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What to Eat When You're Expecting

Part one in a series for moms-to-be

by Meri Raffetto RD, LDN  |  3405 views  |  0 comments  |        Rate this now! 

So, you're expecting. Congratulations! There are many things you have control over to help make a healthy environment for your baby during the next nine months. Diet, exercise, and stress management are the biggies. Diet, in particular, is an important topic, as you now have higher nutrient needs yet there are also some foods to avoid as well.


Did you know it takes 80,000 extra calories over nine months for the development of a healthy baby? This may sound like a time to celebrate with as much ice cream and cookies as you can eat, but this really amounts to 300 extra calories each day during your pregnancy. There is also an increased need for certain nutrients at this time, such as Vitamin A, B Vitamins, Calcium, and Iron. Therefore, it is best to get your extra calories from foods high in these nutrients. What does 300 calories look like in real food?
  • A turkey sandwich on whole grain bread with tomato and lettuce
  • 12 whole grain crackers (like Kashi) with 1 slice of cheese and an apple
  • 1 cup yogurt (1 percent fat) with 1 ounce of granola and 1/4 cup of berries


Protein needs increase during pregnancy because the structural components of cells for mom and baby are mostly protein. Other changes during pregnancy, such as the growth of the placenta, also require protein. It is recommended to have an additional 10 grams of protein each day. Most people get plenty of protein and you likely are reaching this goal without having to add additional foods. Vegetarians may need to watch it a little more closely. 10 grams of protein is equivalent to:
  • 1 ounce of poultry, fish, or beef
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup of beans


Pregnancy is not a time to follow a very low-fat diet. Your baby needs certain essential fatty acids that you only get from your diet. One of these fatty acids to be aware of is DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid that is important for brain and eye development. It can also be helpful for mom's moods. The tricky thing is that the best sources of DHA are found in cold water fish. Many of our cold water fish species are also contaminated with mercury, which can be dangerous for mom and baby. Safer DHA-rich foods include salmon or fortified eggs. Make sure that your eggs say DHA fortified and not just fortified with omega-3s --  there is a big difference. Flax seeds and walnuts contain a different omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, which the body will convert to DHA in small amounts. If you feel you aren't getting adequate amounts you can also take fish oil supplements, but it is important to discuss this with your doctor first.

About the Author

Meri Raffetto is a Registered Dietitian, and a columnist for Work It, Mom! and the founder of Real Living Nutrition Services, an online weight loss program that empowers people to make small changes s

Read more by Meri Raffetto RD, LDN

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