Eat healthier before he’s born for a Stronger Baby after
Is it true you can “eat anything you want” when you are pregnant?
Unfortunately, no. During pregnancy, your baby is counting on you for the nutrients he or she needs to grow healthy and strong. You should eat more (roughly 300 to 450 additional calories per day than you would normally eat, such as a peanut butter sandwich), but your choices should be healthy ones.
What are the basic guidelines?
- Eat 4–6 smaller meals a day to help relieve heartburn and discomfort you feel as your baby grows.
- Try to eat foods from each of the five food groups every day. The five food groups include grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and proteins.
- Be sure you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals you’ll need to keep you and baby healthy, such as folic acid and calcium. Take a prenatal vitamin everyday as a part of a healthy pregnancy.
- Limit caffeine to 200mg a day. That's about one 12 oz. cup of coffee. Caffeine is also found in tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and some over-the-counter medications.
- Limit sodas and juice, and aim for 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
- Limit “junk food” as much as possible.
So what should I eat during my pregnancy?
Each day, you should eat:
- 6 ounces of grains (1 ounce = 1 slice of bread, 1 cup cereal, ½ cup cooked cereal, ½ cup pasta or rice)
- 2–3 cups of vegetables
- 2 cups of fruits
- 3 cups of dairy products (1 cup = 1 cup of milk, 8 ounces yogurt, 1 ½ ounces cheese, 2 ounces processed cheese; non-dairy sources of calcium include soymilk, tofu, spinach, and other fortified foods and beverages)
- 5 ½ ounce protein (1 ounce = 1 ounce meat, 1 egg, ¼ cup cooked dry beans or tofu, 1 tablespoon peanut butter)
What should I avoid?
It is extremely important to avoid cigarettes (your own or other people’s), which are one of the leading causes of pre-term birth and can cause serious health problems for your baby.
It’s also important to avoid alcohol and drugs not prescribed by your doctor.
There are certain foods to stay away from to help protect the health of your unborn baby. Avoid food-borne illnesses by washing your hands before eating and making sure you’re taking extra steps to handle food safely and keep food fresh. Stay away from shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury, a toxin that your baby is more sensitive to.
Pregnant women are also more sensitive to bacteria like listeria which can be found in:
- Raw or undercooked eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish and sprouts
- Any cheeses made with unpasteurized milk. Some examples include soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Feta, Gorgonzola and Mexican style cheeses that include queso blanco and queso fresco, unless they clearly state that they are made from pasteurized milk.
- Unpasteurized milk or juice
- Deli meats and hot dogs, unless reheated until meat is steaming
How much weight should I expect to gain?
It depends—you should discuss this with your doctor. If you were underweight or overweight before your pregnancy, there will be special guidelines for you. But typically, women should gain 25-35 pounds during their pregnancy.
Anything else to think about?
Now that you are pregnant, you might be eligible for WIC (for assistance with nutrition, click here to go to our WIC page).
While you are pregnant, it’s a good time to start thinking about feeding your baby AFTER he or she is born. Consider breastfeeding—it’s the safest, most natural, healthiest choice for new babies. Breast milk is nature’s perfect food for babies. Breastfed babies have fewer allergies, fewer illnesses, and are less likely to have asthma than bottle-fed babies. Click here to read more.
Where can I find more resources?
- WomensHealth.gov – Staying Healthy and Safe During Pregnancy
- Choose My Plate – Nutritional Needs During Pregnancy
- USDA WIC Works Pregnancy Fact Sheet
- Knox County Health Department WIC Clinic
- KidCentralTN.com - Information on thousands of programs available to Tennessee families, children and parents—many available at no cost.
- Tennessee Department of Human Services
- La Leche League of Kentucky - Tennessee