You have heard it more than once. You are eating for two. But that really is a myth. The truth is that you need to eat a healthy balanced diet. What is that? Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.

Folate and Folic Acid

The Mayo Clinic suggests having a diet high in folate and folic acid to prevent birth defects up to three months before conception. But it is not too late during pregnancy to increase folate. Folate is a B vitamin and is known to prevent neural tub defects and other serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. There are folate supplements that can be taken but good natural sources are found in cereal, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, dried beans, and peas.

FoodServing sizeFolic acid content
Cereal3/4 cup (15 to 45 grams) 100 percent fortified ready-to-eat cereal400 micrograms
Spinach1/2 cup (90 grams) boiled spinach100 micrograms
Beans1/2 cup (88 grams) boiled Great Northern beans90 micrograms
Asparagus4 boiled spears85 micrograms
Peanuts1 ounce (28 grams) dry roasted40 micrograms
Oranges1 small orange30 micrograms

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 2007

Calcium

We have all heard that calcium strengthens bones and teeth calcium also helps your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally. If there’s not enough calcium in your pregnancy diet, the calcium your baby needs will be taken from your bones. The Mayo Clinic suggest you need 1,000 milligrams a day. Pregnant teenagers need 1,300 milligrams a day. Dairy products are the richest sources of calcium and not everyone can handle those. It may surprise you that many fruit juices and breakfast cereals are fortified with calcium.

FoodServing sizeCalcium content
Yogurt8 ounces (227 grams) plain, low-fat yogurt415 milligrams
Milk1 cup (245 grams) skim milk306 milligrams
Cheese1 1/2 ounces (43 grams) part-skim mozzarella cheese275 milligrams
Juice6 ounces (186 grams) calcium-fortified orange juice200 to 260 milligrams
Salmon3 ounces (85 grams) canned pink salmon with bones181 milligrams
Spinach1/2 cup (90 grams) cooked spinach120 milligrams
Cereal1 cup (20 to 60 grams) calcium-fortified ready-to-eat cereal100 to 1,000 milligrams

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 2007

Protein

Protein is crucial for your baby’s growth, especially during the second and third trimesters. 71 grams of protein per day is typically recommended. Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products are great sources of protein. But even those who follow a vegan diet can have a diet filled with healthy protein including dried beans and peas, tofu, and peanut butter.

FoodServing sizeProtein content
Poultry3 ounces (85 grams) chicken breast27.6 grams
Fish3 ounces (85 grams) salmon21.6 grams
Cottage cheese1 cup (210 grams) low-fat cottage cheese28 grams
Milk1 cup (245 grams) skim milk8.3 grams
Peanut butter2 tablespoons (32 grams) creamy peanut butter8 grams
Eggs1 large hard-boiled egg6.3 grams

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 2007

Iron

Iron prevents anemia and our need for it doubles when we are pregnant. Our body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to our tissues. During pregnancy your blood volume expands to accommodate changes in your body and help your baby make his or her entire blood supply. If you don’t get enough iron, you may become fatigued and more susceptible to infections. The risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight also may be higher. It is recommended that pregnant women have at least 27 milligrams of iron a day. Lean red meat, poultry and fish are good sources of iron. Other options include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, nuts and dried fruit. Prenatal vitamins typically contain iron. In some cases, your health care provider may recommend a separate iron supplement.

Some complain that the increase of iron causes them stomach problems, nausea or constipation. The iron from animal products, such as meat, is most easily absorbed. To enhance the absorption of iron from plant sources and supplements, pair them with a food or drink high in vitamin C – such as orange juice, tomato juice or strawberries.

FoodServing sizeIron content
Cereal3/4 cup (24 grams) 100 percent iron-fortified ready-to-eat cereal18 milligrams
Beans1 cup (256 grams) boiled kidney beans5.2 milligrams
Spinach1/2 cup (90 grams) boiled spinach3.2 milligrams
Meat3 ounces (85 grams) beef tenderloin3 milligrams
Poultry3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) dark turkey2.3 milligrams

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 2007

Supplements – Ask your health care provider

You may be proud of your healthy and balanced diet, but during pregnancy it is important to take a pregnancy supplement. Taking a daily prenatal vitamin increases your chance to have a healthy pregnancy. However before taking a supplement, please be sure to discuss it with a health care provider.

In addition to adding more fruits, vegetables, cereal, and lean protein to your diet. You should be aware of what foods to avoid during pregnancy.

Seafood

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) a week or two average-sized portions of canned light tuna (limit albacore tuna and tuna steak to no more than 6 ounces or 170 grams a week), shrimp, salmon, catfish and cod. These types of fish can be a great source of protein and iron, and the omega-3 fatty acids in many fish can help promote your baby’s brain development.

The FDA and EPA encourage pregnant women to avoid:
Swordfish, Shark, King mackerel and Tilefish and to avoid raw, undercooked or contaminated seafood. In addition it is important to avoid undercooked meat, poultry and eggs and to avoid unpasteurized foods such as, brie, feta, and blue cheese and unpasteurized juice.

When eating fresh fruit and vegetables make sure to wash them well. Eating liver during pregnancy is fine as long as it is in small quantities. Its high level of vitamin A can be dangerous during pregnancy.

Caffeine and Pregnancy

Caffeine can cross the placenta and affect your baby’s heart rate. Some studies suggest that too much caffeine may slow fetal growth or increase the baby’s heart rate. Remember many carbonated drinks have caffeine in addition to tea and coffee. Herbal tea may sound appealing but large amounts of such teas may be unhealthy while pregnant.

Avoid alcohol

How many times have you heard to avoid drinking while pregnant? You may think one drink isn’t likely to hurt your baby, but no level of alcohol has been proved safe during pregnancy. The safest plan is to avoid alcohol entirely. You may be reading this and are worried because you didn’t realize you were pregnant and have already consumed alcohol. There is nothing you can do about that. However, you can do your best to stop drinking now. Consider the risk factors. Women who drink alcohol have a higher risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Too much alcohol during pregnancy may result in fetal alcohol syndrome, a form of mental retardation. If you feel you need help to stop drinking, please talk to your health care provider.

Beware of over-the-counter medications

Pregnant women should also stay away from over-the-counter medications. Most health care professionals will recommend that these medications can be dangerous during pregnancy. Asking a health care provider for advice on which ones can be used, especially for a headache, is important. There are many non-medication remedies for a headache such as limiting one’s use of the computer, laying down in a dark room, using a cool compress, re-examining one’s diet and doing one’s best to decrease stress.

If you are concerned about either a smoking, drinking or drug habit, please feel comfortable sharing this information with a health care professional for assistance. Adoption STAR can also provide additional resources and referrals.

If you are considering an adoption plan and are honest with Adoption STAR about either using or abusing any substance, Adoption STAR is committed to working with you and assisting you with non-judgmental support and compassion. Our passion has always been to work with all women and children.