A growing fetus depends on its mother's diet for all its nutritional needs. Having the best foods and drinks during pregnancy will reduce the risk of certain birth defects and increase the overall health of the baby. In general, pregnant women need about 300 extra calories per day. If you have a medical condition or are taking prescription drugs during pregnancy, talk to your doctor and a registered dietitian about specific foods you should eat or avoid.
Pregnant women should eat about 6 oz. of grains per day. Examples of a 1 oz. grain serving are one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, cereal or pasta. Other servings include a pancake of 4.5 inches in diameter or a tortilla of 6 inches in diameter. About half of the grains in a healthy diet should come from whole grains. Examples of whole grain foods are whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, brown rice and whole oats. Avoid or limit grains made from highly processed carbohydrates, such as cake or cookies.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients that a growing fetus needs. Pregnant women should eat about 2.5 cups of vegetables each day. Fresh, raw vegetables are the most nutrient-dense, but frozen and canned vegetables also are nutritious. Cook vegetables using the least amount of water as possible to retain nutrients. You may substitute one cup of vegetable juice for one cup of cooked or raw vegetables. For leafy green vegetables such as kale greens or baby spinach, 2 cups equals a 1 cup serving. Sprouts should be avoided during pregnancy.
Include 1.5 to two cups per day of fruit in your diet. You may substitute one half cup of fruit juice for one half cup of fruit. One quarter cup of dried fruit is equal to one half cup of fresh fruit. Fresh, canned or frozen fruit is okay for a pregnant woman's diet, although it's best to choose fruit in it's own juice instead of heavy syrup.
Include 3 cups of milk and dairy products in your diet each day. Milk and other dairy foods are rich in calcium and other vitamins and minerals needed for a baby's developing body. Examples of 1 cup diary servings include 1.5 oz. of natural cheese, 2 oz. of processed cheese, 1 cup of yogurt or 1 cup of milk. Choose reduced- or low-fat dairy products to limit calories from saturated fat and cholesterol.
Choose up to 5.5 oz. of meat or meat alternative products each day to ensure you're getting an adequate amount of protein. These foods may come from plant or animal sources. Choose lean cuts of meat or leave the skin off of poultry to reduce calories from saturated fat and cholesterol.
Examples of 1 oz. protein servings include 1 tbsp. of nut butters such as peanut or soy, 1/4 cup of cooked beans, one egg, 1/2 cup of nuts, and 1 oz. of fish, poultry or meat. Cook deli meats and hot dogs until they're steaming hot to minimize the risk of exposure to listeria, which poses a risk to pregnant women.