Nutrition In Pregnancy: The Basics

During pregnancy your body undergoes a huge transformation, which requires a lot of energy. This energy is acquired from the foods you eat. Although it may feel like forever, you only have a few short months to grow a healthy baby, so make them count!

Pre-pregnancy nutrition

Many women don’t realize they are pregnant until they miss one or more menstrual cycles. If you’ve been planning or actively trying to get pregnant, you have the advantage of ensuring that your diet is all that it should be right from the beginning of conception. In addition to eating a healthy diet, there is one vitamin in particular that women who are planning to become pregnant should ensure they get enough of, and that is folate. Folate is one of the B vitamins. In its synthetic form it is known as folic acid, found in foods that are fortified and in supplements. Folate is important because it helps to prevent brain and spinal cord abnormalities (neural tube defects).

Nutrition during pregnancy

There is no special pregnancy diet that must be followed during pregnancy; rather, diet during pregnancy should encompass all of the major food groups, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins. In addition to folic acid, there are a few nutrients that deserve special attention during pregnancy:

Calcium– calcium is necessary for strong bones and teeth, as well as for normal functioning of the nervous, circulatory and muscular systems. You should aim for approximately 1000 mg/day. Good sources of calcium are: calcium fortified cereals, milk, cheese, yogurt, salmon and spinach and fortified orange juice.

Vitamin D– vitamin D also helps to build healthy bones and teeth. You should aim for 600IU/day. Good sources of vitamin D are: fish, eggs, milk and fortified juices.

Iron– iron is needed by both you and your baby during pregnancy. Your blood volume will increase as your pregnancy advances, resulting in the need for more iron; in addition, you will need iron to build you’re the blood supply of your baby. You should aim for 27/day. Good sources of iron are: beans, spinach, poulty, lean meat and iron-fortified cereals.

Protein– protein is needed for the growth and development of your baby, especially in the second and third trimesters when growth is rapid. You should aim for 71g/day. Good sources of protein are: lentils, eggs, peanut butter, fish, cottage cheese, poultry, lean meat and milk.

Sometimes woman are unable to get enough vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from their diet. Although whole foods are a better source of nutrients, supplements are sometimes necessary to fill the gap. Many doctors will recommend a multivitamin be taken during pregnancy. Pregnancy multivitamins are widely available. Ideally, you should begin taking multivitamins before you become pregnant. If you wish to take an herbal supplement during pregnancy, you should consult your doctor, as some herbal supplements may not contain necessary nutrients or may contain potentially harmful substances.

By following a healthy diet, you will be ensuring that both you and your baby have a happy and healthy pregnancy.


Nutrition during pregnancy. United States Department of Agriculture. Updated November 2015.



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