Dietary Advice During Pregnancy

Maintaining a healthy diet during your pregnancy is key to both your and the baby’s health.  Although taking a prenatal vitamin is important, your body utilizes vitamins and minerals best when they are absorbed through food.  In general, you should increase the protein portion in your diet, aiming for a percentage of protein/carbohydrates/fats of 40%/40%/20%.  Remember, the key to a good diet in pregnancy is moderation; there are very few foods you need to avoid, but pay attention to the amount consumed not only for health risks like food borne illnesses or toxins, but also to avoid unnecessary calories.

Average Weight Gain:  Unless otherwise advised by your physician, the average person will be expected to gain approximately 25-35 pounds for her pregnancy.  Most women gain about 7-10 lbs in the first 20 weeks.  From that point onward, you should expect to gain approximately 0.5-1.0 pounds per week.

Excess maternal weight gain – over 40 pounds – has been linked to increased risks of cesarean section, childhood obesity, and maternal obesity after delivery.  If you are underweight or overweight at the start of your pregnancy, your physician will give you specific instructions regarding weight gain, and we have nutritionists that can consult with you if you are concerned about your weight.

Prenatal Vitamins/Supplements:  These are important to make sure any gaps in nutrition are covered and to decrease the risk of certain birth defects such as spina bifida. Most prenatal vitamins contain the recommended daily allowance of Folic Acid (400 mcg), as well as B vitamins and iron.  Your Vitamin D level will be tested at your first prenatal visit, and if low, we will ask you to start a supplement since it aids in the absorption of calcium.

A pregnant woman should make sure to take at least 1200 mg of calcium per day (2-3 servings) yet most prenatal vitamins do not contain this much.  If you feel that your diet is lacking in calcium, over the counter supplements of calcium, such as Caltrate, will suffice.  DHA supplements have been associated with improved neurological development, and should be taken in conjunction with your prenatal vitamin once you are pregnant.

Seafood:  In most cases it is safe and recommended to eat fish through your pregnancy to maximize Omega-3 fatty acids, mono-unsaturated fats, and protein.  You should try to have 2-3 servings per week of fish and seafoods that are low in mercury.  Most freshwater fishes are safe to eat (unless a local advisory has been posted), and most white, flaky fishes (tilapia, cod) are also low in mercury content.

We recommend cooked fish as much as possible to decrease the risk of any food borne illnesses; however “sushi grade” fish that has been appropriately frozen has been shown to be low in parasites and can be eaten safely.  In general, large, oily fish (fish that eat other fish) should be avoided because they have higher mercury content in their flesh.

This includes swordfish, mahi mahi, tuna steaks, mackerel, tilefish, and sardines.  Canned light tuna can be ingested safely, however, albacore tuna, with its higher mercury content, should be avoided.  Salmon is a very healthy fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can be consumed at least once a week. Please refer to this chart if you have more questions about fish consumption during your pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Food Restrictions During Pregnancy

FOOD/ADDITIVEWhere it is foundWhat to do
AlcoholBeveragesAvoid
CaffeineBeverages, some foods1-2 servings per day
Fish with high mercury contentLarge fish (swordfish, mackerel, etc.)Avoid-Choose low-fat fish, small, white, flaky fish and shellfish
Unpasteurized foodsCheeses (camembert, brie, moldy or raw cheeses) Some juicesAvoid-very small risk of Listeria and other bacteria
Raw eggsCaesar salad dressing, raw cookie doughAvoid-may contain harmful bacteria