Nutrition / Diet Guidelines

A healthy diet is a very important part of any person’s lifestyle and is essentially vital during pregnancy.

What a woman eats and drinks during pregnancy is her baby’s main source of nourishment. It is  recommended choose a variety of healthy foods to provide the important nutrients your baby needs for growth and development.

Every diet should include proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fat.

If you are a normal weight before pregnancy, you need only an average of 300 extra calories per day to fuel your baby’s growth and keep you healthy during pregnancy – the amount in a glass of skim milk and half a sandwich.

Having healthy snacks that you can eat during the day is a good way to get the nutrients and extra calories you need. You may find it easier to eat snacks and small meals throughout the day rather than three big meals a day.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a food plan called MyPlate ( It includes an online interactive diet-planning program called SuperTracker ( This program gives you a personalized plan that includes the kinds of foods in the amounts that you need to eat for each trimester of pregnancy.

Vegetarian Diet

If you are a vegetarian, you will need to plan your meals with care to ensure you get enough protein. You will probably need to take supplements, especially iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.


Moderate caffeine intake (200 milligrams per day – the amount in approximately two 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee) does not appear to lead to miscarriage or preterm birth. It is not clear whether caffeine increases the risk of having a low birth weight baby.

Excess caffeine can interfere with sleep and contribute to nausea and light-headedness. It also can increase urination and lead to dehydration.


Pregnant women should avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tile fish during pregnancy because these large fish contain high levels of a form of mercury that can be harmful to the developing fetus. Common types of fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna (not albacore, which has a higher mercury content), salmon, pollock, and catfish. You can safely eat up to 12 ounces (about two meals) of these fish per week while you are pregnant.


During pregnancy, some women feel strong urges to eat non-food items such as clay, ice, laundry starch, or cornstarch. This condition is called pica. Pica can be harmful to your pregnancy. It can affect your intake of nutrients and can lead to constipation and anemia. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have any of these urges.

Iron & Folic Acid

Pregnant women need extra iron and folic acid. To get these extra nutrients, a prenatal vitamin supplement is recommended for most women.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is also known as folate. Before pregnancy and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, you need 0.4 milligrams (or 400 micrograms) of folic acid daily in order to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

The iron in red blood cells helps carry oxygen to your organs, tissues, and baby. Women need more iron in their diets during pregnancy to support the growth of the baby and to produce extra blood. The recommended daily amount of iron you should consume while pregnant is 27 milligrams, which can be found in most prenatal vitamin supplements. Women who do not have enough iron stored in their bodies before pregnancy may develop anemia. Some women may need extra iron in the form of an iron supplement.


Listeriosis is an illness caused by bacteria that can occur in unpasteurized milk and soft cheese and prepared and uncooked meats, poultry, and shellfish. When a pregnant woman is infected, the disease can cause miscarriage or stillbirth.

To prevent listeriosis, wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before using them. While you are pregnant, do not eat the following foods:

–     Unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses.

–    Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, or shellfish.

–     Prepared meats, such as hotdogs or deli meats, unless they are heated until steaming hot.