Healthy Eating during Pregnancy

Protein is found in many foods. It helps main-
tain muscle and body tissue, helping the
body to produce some hormones and anti-
bodies. Pregnant women should take in 60
grams of protein every day. This is only 10
grams more than non-pregnant women. Lean
meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, and
legumes (beans) are good sources of pro-
tein. These foods also supply other key nu-
trients, such as iron, B vitamins, and other
very important minerals. Dried beans,
lentils, nuts, soybeans, eggs, and cheeses
are other sources of protein.
Most Americans consume more protein
than they need. Therefore, most women
should not need to increase the amount of
protein they eat during pregnancy. Usually
there is no need to consume high-protein
beverages, supplements, or powders.
Vegetarians can meet their protein needs
by eating select milk and egg foods, but preg-
nant vegans who eat only plant foods should
talk to a registered dietitian about how to
make sure their diet has adequate protein and
other essential vitamins and minerals. Soy
protein is the only complete protein source
for vegans and so it is an important part of a
mother-to-bes diet. Soy protein is found in
soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, and tofu.
Examples of other protein-rich vegan foods
are nuts, hummus, and beans (red kidney
beans, chickpeas, navy beans, etc.).
Many foods contain carbohydrates. Fruits,
vegetables, grains, and several dairy prod-
ucts contain carbohydrates and bring a
variety of other important nutrients to the
diet, like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants,
and fiber. Additionally, sugars are the sim-
plest form of carbohydrates and can add
sweetness to a nutritious diet. Breakfast is a
time to fit healthful carbohydrates into the
diet. Whole grain and enriched English
muffins, cereals, and breads, as well as
fruit are just some examples of good break-
fast choices containing carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates enriched with folic acid
reduce the rate of birth defects. Of course,
carbohydrates can be eaten at any time of
the day too.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) Dietary
Reference Intakes (DRI) Report recom-
mends that Americans get the majority of
their daily calories from carbohydrates—
about 45 to 65 percent of daily calorie in-
take. Children and adults need a minimum
of 130 grams of carbohydrates per day.
However, pregnant women require an addi-
tional 45 grams of carbohydrates per day.
The fat in food is needed for good nutrition
and good health. Like carbohydrates and
protein, dietary fat is an important source
of energy for the body. Certain foods that
contain fat supply the body with essential
fatty acids—essential fatty acids are fats
that are not produced by the body, so they
must be obtained through food. Most im-
portantly, these fats are needed for proper
development of the baby.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
recommend keeping total fat intake be-
tween 20 and 35 percent of total calories,
with most fats coming from unsaturated
sources. Sources of unsaturated fat include
fish, vegetable oils (canola, olive, peanut,
safflower, and sunflower oils), nuts, and
Like carbohydrates and protein,
dietary fat is an important source
of energy for the body.
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