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Paula Kashtan

Nutrition During Pregnancy

Wondering how you can be sure you're eating the things baby needs? Besides the 300 or so extra calories, it's important to get the right vitamins and minerals. Here’s what you need and how to get it.




How much:  11 µg per day

Why: Zinc is linked to a lowered risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and prolonged labor. It prevents intrauterine growth retardation as well.

Try: Baked beans are a great choice; you’ll get 1.8 µg for each half-cup serving.


Folic acid


How much: 600 µg per day

Why: Even before you get pregnant, you should start increasing this one. Doing so cuts your risk of birth defects.

Try: No midnight cravings for spinach or asparagus? Try an orange for 50 µg a pop.


Beta carotene


How much: 7,700 IU per day

Why: This improves skin and vision. Plus, it recharges the immune system (you really don’t want to get hit with a sinus infection now!). It’s also crucial for proper cell and gene development.

Try: Sweet potatoes deliver 50,000 IU in one cup!




How much: 1,000 mg per day

Why: Getting enough calcium can reduce the severity and lower the overall risk of preeclampsia, low birth weight, and preterm delivery.

Try: Yogurt has 450 mg per cup — double milk!




How much: 60 to 70 g per day

Why: Your body needs a lot more protein now to help the fetus grow and ensure that baby’s hormones and muscles develop properly.

Try: A lean beef or chicken burger yields 30 g — half your daily requirement!




How much: 450 mg per day

Why: Higher levels of DHA in newborns correspond to higher birth weight. It’s also associated with a higher IQ, more advanced motor skills, and fewer emotional and  neurological problems later.

Try: A 4-oz. serving of salmon packs a punch with 130 mg.




How much: 27 mg per day

Why: Not enough can impair baby’s growth and increase the risk of hypertension, eclampsia, preterm delivery, and low birth weight.

Try: A bowl of fortified cereal, at 10 mg, provides more than a serving of beef!


Vitamin D


How much: 200 IU per day

Why: It helps increase blood circulation in the placenta and aids in calcium absorption.

Try:  Fortified orange juice provides 50 IU per cup, so be sure to drink up!



Your Daily Checklist


[] Prenatal Vitamin

[ ]** Whole Grains and Legumes** (6 or more servings)
Healthy choices: brown rice, wild rice, whole-grain bread, whole-grain cereal, whole-wheat pasta, pita, tortilla, wheat germ, beans, lentils, peanuts, peas

[] Calcium (4 servings)
Healthy choices: milk, hard cheese, yogurt, collard greens, edamame, sesame seeds, calcium-fortified juice, canned salmon with bones, tofu

[] Yellow, Green and Leafy Veggies and Fruits (3-4 servings)
Healthy choices: winter squash, spinach, kale, lettuce, broccoli, red bell pepper, carrot, sweet potato, apricot, mango, cantaloupe, papaya

[] Vitamin C (3 servings)
Healthy choices: (whole or juiced) orange, grapefruit, kiwi, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, mango, peach, papaya, cantaloupe, honeydew, spinach, bell pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, tomato, avocado

[] Protein (3 servings)
Healthy choices: poultry, beef, lamb, low-mercury fish and seafood, DHA-enriched eggs, cheese, yogurt, nuts, peanut butter, beans, tofu, edamame, soy pasta

[] Iron (3 servings)
Healthy choices: beef, duck, sardines, spinach, dried fruit, beans, soy products, pumpkin seeds, barley, oat bran

[] Other Veggies and Fruits (1-2 servings)
Healthy choices: green bean, zucchini, mushroom, corn, potato, apple, pear, banana, cherry, blueberry, avocado

[] Fats (roughly 4 servings)
Healthy choices: peanut butter, avocado, sour cream, cream cheese, cream, salad dressing, oil, butter, mayonnaise

[] Fluids (at least 8 servings of 8 ounces)
Healthy choices: water, juice

Plus, more from The Bump:

10 Pregnancy Super Foods

Your Pregnancy Shopping List

7 Healthy Meal Ideas for Pregnancy

*updated Jan 16, 2013

PHOTO: Melanie Acevedo
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