Nutritional Tips During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman sitting in chair eating green apple

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It can be hard to know what and how much to eat during pregnancy. You've probably heard the old adage of "eating for two." However, you don't actually need to double your nutrients to fuel your growing baby and body.

Instead, your increased nutrient needs can be met by following your appetite, taking a prenatal multivitamin, and adding an extra snack or two each day, as needed. Consuming nutrient-rich foods in your meals and snacks is important, too. As you progress from the first to the third trimester, you may want to slowly eat a bit more. Here are some tips for eating healthy during pregnancy.

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Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods

When deciding what you're going to eat, include foods rich in vitamins and minerals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables; lean meats and vegetable protein like beans and lentils; plant-based fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil; whole grains; and dairy products like yogurt, kefir, cheese, and milk (or calcium and vitamin D fortified alternatives).


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Stay Hydrated

Your fluid needs increase during pregnancy as blood volume and amniotic fluid increase. Eight to 12 cups a day is the recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

Staying hydrated has many benefits for the two of you, including aiding the circulation of nutrients circulating throughout the body, aiding waste elimination, forming amniotic fluid, promoting healthier skin and skin elasticity, and reducing constipation and swelling.

Embrace Snacking

Snacking is a good way to give yourself some extra fuel and fit more nutrient-rich foods into your day. Optimal snacks include calcium-rich yogurt, fiber-rich fruits, nuts/seeds, and lean meats.

In addition, as your baby gets bigger in the second and third trimesters, snacks can be a helpful way to help ease some of the digestive discomforts that may arise from larger meals, like heartburn. A few snack ideas include:

  • Almond butter toast and a decaf latte
  • Black bean, corn, and salsa salad
  • Chia pudding made with milk, diced apple, cinnamon, maple syrup, and pistachios
  • Edamame
  • Hard-boiled eggs and carrot sticks dipped in hummus
  • Overnight oats made with milk, peanut butter, and banana
  • Salmon salad on whole-grain toast
  • String cheese, an apple, and cashews
  • Yogurt with berries and chopped walnuts

Eat Protein

Protein is the building block of every cell in your body and in your baby's body, too. Protein needs increase by about 25 grams a day during pregnancy. Here are some nutrient-rich foods that deliver protein:

  • Beans: 8 to 10 grams per cup (cooked/canned)
  • Beef: 7 grams per ounce
  • Chicken: 8 grams per ounce
  • Eggs: 6 grams per large egg
  • Fish: 6 grams per ounce
  • Greek yogurt: 20 grams per cup (plain)
  • Lentils: 18 grams per cup (cooked)
  • Rolled oats: 5 grams per cup (cooked)
  • Walnuts: 4 grams per 1/4 cup

Enjoy Smaller, Frequent Meals

Eating smaller more frequent meals can help with some common digestive discomforts of pregnancy. If you experience nausea and/or vomiting or heartburn, try eating snacks. In addition, as your baby grows and takes up more abdominal space, smaller more frequent meals also might make you more comfortable.

Gain Weight Slowly

Ideally, aim for gradual weight gain during pregnancy as you and your baby grow. Your doctor will advise you on optimal weight gain. However, note that because no two bodies are exactly the same, weight gain will look different for each person. It's important to remember that all bodies need to gain some weight to support a healthy pregnancy.

Take Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins can help you get the extra iron, folate/folic acid, and other nutrients required to meet you and your baby's needs during pregnancy. They are not meant to replace nutrients from food but rather fill in gaps and support increased nutrient needs while assisting you with consistent nutrient intake.

Before you begin taking prenatal vitamins, consult a healthcare provider for recommendations. Be aware that some prenatal vitamins may not include all the nutrients you need. For example, some may not contain much calcium or omega 3 fatty acids. So, be sure to read ingredient labels.

Know Your Body's Specific Needs

People with high-risk pregnancies or other medical concerns may have additional or modified nutrient requirements during pregnancy. If you have any questions about meeting your nutritional needs, you might benefit from working with a registered dietitian. Factors that might require specific dietary modifications include if you:

  • Are anemic (low iron)
  • Are a teenager
  • Follow a vegan diet
  • Feel overwhelmed or confused by nutrition recommendations during pregnancy
  • Have an eating disorder, disordered eating, or a history of chronic dieting
  • Are carrying more than one baby (multiple pregnancy)
  • Have diabetes

A Word From Verywell

When you're pregnant, your body requires more of certain nutrients like protein, iron, folate, iodine, and calcium. For this reason, it's important to choose nutritious foods and take prenatal vitamins as recommended by a healthcare provider.

Aim to stay hydrated and address any special dietary concerns you have. By being mindful of what you're eating and drinking, you will give your body and your baby the ideal nutrients needed to support a healthy pregnancy.

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3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1.  U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. 

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. How much water should I drink during pregnancy?.

  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Eating healthy during pregnancy.

Additional Reading

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.