk to your doctor about your eating and lifestyle habits to determine if you should take a vitamin supplement.


No safe amount of alcohol has been shown in pregnancy. Therefore, it’s recommended that you abstain from drinking until after your pregnancy.


Most experts agree that having one or two cups of coffee or tea per day is fine during pregnancy. However some research has linked high intakes of caffeine (more than 300 mg per day) with greater difficulty to conceive and a higher rate of ]]>miscarriages]]> . One cup of brewed coffee contains about 135 mg of caffeine, one shot of espresso contains about 35 mg, one brewed tea bag contains about 50 mg, and a 16-ounce serving of cola has about 50 mg. Talk to your doctor about how much caffeine you drink.


Seafood is an excellent source of ]]>omega-3 fatty acids]]> , which are essential for the proper brain development of the fetus. Therefore, it is recommended that pregnant women include seafood, particularly fatty fish such as salmon, as a regular part of their diet.

However, some seafood contains high amounts of mercury, a contaminant that can be harmful to the developing baby. Fish that should be avoided due to their high mercury content include: tilefish, king mackerel, swordfish, albacore tuna, and shark.

Good choices include salmon, sardines, catfish, canned light tuna, and shrimp. These are both high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury.

Food Safety

To avoid the risk of foodborne illness, which could harm you and your developing baby, it is important to pay close attention to food safety during pregnancy. Here are some general guidelines:

  • ]]>Wash your hands]]> before eating or preparing food.
  • When preparing food, avoid cross-contamination of raw meats or poultry with other foods.
  • Cook meat to recommended temperatures.
  • Thoroughly reheat leftovers.
  • Avoid luncheon meats and hot dogs unless reheated until steaming.
  • Drink only pasteurized juice and milk.
  • Avoid raw or soft cheeses.

For more information about food safety, click ]]>here]]>.

Artificial Sweeteners

Most artificial sweeteners are considered safe for use in moderation during pregnancy, including: acesulfame K (Sunett), aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), and sucralose (Splenda). But more research is needed on saccharin (Sweet’N Low) and stevia, these should, therefore, be avoided by pregnant women.


Staying well-hydrated is important for the health of you and your baby, so try to drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day. Other beverages, such as juice and soda, also contribute to hydration, but tend to be high in calories and low in nutritional value.