Eating Healthy for Two

Monday, April 22, 2013

You are what you eat—and so is your baby. In addition to being smokefree, eating well during pregnancy is one of the best and most important things you can do for yourself and your baby. But healthy “eating for two” is more than just eating more. Your calorie and nutritional needs during pregnancy depend on pre-pregnancy weight, age, activity level, and other factors. Talk with your doctor about your specific needs.

  • Take prenatal vitamins.

Your pregnant body needs more of certain nutrients, like folate and iron. Folate is important for your baby’s brain development. Orange juice, beans (like lentils and kidney beans), and green leafy vegetables are some good sources of natural folate. But getting enough folate for your growing baby through diet alone is hard because your body doesn't absorb it all. A prenatal vitamin can help. Choose a multi-vitamin that contains 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid (the manmade form of folate) and 27 milligrams (mg) of iron. Your doctor may also give you a prescription for a prenatal vitamin.

  • Increase your calories after the first trimester.

During the first trimester (weeks 0–13) your calorie needs are about the same as they were before you were pregnant. After that, you need about an extra 300 calories per day. Get those calories the healthy way by eating about 30 whole wheat crackers, or two toaster waffles, or a cup of flavored, non-fat yogurt with 20–25 almonds.

  • Stay hydrated.

Drink at least 8 cups (64 oz.) of water per day. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent dehydration, constipation, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). If you don’t really like water or the thought of unflavored water makes you sick to your stomach, try adding a lime or lemon wedge or a splash of 100 percent fruit juice.

  • Change your eating schedule if necessary.

There are no set guidelines for how many times you should eat in a day when you’re pregnant. But you may find that you need to change your routine to help manage nausea, cravings, or other symptoms of your pregnancy. Try eating 3–5 smaller meals or 6–8 mini meals a day to find the balance that works for you.

  • Some foods are off-limits…for now.

Some foods may be dangerous for you or your baby. Make sure meats, eggs, poultry, and fish are cooked thoroughly. Eating these foods raw or undercooked may make you or your unborn baby sick. While you’re pregnant, try to avoid unpasteurized dairy products and fish like shark, swordfish, and king mackerel that may contain high levels of mercury. Before you eat deli or lunchmeats, heat them until steamy. Talk with your doctor before taking herbal supplements or if you are concerned about other foods to limit or avoid during pregnancy.


Learn more about healthy eating for you and your baby during pregnancy and while you’re breastfeeding.

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