Simple fitness that works, from pregnancy and beyond.

Eating the Right Foods for Pregnancy

by Stephanie Margolis, R.D.

One of the great things about being pregnant is that you’re motivation to improve your eating habits is much stronger than it would be otherwise. Knowing that eating your fruits and veggies each day is not only making you healthier, but contributing to your child’s development.

During pregnancy weight gain is a good thing, a great thing, a wonderful miraculous, amazing thing necessary to keep you and your unborn child healthy! You are asked to gain anywhere between fifteen and thirty-five pounds, which can bring a mix of emotions! But gaining too much weight can bring complications. There is no “one size fits all” pregnancy diet. But there are several important foods and nutrients to eat during pregnancy.

During pregnancy and while breastfeeding your body needs more calories. Typically this means adding 350-450 calories per day (in the 2nd & 3rd trimester + while breastfeeding). While pregnant or breastfeeding, it is important you listen to your doctor and your body’s hunger cues. If you feel hunger, add more fruits and vegetables, or a healthy smoothie. Your body is extremely intelligent (it nurtures your baby without you commanding it to do so!

Nutrition is the foundation of life and affects all aspects of human existence. For the baby, nutrition impacts birth weight, gestational age, his/ her nutritional condition, and the occurrence of birth defects. Moms may not experience nutrition related consequences immediately; however, not receiving proper nutrition can have lasting effects on you including conditions such as osteoporosis, obesity, and diabetes.

With all the information out there about diet and nutrition it is easy to become confused, or even frustrated. While there is no “one size fits all”, a healthy lifestyle can be boiled down to three easy words: Balance – Variety – Moderation.

Balance: A healthy lifestyle is much like a balancing act where we must match the amount of energy we put into our bodies (food) with the amount of energy we spend each day (exercise and activity). Balance also means focusing on foods from all of the food groups; grains, fruits, vegetables, meat/protein, dairy, and fats. Eating from each of these groups allows your body to receive all the nutrients it needs to function properly and deliver nutrients to the placenta.

Variety: Not only is it important to eat from each of the food groups, it is essential to eat a variety of the foods within each group. For example, eating from the meat/protein group does not mean eating only grilled chicken it is also important to eat beef, fish and nuts. All of these foods provide your body with protein, but each one has its own little kick of special nutrients – such as omega-3 fatty acids in found in fish (more on that in the free Prenatal and Postnatal Starter Pack).

Moderation: Eating a balance and variety of food may seem exciting as you feel many restrictions you were placing on yourself being lifted. However, it is important to do the previous while staying within a calorie limit. Portion control is probably the most important thing when looking at your current eating habits. Most of you could tell me that fruits and vegetables are excellent choices, while chocolate chip cookies are not the best snack. I am not going to tell you not to give into your craving, you can have a cookie (not a jumbo cookie!) just be sure that you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the rest of the day . We live in a super-sized economy so it is hard to know what a serving size really is. The easiest place to start is by reading the nutrition label on the side of your food packages.

Balance, Variety and Moderation are just the basics of pregnancy nutrition. In addition, it is important you know what to eat while pregnant, how many calories you should consume, what foods to avoid during pregnancy and why a slow & steady weight gain wins the race!

Calculations for your BMI use your pre-pregnancy BMI.  These guidelines were reaffirmed in 2020. But most importantly, listen to your doctor and his/her weight gain recommendation for you and your baby.

Where does the baby weight come from?

  • the baby itself (7 to 8 pounds)
  • your increasing muscle tissue and fluid (4 to 7 pounds)
  • placenta and amniotic fluid that protect the baby (3 to 4 pounds)
  • increased size of breasts (1-2 pounds)
  • increased size of uterus (2 pounds)
  • increased blood volume (3-4 pounds)
  • increased body fat (6-8 pounds)

Source: Mayo Clinic

Pregnancy Nutrition Tips

In the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy you want to gain 0.5-1 pound per week, keeping your weight on a steady increase. You can do this by:

  • While adding foods, be sure to add healthy foods that enhance the balance and variety of your diet. Keep sweets and high fat foods in proper moderation. Adding foods such as nuts, seeds, oils, and avocado can add calories as well as healthy fats to your daily intake.
  • Increasing your calories can be easier if you split them up into small, frequent meals throughout the day.  You should aim to eat 5 or 6 meals that are approximately 350-450 calories per meal.
  • End all intentional   and unintentional meal skipping.  You may find that you need to plan you meals more and eat-by- the-clock.  Eating-by-the-clock means setting specific times in which you will eat and sticking to it. If you are eating 5 or 6 meals each day you may eat at 6:00 am – 9:00 am – 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm– 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm (optional). If you choose to make your last meal at 6:00 pm you will want to aim to eat a meal consisting of approximately 450-500 calories. This will help you avoid overeating when you are too hungry and can even improve symptoms of nausea and fatigue.
  • Exercising during pregnancy — a snack full of protein, a little fat and carbohydrates is your best bet. And you need to eat within the hour of exercising.

