HealthONE May 16, 2016

What is an ideal pregnancy diet?

Finding a balanced diet during your pregnancy is important for your and your baby’s health. Your body is actually programed to provide for your baby first, which is why many expecting mothers sometimes struggle to get enough nutrients for their own body. Eating right and taking the correct prenatal vitamins means optimal health for both of you.

Get plenty to eat, not too much to eat

Adding 300 nutrition-filled calories a day to your normal caloric intake is all you need to provide your baby with enough sustenance to grow strong during your first and second trimesters. Doctors recommend you increase your daily caloric intake to 450 additional calories during your third trimester to help nurture your ever-growing baby.

Eat smaller amounts more often

In general, eating smaller meals several times per day is better for your body than eating two or three large meals. This may sound easier said than done with increased hunger and those strange, intense food cravings, but try your best to follow this guideline. Eating this way helps your baby digest food more easily and can even help you shed that stubborn baby weight post-pregnancy.

Avoid soft cheese

Make sure all your cheeses say “made with pasteurized milk” on their packaging. Foods made with unpasteurized milk can cause listeriosis, a bacterial infection can be devastating for your baby’s development. Avoid any soft cheeses like feta, Brie and Gorgonzola. You will also want to steer clear of Mexican-style cheeses like queso and panela. If you are a cheese connoisseur, encourage your partner to adopt your new diet and support your cheese sacrifice!


One of the lesser-known nutrients, choline is a critical nutrient that helps your baby’s brain cells develop. Much like folic acid, choline protects the neural tubes from defects during the first and second trimesters. Choline is found in many foods, like eggs and whole grains, so you shouldn’t have a problem adding this precious nutrient to your balanced diet. If you are worried about your choline intake, be sure to get a prenatal vitamin that includes choline.

Listen to your cravings… maybe!

Do those bizarre cravings actually mean anything? Some doctors have hypothesized that your body craves specific foods as a way of telling you what nutrients your baby is lacking. For example, if you crave red meat you may be protein-deficient, and some mothers have claimed taking protein supplements made their cravings disappear. These stories, however, are strictly anecdotal and haven’t been consistently replicated in a scientific environment. The other school of thought teaches that there is no rhyme or reason for what you crave; rather, it’s just the way your body is coping with drastic changes.

Whatever the case, indulging in your cravings is usually not a bad way to put your mind, and tummy, at ease during pregnancy. There’s one exception: if you crave food that isn’t food (ice, pen ink, laundry detergent, etc.) talk to your doctor right away as you may have developed a condition called pica.

For more dietary information

For more information about what to and what not to eat during pregnancy, talk with your obstetrician or your physician.