The Best Pregnancy Diet: 7 Nutrients You Need
The Best Pregnancy Diet: 7 Nutrients You Need

by Maureen Healy

Find out how to get your fill of essential pregnancy nutrients from the foods you eat

Whether you're usually a health-conscious eater or a junk food junkie, you're probably already aware that you need to be on your best diet behavior when you're expecting. After all, you now have the job of nourishing your own body and growing a healthy baby. Prenatal vitamins are a helpful way to supplement, but getting your essential nutrients from food is ideal.

"During pregnancy, you get to eat some extra calories, but you need to spend them wisely so you get all the nutrients your baby needs to develop his body and brain, and what you need to stay healthy," says dietitian Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D., author of MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better: Decoding the Dietary Guidelines for Your Real Life.

"Good prenatal nutrition helps you maximize your baby's potential; it's an opportunity that you'll never get back."

Here are some of the most important prenatal nutrients, along with the recommended daily amounts and the foods where you'll find them:

Best Pregnancy Diet Nutrient No. 7: Calcium

Daily Requirement: 1,000 mg

Fact: Must be taken with vitamin D for proper absorption.

Food Sources: Plain yogurt, milk, cheese, kale, tofu, spinach and almonds.

Best Pregnancy Diet Nutrient No. 6: Vitamin D

Daily Requirement: 600 IUs

Fact: Essential to help calcium absorption.

Food Sources: Beef, liver, cheese, egg yolks, fortified milk, cereal, orange juice and yogurt.

Best Pregnancy Diet Nutrient No. 5: Iron

Daily Requirement: 27 mg

Fact: Helps form the parts of red blood cells that deliver oxygen to you and your baby.

Food Sources: Fortified cereal, beans, lentils, tofu, spinach and raisins.

Best Pregnancy Diet Nutrient No. 4: Fiber

Daily Requirement: 28 g

Fact: Alleviates constipation, which is common in pregnancy.

Food Sources: Raspberries, apples, dried figs, whole-grain bread, spaghetti, rice, peas and beans.

Best Pregnancy Diet Nutrient No. 3: Folate

Daily Requirement: 600 mcg

Fact: Critical during the earliest stages of pregnancy to help prevent neural tube defects. (Note that folic acid is the synthetic form of folate found in supplements.)

Food Sources: Leafy green vegetables, beef liver, lentils, asparagus, fortified cereal and orange juice.

Best Pregnancy Diet Nutrient No. 2: Choline

Daily Requirement: 450 mg

Fact: Works with folate to reduce neural tube defects in early pregnancy -- and you can't get enough with a supplement. Animal studies show choline is critical to developing the memory center in the brain.

Food Sources: Egg yolk, broccoli, cauliflower, beef and pork.

Best Pregnancy Diet Nutrient No. 1: DHA

Daily Requirement: 300 mg

Fact: Supports brain, eye and central nervous system health.

Food Sources: Cold water fish, such as tuna, salmon and mackerel. It's OK to eat fish in moderation, but because of concerns about varying mercury levels in seafood, a purified fish oil supplement is the safest way to get this amount daily.


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Women's Health: The Best Pregnancy Diet: 7 Nutrients You Need