Nutrition During Pregnancy

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If you are a new patient seeking prenatal care, please call 310-794-7274. If you are an established patient and need to reach labor and delivery, call 310-825-9111 for Westwood or 424-259-9250 for Santa Monica.

Nutrition and Pregnancy

A woman of normal weight before pregnancy needs an extra 300 calories each day after the first 3 months of pregnancy; she also needs to drink at least eight to 12 cups of water a day. Always take your prenatal vitamins and other supplements as recommended by your care team.

Recommended Pregnancy Weight Gain

BMI category Single babyTwins 
Underweight (BMI less than 18.5)28 – 40 pounds 
Normal weight (BMI 18.5 – 24.9) 25 – 35 pounds37 – 54 pounds
Overweight (BMI 25.0 – 29.9) 15 – 25 pounds31 – 50 pounds
Obese (BMI 30 or greater) 11 – 20 pounds25 – 42 pounds

* Unknown
(Source: Institute of Medicine)

To keep you and your baby healthy, try to avoid these foods and substances during pregnancy:

  • Recreational drugs, including marijuana
  • Alcohol
  • Certain herbal teas (commercially available herbal teas are fine)
  • Smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products
  • Raw or undercooked fish, meat or eggs (please see recommendations for fish on the following pages)
  • Sprouts (raw or lightly cooked)
  • Unpasteurized milk, cheese or juice
  • Soft, mold-ripened cheeses (Camembert, Brie and blue-veined cheeses)
  • Hot dogs and deli meats are best avoided, but if eaten they must be well-heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Refrigerated pâté and meat spreads (OK if canned)
  • Smoked seafood
  • Liver

Important Nutrients During Pregnancy

You will need an extra amount of nutrients to fuel yourself and your growing baby. Please speak with your care team to see if any supplements are right for you. Whenever possible, try to get the below nutrients into your diet through high quality food sources:

  • Calcium builds strong bones and teeth. Milk and other dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, are the best sources of calcium. If you have trouble digesting milk products, you can get calcium from other sources, such as broccoli, fortified foods (cereals, breads and juices), almonds and sesame seeds, sardines or anchovies with the bones and dark green leafy vegetables. You also can get calcium from calcium supplements. Aim for 1,300 milligrams per day if you’re between 14 to 18 years old and 1,000 milligrams per day for if you’re between 19 and 50.
  • Choline is important for the development of your fetus’s brain and spinal cord. Although your body makes some choline on its own, it doesn’t make enough to meet all your needs while you are pregnant. It’s important to get choline from your diet because it is not found in most prenatal vitamins. You can get choline in chicken, beef, eggs, milk, soy products and peanuts. Aim for 450 milligrams per day.
  • Iodine is essential for healthy brain development. It can be found in iodized table salt, dairy products, seafood, meat, some breads and eggs. Aim for 220 micrograms per day.
  • Iron helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to your fetus. Having enough iron in your diet helps your body make the extra blood you and your baby need during pregnancy. In addition to taking a prenatal vitamin with iron, you should eat iron-rich foods, such as dried beans and peas, lentils, whole or enriched grains, enriched breakfast cereals, egg yolks, beef, turkey, clams, shrimp and dark green leafy vegetables. You also should eat foods that help your body absorb iron, including orange juice, grapefruit, strawberries, broccoli and peppers. Aim for 27 milligrams per day.
  • Folic acid (folate) helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine and helps the fetus and placenta grow and develop. It can be found in fortified cereal, enriched bread and pasta, legumes, peanuts, cashews, dark green leafy vegetables, orange juice, citrus fruits and beans. We recommend that you take a daily prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid per day, as it can be hard to get enough folic acid from diet alone. Aim for 600 micrograms per day.
  • Omega 3 is good for your baby’s brain and eye development, especially in the last months of pregnancy. You can find it in fish (salmon, anchovies, sardines and trout), olive and canola oils, nuts (walnuts and almonds), seeds and avocados. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is the ideal form of omega 3s, ready for your body to use. There are many foods rich in DHA and it is usually advertised on food packages. Look for DHA milk and eggs (if eating DHA eggs, must eat the yolk where the DHA is stored). Aim for 650 milligrams per day.
  • Vitamin A forms healthy skin and eyes and helps with bone growth. Too much vitamin A can be harmful to the fetus, so do not take extra supplements. You can find it in found in carrots, green leafy vegetables and sweet potatoes. Aim for 750 micrograms per day if you’re 14 to 18 years old; 770 micrograms per day if you’re 19 to 50.
  • Vitamin B6 helps form red blood cells and helps your body use protein, fat and carbohydrates. Eating foods high in B vitamins is a good idea, including pork, chicken, bananas, beans and whole-grain cereals and breads. Aim for 1.9 milligrams per day.
  • Vitamin B12 maintains the nervous system and helps form red blood cells. It can be found in meat, fish, poultry and milk (vegetarians and vegans should take a supplement). Aim for 2.6 micrograms per day.
  • Vitamin C promotes healthy gums, teeth, bones, and is important for a healthy immune system. You can get the right amount of vitamin C in your daily prenatal vitamin, and also from citrus fruits and juices, strawberries, broccoli and tomatoes. Aim for 80 milligrams per day if you’re 14 to 18 years old; 85 milligrams per day if you’re between 19 and 50.
  • Vitamin D helps build bones and teeth and helps promote healthy eyesight and skin. Good sources of vitamin D are fortified milk and breakfast cereal, fatty fish (salmon and mackerel), fish liver oils, mushrooms, and egg yolks. Aim for 600 international units per day.

