Healthy Eating Plans for Pregnant Women

By Jennifer Shafer
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Pregnant women need to pay attention to their diets to ensure they intake an adequate amount of calories and nutrients for themselves and their growing babies. Choosing a variety of foods from the different food groups will provide the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy pregnancy.

Nutrition Basics

A pregnant woman, like any woman, needs a certain allotment of nutrients in her daily eating. A pregnant woman needs about 70 g of protein and 2,300 calories (2,000 during the first trimester) every day, and within those calories must take in the vitamins and minerals to supply both herself and her growing baby. It's important to eat nutritionally dense foods whenever possible--food aversions can wreak havoc on your dietary plans, and that's where prenatal supplements come in. Pay close attention to the nutrients you're eating. You need about 27 mg of iron, 1,000 mg of calcium and 1,000 micrograms of folate or folic acid every day. Get your daily requirements by eating a variety of healthy foods.

Food Groups

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A pregnant woman should eat several servings of the various food groups for a healthy diet. For example, you should be eating six to nine servings of grains each day to get energy, fiber, iron, B vitamins and protein. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables--especially leafy green vegetables, which are nutritional powerhouses--to get vitamins A and C, calcium, folate, iron, potassium and other important nutrients. Eat at least two servings of protein-rich foods such as meat, eggs, nuts and beans to get protein, B vitamins (especially B12) and iron. Eat at least four servings of dairy daily to get calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D and protein.

If you're vegan or lactose intolerant, increase your intake of leafy greens and rich protein sources, and be sure to get out in the sun for 15 minutes a day to allow your skin to synthesize vitamin D.

Water is not technically a nutrient, but it is vital to your body's functioning and will also keep you from swelling too much and becoming constipated in later pregnancy. Drink at least 48 oz. of water or other non-caffeinated, nonalcoholic fluids to keep hydrated and carry nutrients throughout your body.

Omega-3 fatty acids are important to brain development; these can be found in fish, walnuts, soy and canola oil. Otherwise, there are no specific requirements for fats; choose unsaturated fats and oils in moderation.

Sample Plan

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Here are two sample eating plans for a pregnant woman:

Day 1

Breakfast: Oatmeal with walnuts and raisins or chopped apple Snack: Yogurt and a pear Lunch: Rueben sandwich and carrot sticks Snack: Vegetables and hummus Dinner: Lentil soup and whole-grain bread Snack: Orange and handful of almonds

Day 2

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and whole-grain toast Snack: Fruit smoothie Lunch: Vegetable fried rice and steamed broccoli Snack: Bagel topped with cheese, avocado, and tomato Dinner: Burritos with whole-grain tortillas and leafy greens Snack: Apple with peanut butter

About the Author

Jennifer Shafer is a Toledo-based freelance writer. She holds Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and psychology from the University of Washington and a Master of Arts degree in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University. Her articles have appeared in publications such as 'Spin-Off,' the 'Toledo Business Journal,' and the 'Cambridge Handbook of Expertise.'