Eating healthy during pregnancy

A gal’s gotta eat, right? Especially a pregnant gal! 

But just because you have a bun in the oven doesn't mean you get a license to eat whatever you want, as much as you want. So put the ice cream down, and let’s talk about eating healthy during pregnancy.

Most pregnant women need only about 300 extra calories per day. The exact amount depends on your weight before pregnancy. If you’re underweight before pregnancy, you may need more calories. If you’re overweight before pregnancy, you may need less. Talk to your health care provider about what’s right for you. Use this sample menu (.PDF, 76KB) to plan healthy meals.

How much should you eat each day during pregnancy?

Knowing how big each of these serving sizes is can be tricky. Here are some everyday items that can help:

  • 1 cup is about the size of a baseball.
  • 1/3 cup is about as much as you can fit in your hand (a rounded or full handful).
  • ½ cup is about the size of ½ a baseball.
  • ¼ cup is about the size of a golf ball.
  • 1 tablespoon is about the size of ½ a ping pong ball.
  • 1 ounce of meat (chicken, pork, beef, fish, etc.) is about the size of two thumbs.
  • 3 ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.
  • A small fruit (orange or apple) is about the size of a tennis ball. 

Is it OK to eat fish when you're pregnant?

Yes, as long as you eat the right kinds! Most fish are low in fat and high in protein and other nutrients your body needs.

You may have heard about mercury in fish. Mercury is a metal that can harm your baby. Fish get mercury from water they swim in and from eating other fish that have mercury in them. If you eat fish that have a lot of mercury in them, you can pass the metal to your baby during pregnancy. When you're pregnant, it's OK to eat fish as long as it's low in mercury. 

If you're pregnant, thinking about getting pregnant or breastfeeding, eat 8 to 12 ounces each week of fish that are low in mercury. 

These include: 

  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Pollock
  • Catfish
  • Canned light tuna
  • Albacore (white) tuna — Don't have more than 6 ounces of this tuna in 1 week.

How can you make sure you’re making healthy meals?

Use these tips when planning your meals:

  • Eat foods from the five food groups at every meal.
  • Choose whole-grain bread and pasta, low-fat or skim milk and lean meat, like chicken, fish and pork. Eat 8 to 12 ounces of fish that are low in mercury each week.
  • Put as much color on your plate as you can, with all different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Plan on eating four to six smaller meals a day instead of three bigger ones. This can help relieve heartburn and discomfort you may feel as your baby gets bigger.
  • Make sure your whole meal fits on one plate. Don’t make huge portions.
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water each day. 
  • Take your prenatal vitamin each day. This is a multivitamin made just for pregnant women.

Last reviewed: June, 2014