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The Pregnant Plate

By Tamera L. Young, RN, MSN

The Pregnant Plate

During pregnancy, your baby relies on you to provide the nutrition necessary for healthy growth and development. And of course, what you eat during pregnancy also keeps you healthy.

But many pregnant moms wonder what and how much to eat during their pregnancies. While there are some specific nutritional recommendations for pregnancy, you can eat smart without a complicated diet.

Whole grains, lean proteins, lean dairy, fruits and vegetables are your best dietary choices during pregnancy. Not only will these foods provide the necessary nutrients for both you and your baby, but they will give you more energy, help you to feel better and be healthier during and after pregnancy.

The Calorie Count

If you’re entering pregnancy at a normal weight, you’ll need to increase your calorie intake by about 300 calories per day, which will allow for a healthy weight gain of 25-35 pounds through the duration of the pregnancy. Meet this need with one additional healthy snack per day.

You’ll also need to ensure you’re getting enough calcium each day, which you can do by eating or drinking 3 cups of dairy each day. It’s important to have at least 400 micrograms of folic acid each day to prevent the most common spinal cord birth defects—you can do this both through diet and daily prenatal vitamins.

You may find constipation occurring during pregnancy. Increasing fiber through whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables can go a long way in preventing this common discomfort.

Diet Don’ts

When pregnant, there are several dietary “don’ts” to follow. Limiting or avoiding caffeine is important for a healthy pregnancy. Also, alcohol is entirely off-limits during your entire pregnancy; there is no safe level.

Cold cuts, deli meats and soft cheeses can contain listeria, a bacterium that can be particularly harmful during pregnancy, so avoid these foods. And while fish can contain beneficial fatty acids, avoid fishes known to be high in mercury, including albacore tuna. Finally, limiting high-fat foods, fried foods, junk foods and sugary foods and drinks is very important when eating for two.

Do Eat

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Lean proteins (chicken, beans, eggs, some fish and seafood, lean red meats)
  • Lean dairy (low-fat milk, low-fat hard cheeses, yogurt)

Don’t Eat

  • High-mercury fish
  • Deli meats/cold cuts
  • Soft cheeses
  • Unpasteurized products
  • Uncooked or undercooked meats and eggs


Tamera L. Young, RN, MSN, is visiting faculty at Chamberlain College of Nursing.

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