Food Groups

When you’re pregnant, you have special nutritional needs. What you eat affects your baby’s development and can affect your baby throughout his or her entire life. Making good food choices during pregnancy, to get the vitamins and minerals you need, will help you and your baby both stay healthy.

Here are a few tips to help you plan your meals:

Protein helps build the muscles and organs in your baby’s body. Protein rich foods include beans and peas, nuts and seeds, lean beef, poultry, lamb and pork, eggs, and other dairy products.

Seafood is also an excellent source of protein and the FDA suggests that you eat up to 12 ounces of fish and shellfish a week. Be sure that you select fish and shellfish that are lowest in mercury. These include salmon, canned light tuna, pollock, and catfish. If you enjoy other types of fish and shellfish, check their safety at ChooseMyPlate.gov. Generally, the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks.

If you’re a vegetarian and don’t eat any animal products, it’s recommended that you combine beans with whole grain products at the same meal to meet your protein needs.

Carbohydrates give you energy, and are usually your biggest source of calories. Most of what we eat are carbohydrates, like fruits, vegetables, and grains. Stay away from candy, cakes, and donuts. They do contain carbohydrates, but are considered to be “empty calories,” since they’re not nutritious and are often high in fat and sugar. Instead, eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals. These will supply you with vitamins, and fiber, to keep you from becoming constipated.

Calcium helps to build strong bones and teeth, plus muscles and organs. Dairy foods, including milk, cheese, and yogurt, aren’t your only calcium source, but they’re good ones.

Stay with one percent or skim milk, calcium-fortified soymilk, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Green vegetables, like broccoli, spinach, or kale, are also good sources of calcium. In addition, you can find calcium in tofu, almonds, peanuts, dried fruit, and baked goods with sesame seeds.

Your body does not require much fat, even during pregnancy. If you follow a healthy and well-balanced diet, you’ll be getting enough fat automatically. Remember to trim excess fat from foods, eat lean meats that are broiled or baked, remove the skin from poultry, and use olive oil or canola oil instead of vegetable oil or margarine.