A healthy diet is critical for a woman during pregnancy. The growing fetus derives its nutrition from its mother. Eating certain foods (while avoiding others) can give the baby a solid foundation as it develops in the womb.
Pregnancy Diet Basics
''Eating for two'' is a common phrase heard during pregnancy. And while it's true that a woman needs more calories and certain vitamins and minerals, she definitely doesn’t need to eat twice as much. Rather, it’s best to stick to sensible, balanced meals in order to meet these nutrition goals. For most pregnant women, that means about 1,800 calories a day during the first trimester, 2,200 during the second trimester and 2,400 during the third trimester.
There are also certain vitamins and minerals that a woman should get in order to ensure healthy development of the baby. The most critical for early development is folic acid. Iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D are also very important. Pregnant women may want to speak to a doctor about taking some of these vitamins and minerals through supplements. In particular, all women who are planning to get pregnant or are pregnant should take a multivitamin with 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid each day.
What to Eat and Avoid
Good nutrition during pregnancy is similar to a typical healthy diet plan for most people. Pregnant women should strive for variety and a healthy balance of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and lean sources of protein. But there are certain foods to avoid. For example, deli meats, hot dogs and refrigerated meat spreads all may pose risks. So do unpasteurized juices and dairy products. Some seafood is recommended for the healthy omega-3 fats, but use caution. Don’t eat more than 6 ounces of white tuna each week, and avoid smoked refrigerated seafood, raw seafood and fish high in mercury such as tilefish, king mackerel, shark and swordfish. It’s also important to avoid soft cheeses and raw sprouts.
Alcohol consumption is not recommended during pregnancy under any circumstances. While caffeine intake is a matter of some debate, less than 200 milligrams of caffeine each day is generally considered to be safe.
SOURCE U.S. Office on Women's Health; U.S. National Library of Medicine