close× Call Us (401) 274-1100

As a result of COVID-19 concerns Health Education has suspended all in-person classes indefinitely.
We are pleased to offer online Breastfeeding, Childbirth, and Newborn Care classes in English and Spanish.

A Well Balanced Diet is Vital

Right from the onset, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet is vital for a pregnant woman and her developing baby. Although many people will say that you are "eating for two," this is really not the case. In fact, most pregnant women only need an additional 300 calories each day.

Recommendations for total weight gain in pregnancy are based on your pre-pregnancy weight for height or BMI (body mass index):

  • Underweight: BMI Less than 18.5 28-40 lbs.
  • Usual weight: BMI 18.5-24.9        25-35 lbs.
  • Overweight: BMI 25.0-30.0          15-25 lbs.
  • Obese: BMI: Greater than 30.0     11-20lbs.

Keep in the mind the following tips in order to keep your weight gain within the recommended ranges:

  • The goal of eating a balanced diet is to make healthy food choices for meals and snacks most of the time. Depending on your caloric need for appropriate weight gain, it is okay to include sweet and savory treats sometimes and in limited amounts for those special times. It may help curb those cravings.
  • Eating in short intervals of time (6-8 times) and in small amounts throughout the day, helps to keep your hunger in check and may prevent over-eating. It may even help the common gastrointestinal disorders like nausea, vomiting and heartburn of pregnancy.
  • It is very important to stay hydrated every day. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid per day. This can include:
    • Water.
    • Milk.
    • Fruit juice.
    • Vegetable juice.
    • Naturally decaffeinated coffee and tea.
    • Soup.
    • Plain soda water or seltzer.
    Limit your intake of highly sweetened beverages.
  • For a healthy, balanced diet, simply eat from all of the basic food groups, including:
    • Low-fat dairy.
    • Meat and meat alternatives for protein.
    • Fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Starches and other whole grain products such as bread and cereals.
  • Good fats such a vegetable oils, nuts and avocado can add flavor, but do contain more calories
  • Your health care provider may prescribe a prenatal vitamin-mineral pill that may contain extra iron, folic acid and omega fatty acids.
  • You may already eat a balanced diet; therefore you may only have to eat a few extra calories (approximately 300 calories/day more than your maintenance intake).

Making Healthy Food Choices the MyPlate Way

MyPlate is a simple and practical guide to help you choose a healthy diet. You can access more reputable nutrition education in many categories including pregnancy at the website. There is an interactive activity called "Super Tracker" that can help you design an individualized food plan depending on your trimester of pregnancy. MyPlate was designed by the United Sates Department of Agriculture (USDA) and based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and simplified to Five Food Groups.

1. Grains (6-11 servings)
This group provides your body with complex carbohydrates that give you energy. They are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. When choosing a food from this group try to include at least half of your intake as whole grains such as whole-grain bread, cereals, oatmeal, whole wheat pastas, and rice. Try to avoid foods that are loaded with fat and sugar.

One serving equals:

  • 1 slice of whole-grain bread.
  • ½ English muffin or bread roll.
  • ½ of a large pita or flatbread or 1 small tortilla.
  • 1 ounce (3/4 cup) of cold cereal.
  • ½ cup cooked cereal, rice, or pasta.

2. Vegetables (3-5 servings)
Vegetables are a good source of many vitamins, such as vitamins A and C, and minerals such as iron and magnesium. They are also great for you because they are low in fat and high in fiber. To ensure that you get a wide variety of these vitamins and minerals choose an array of colorful fresh vegetables such as:

  • Dark-green leafy vegetables (spinach, broccoli).
  • Starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas).
  • Deep yellow or orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, squash).
  • Legumes (chick peas and all types of beans).

One serving equals:

  • 1 cup of salad greens.
  • ½ cup of other cooked or raw vegetables.
  • 3/4 cup vegetable juice.

3. Fruits (2-4 servings)
Like vegetables, this group also provides many vitamins and minerals such as potassium and vitamin A. Choose from fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits such as melons, berries, and citrus fruits. Another good choice is natural, unsweetened, fruit juices. Fruit drinks, which contain excess sugar and artificial flavors, should be limited.

One serving equals:

  • 1 medium apple, banana, or orange.
  • ½ cup chopped, cooked, or canned fruit.
  • ½ cup fruit juice.
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit such as raisins.

4. Dairy (3-4 servings)
Dairy products are a significant source of calcium and other nutrients such as protein and phosphorus. Calcium is very important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. When meeting your daily dairy requirements, try to choose low-fat, skim, or part-skim varieties of your cheeses, milk, and yogurt.

One serving equals:

  • 1 cup milk or yogurt.
  • 1 ½-2 oz. of cheese.
  • 1 cup of cottage cheese.

5. Protein (2-3 servings)
This group includes meat and meat alternatives and provides protein, vitamin B, iron, and zinc that the fetus needs to develop. To reduce unnecessary fats, choose lean meats and cut off fat and skin before cooking.

One serving equals:

  • 2-3 oz. cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish.
  • 2 eggs.
  • 2-3 oz. of meat substitute such as a veggie burger.
  • 1 cup tofu.
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter or ¼ cup nuts.

Fats, oils, and sweets (eat sparingly)
Excessive intake of these items may have too many calories and cause high weight gain. Choose a limited amount of good fat such as olive oil or low saturated vegetable oils to provide some flavor. Other foods such as low-fat salad dressings, avocados, olives, nuts butter, margarine, and gravies can be eaten in small quantities depending on your caloric need. Limit your intake of sugary foods and high calorie desserts. Sugar substitutes or sugar free products even natural sweeteners such as stevia are likely safe in very small amounts, but need to be researched more to determine the effects on your developing baby.

Other Information:

Food Safety:  To minimize the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria or toxic chemicals, wash with cold water all fresh unpeeled and peeled fruits and vegetables before eating them. Avoid raw or undercooked meats, fish, and poultry. You can heat sandwich meats to destroy any surface bacteria. Also, only eat "MADE WITH PASTEURIZED MILK" dairy products and no RAW milk. Some fish is good to eat in limited amounts as they provide good omega-fatty acids. Do not eat large, older fish such as:

  • Fresh or frozen tuna.
  • Striped bass.
  • Swordfish.
  • Shark.
  • Marlin.
  • Spanish or king mackerel.
  • Tilefish.
  • Chilean sea bass.
  • Orange roughy and large fresh water fish like walleye.

Commonly eaten fish like chunk light canned tuna (not white albacore), shellfish, shrimp and smaller whitefish such as cod, haddock, flounder, and salmon are lower in risk of contamination from pollutants. Limit to 4-12 oz./week.

Label Reading: Learning to read a food label can be very helpful. The food label (usually titled Nutrition Facts) lists important information such as the serving size, the amount of calories and major nutrients per serving. The percentage listed on the labels refers to a basic intake of 2,000 calories per day. This may or may not be your caloric intake so the percentage listed may not be appropriate for you.

Vitamin Supplementation: Often your health care provider will prescribe a prenatal vitamin-mineral supplement. This is primarily for the iron and folic acid (a B vitamin) contained in the multi-vitamin as those two important nutrients during pregnancy are difficult to meet your daily requirement even if you eat a well-balanced diet. It is wise not to take any individual vitamin or mineral supplement unless your health care provider recommends or prescribes them for specific medical conditions or nutrient deficiency.

If you need further assistance with nutrition education or counseling for specific nutrition-related medical conditions during pregnancy, please have your health care provider refer you to a registered dietitian or call Women & Infants' Outpatient Nutrition Services at (401) 274-1122 ext. 42749.