Healthy eating


Rethink what it means to eat for 2

Good eating habits are especially important when you're pregnant. You need to meet your own nutritional needs, plus the nutrients your baby needs for healthy growth and development.

Nutrition basics

Pregnant woman eating saladMany women think that being pregnant means they can eat whatever and whenever they want. After all, you're eating for 2, right?

Not exactly. You only need about 300 additional calories a day when you're pregnant. That's about the number of calories you'd find in 1 banana and a 16-ounce glass of nonfat milk.

The right amount of weight gain is very important to your baby's normal growth and development.

While you shouldn't overeat during pregnancy, it's important not to diet. The right amount of weight gain is essential to your baby's normal growth and development. See our guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy.

"You'll want to make good food choices so that every calorie counts," says Lonnie Isaacson, a Kaiser Permanente nutrition specialist.

Eat well-balanced meals with a variety of foods that are low in fat and have no added sugars.

Avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar, and sodium such as soft drinks, desserts, fried foods, fast foods, whole milk, and fatty meats.

Instead, try these healthier options:

  • whole-grain bread, cereal, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta
  • low-fat or nonfat dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and reduced-fat cheese
  • lean meat, skinless chicken or turkey, baked fish, beans, eggs, and nuts
  • 8 to 10 glasses of fluid every day, including water, milk, and soup

Use the USDA's Daily Food Plan for MomsKaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps. to help you plan your meals. You can also get healthy recipes and meal ideas from our healthy eating center.

Using a food log app or keeping a food journal (PDF) can help you track the foods you and your baby are getting.

Good sources of vitamins

The best way to get vitamins is to eat a well-balanced diet. Vitamins and minerals that are especially important for you and your growing baby include calcium, iron, and folate (also called folic acid).

Calcium-rich foods

Aim for 1,200 mg of calcium per day. If you don't get enough calcium, your body will draw it from your own bones to give to the baby. This may cause you to develop osteoporosis later in life.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • low-fat or nonfat dairy products
  • tofu (calcium fortified)
  • almonds
  • canned sardines or canned pink salmon with bones
  • soy nuts or soy beans
  • certain leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, bok choy, collards, turnip greens, and broccoli)
  • scallops
  • calcium-fortified orange juice
  • fortified cereals or oatmeal

Folate-rich foods

Getting enough folic acid (a B vitamin) before and during pregnancy reduces the chance of having a baby with certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.

If you are planning to become pregnant, you should get 0.4 mg (this is the same as 400 mcg) of folic acid a day. Once you are pregnant, you should be getting approximately 0.6 mg (600 mcg) per day of folic acid through the food you eat or by taking prenatal vitamins. That's the same as eating 1 bowl of 100 percent fortified cereal, ½ cup of spinach, and ½ cup of Great Northern beans.

Good folate-rich foods include:

  • dark-green, leafy vegetables (kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, and spinach)
  • beans, chickpeas and lentils
  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • cantaloupe, honeydew, oranges
  • orange and grapefruit juices
  • peanuts and almonds (1 to 2 tablespoons per serving)
  • folate-fortified breads and breakfast cereals

Iron-rich foods

You will need twice as much iron in your second and third trimesters as you did before pregnancy. Aim for 30 mg per day. Getting enough iron prevents anemia, which is linked to preterm birth and low-birth weight.

Try to eat iron-rich foods with foods or juices high in vitamin C — such as oranges, peppers, broccoli, and strawberries — because vitamin C helps your body absorb iron.

Examples of iron-rich foods include:

  • lean beef, lean pork, and skinless chicken or turkey
  • pumpkin seeds
  • lentils or beans
  • iron-fortified cereals
  • mussels, oysters, clams, shrimp, and sardines

Vitamin supplements

Even if you have excellent eating habits, your practitioner may still recommend a daily multivitamin with folic acid.

Wait until your second trimester of pregnancy to take any iron supplements. They may make morning sickness worse.

Don't rely on dietary supplements to make up for an unhealthy diet. Keep in mind that taking too much of any supplement can have a harmful effect on you and your baby.

To be safe, check with your practitioner before taking any vitamins, herbs, or other dietary supplements.

Foods to avoid

Although you can enjoy most foods while pregnant, there are some that you should cut back on, or avoid entirely. This list includes:

  • Alcohol. Drinking alcohol can harm your baby and cause problems later in life. There is no amount of alcohol that has been proven safe in pregnancy, so it's better not to drink any alcohol at all. Learn about alcohol or drug use during pregnancy and the effects of alcohol on a developing baby.
  • Raw or undercooked meat, chicken, or fish. Cook raw foods thoroughly and cook ready-to-eat meats — such as hot dogs or deli meats (ham, bologna, salami, and corned beef) — until they're steaming hot. Wash your hands, knives, cutting boards, or cooking surfaces with warm soapy water after handling raw or undercooked meat.
  • Unpasteurized soft cheeses. Avoid brie, feta, fresh mozzarella, and blue cheese because they contain bacteria that could harm your baby. Hard cheese, processed cheeses, cream cheese, and cottage cheeses are safe, but look for reduced-fat options.
  • Caffeine. Coffee, tea, soda, hot chocolate, or sports and energy drinks may contain caffeine. Too much caffeine consumption has been linked to miscarriageA service of the Kaiser Permanente Kaiser Permanente News Center. Please review the privacy policy and terms of use as they differ from those of this site.. Drink no more than 1 cup of coffee per day, if any. Limit tea to 2-3 cups per day.
  • Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, or albacore tuna. They have high levels of mercury, which is dangerous to your baby. Eat no more than 12 ounces a week of fish or shellfish with low mercury levels. Good choices include shrimp, canned light tuna, wild Pacific salmon, pollack, trout, and catfish.
  • Raw eggs or food containing raw egg. Lightly cooked eggs (such as soft-scrambled eggs), Caesar dressing, and Hollandaise sauce can increase your risk of salmonella.
  • Liver. It has excessive amounts of vitamin A, which may cause birth defects.

If you don't feel like eating

Many women feel queasy during the first few months of pregnancy, making it difficult to eat. Get tools to cope with morning sickness so you can eat a healthy amount of food each day.

If you have diabetes

Eating well when you have diabetes will help keep your blood sugar in the normal range during your pregnancy. Learn more about eating well with diabetes.

Sources: Adapted from copyrighted material of The Permanente Medical Group, Inc.; Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)Kaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps., a Federal agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Reviewed by: Jeff Convissar, MD, November 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente

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