Find more information about which foods are good sources of nutrients.

Recommended Daily Servings During Pregnancy

Vegetables: 3 servings

  • Dark green, red and orange are best.
  • Examples of 1 serving:
    • 1 cup of raw cubed vegetables
    • 2 cups of leafy vegetables

Fruits: 2 servings

  • Fresh fruit is healthier than fruit juice.
  • Examples of 1 serving:
    • 1 small apple, orange or peach
    • 16 grapes
    • ½ grapefruit
    • ½ cup dried fruit

Protein: 6.5 servings

  • Examples of 1 serving:
    • 1 oz. of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish (see fish safety sheet)
    • 1 egg
    • ½ ounce of nuts or seeds
    • ¼ cup of cooked beans or lentils
    • ¼ cup (2 ounces) of tofu
    • 2 tablespoons of peanut or other nut butters

Dairy: 3 servings

  • This group is calcium rich and protein rich.
  • Examples of 1 serving:
    • 1 cup of milk or calcium fortified soy, rice or almond milk
    • 1 cup of yogurt or frozen yogurt
    • 2 cups of cottage cheese
    • 1.5 ounces hard cheese
  • Calcium options for people who do not eat dairy products are calcium fortified juices, cereals, canned fish with bones, green leafy vegetables (except spinach) and tofu.

Grains: 8 servings

  • At least half of the servings should be whole grain.
  • Examples of 1 serving:
    • 1 slice of bread
    • ½ bagel, bun or English muffin
    • 1 small tortilla
    • ½ cup granola or oatmeal
    • ½ cup cooked rice (brown rice preferred) or pasta
    • 1 cup breakfast cereal

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

Fish: What Pregnant Women and Parents Should Know

Many people do not currently eat the recommended amounts of fish. Fish contain important nutrients for developing fetuses, infants who are breastfed, young children and the general public.

During pregnancy and while breastfeeding, you can eat 8 to 12 ounces (2 or 3 servings) of a variety of fish* each week from choices that are lower in mercury. For young children, give them 2 or 3 servings of fish each week, in portions appropriate for the child’s age and calorie needs. Safe options include salmon, shrimp, pollock, light canned tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod. The nutritional value of fish is important for growth and development before birth, in early infancy for breastfed infants and in childhood.

Avoid four types of fish: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel. These types of fish are high in mercury. Also, limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces per week.

When eating fish you or others have caught from streams, rivers and lakes, pay attention to fish advisories on those water bodies. If advice isn’t available, adults should limit such fish to 6 ounces per week and young children should be limited to 1 to 3 ounces per week, without any other fish intake.

When adding more fish to your diet, ask your care team about your calorie needs.

For more information, please visit the FDA website.
* Of note: This advice refers to fish and shellfish collectively as "fish."