Your Body’s Needs

Pregnancy and/or Nursing may be one of the most important times in life to focus on your diet. Not only are you ensuring you stay healthy, but also that your developing baby has all the good stuff they need to grow healthy. However, it can be hard to fit it all in during the day. You may find yourself fighting extreme fatigue and don’t have it in you to make a full meal. Maybe you are struggling with nausea and find it hard to prepare or enjoy certain foods. Or you may have the energy and appetite, but you are corralling other little ones and just don’t have the time.

If you are wondering how you are going to get all of your nutrients in, SNACKS act as a way to fill the gaps.

  • Adding snacks into your day. If you are used to three main meals throughout the day you should add a few snacks – such as fruit, yogurt, or pretzels – to your schedule to meet your calorie needs.
    • 1 medium apple with hard cheese like cheddar, Monterey jack, or Swiss
    • 1 egg on a whole wheat English muffin or toast
    • Homemade trail mix: 1/2 cup walnuts, ½ cup unsweetened coconut, ½ cup dried diced mango, and ½ cup cashews (makes 2 cups, ½ cup = 1 serving)
    • Small container of plain Greek yogurt topped with 1 cup blueberries and 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
    • ½ cup cucumber slices, ½ cup carrots, ½ cup celery sticks with ¼ cup guacamole
    • Small bowl low-fat cottage cheese topped with 1 cup diced mango and 2 Tbsp. high-fiver granola
    • Half an avocado spread onto 1 slice rye crisp bread or whole grain crackers
    • Use our Snack Recipe Box

What to eat while Pregnant


  • Drink approximately 10 cups of fluid each day
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains
  • Include protein from sources such as seafood*, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans, and unsalted nuts and seeds

*Pregnant women should avoid eating fish and shellfish containing mercury. Too much mercury can harm your baby’s developing nervous system. Both the FDA and EPA encourage women to avoid: Swordfish- Shark – King mackerel – Tilefish

Don’t worry, not all fish are off limits. You can safely eat up to 12 ounces of seafood per week. The best choices include:
Shrimp – Canned light tuna (limit albacore tuna and tuna steaks to no more than 6 ounces a week) – Salmon – Pollock – Catfish – Anchovies – Trout

Get More: Eating a balanced diet, and taking your prenatal vitamin should help you meet all the major nutrient needs you have during this 40-week journey. However, there are some stand out vitamins and minerals your body needs during this time. Some of those include:

Vitamin A: Also known as beta carotene is found in milk, eggs, carrots, spinach, green and yellow veggies, and broccoli. This powerful vitamin helps promote the growth of bones and teeth.

Vitamin D: You hear a lot about this vitamin even when not pregnant because it is vital to helping the body use calcium and phosphorus. You find this in milk, fatty fish, and sunshine.

Thiamin/B1: One of the main B vitamins tasked with raising energy levels and regulating the nervous system. Excellent sources of this vitamin include whole grains, wheat germ., eggs, rice, berries, nuts, and legumes.

Folic Acid/Folate: The most important nutrient specifically for pregnancy is folic acid. It helps support the placenta and prevents spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Your prenatal vitamin provides a good dose of this but you can also find it in oranges, orange juice, strawberries, green leafy veggies, beets, and broccoli

Iron: Iron deficiency is a common problem during pregnancy and your prenatal vitamin includes the nutrient. Iron is most concentrated in meat sources but can also be found in beans, whole grains, dark leafy greens, and nuts.

There are also some specific foods that may help prevent stretch marks, if that’s a concern you have.


  • Sugar: limit your intake to 6 teaspoons of added sugars daily or 25 grams
  • Caffeine: cut your intake to less than 200 mg daily (one 12-ounce cup of coffee)


  • Alcohol: Any type of alcohol is strictly prohibited for those who are already pregnant or those trying to conceive. Alcohol affects the growing baby by depriving it the oxygen it needs to correctly develop all of its organs.
  • Unpasteurized milk and foods made with unpasteurized dairy, including soft cheese like brie and feta
  • Sprouts
  • Hot dogs, luncheon meats, and cold cuts unless they are heated until steaming hot just before serving
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood
  • Raw and undercooked seafood, eggs, and meat.