Your Healthy Pregnancy Diet: Top Nutrients

Eating a healthy, balanced diet while you're pregnant protects you and your growing baby. Although you should take a prenatal vitamin as insurance, choosing the right foods will help give you the complex mix of nutrients that pregnant women need. Aim for meals high in these important nutrients:

Calcium

Baby Benefits: Builds bones and teeth. (Your growing baby takes the calcium she needs from your body, so to keep your bones and teeth healthy, you need to get enough to replace that amount.)

Your Benefits: Protects your bone density. It may also help prevent high blood pressure while you're pregnant.

Pregnancy RDA: 1,000 milligrams (mg); don't exceed 2,500 mg

Best Food Sources:

  • Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 1 cup -- 415 mg
  • Yogurt, low-fat fruit flavored, 1 cup -- 345 mg
  • Milk, plain or flavored, 1 cup -- about 300 mg
  • Orange juice, calcium-added, 1 cup -- 300 mg
  • Cheddar cheese, 1 oz -- 204 mg
  • Tofu, firm, prepared with calcium sulfate and magnesium chloride, 1/4 block -- 163 mg
  • Cottage cheese, 2% milk fat, 1 cup -- 156 mg

Choline

Baby Benefits: Helps prevent problems in the spinal cord and brain, called neural tube defects, and enhances brain development.

Your Benefits: Builds strong bones and may help prevent high blood pressure.

Pregnancy RDA: 450 mg; don't exceed 3,500 mg

Best Food Sources:

  • Egg, 1 cooked -- 272 mg
  • Pork tenderloin, 3 oz cooked -- 103 mg
  • Atlantic cod, 3 oz cooked -- 84 mg
  • Ground beef, 3 oz cooked -- 83 mg
  • Salmon, 3 oz cooked -- 65 mg
  • Chicken, 3 oz cooked -- 65 mg
  • Broccoli or cauliflower, 1 1/4 cup cooked -- 40 mg

Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)

DHA is one of the omega-3 fatty acids.

Baby Benefits: Helps boost brain development and vision.

Your Benefits: May reduce your risk of heart disease in the future.

Pregnancy RDA: 300 mg

Best Food Sources:

  • Coho salmon, farmed, 3 oz cooked -- 740 mg
  • Blue crab, 3 oz cooked -- 196 mg
  • Canned light tuna, drained, 3 oz -- 190 mg
  • Catfish, 3 oz cooked -- 116 mg
  • Fortified eggs -- 85 mg to 200 mg

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Folic Acid

Baby Benefits: Helps protect against spinal cord birth defects during the first 30 days of pregnancy, helps prevent early miscarriage and premature delivery.

Your Benefits: Prevents anemia.

Pregnancy RDA: 600 micrograms (mcg)

Best Food Sources

  • Lentils, 1 cup cooked -- 358 mcg
  • Spinach, 1 cup cooked -- 263 mcg
  • White enriched rice, 1 cup cooked -- 195 mcg
  • Enriched spaghetti, 1 cup cooked -- 172 mcg
  • Broccoli, 1 cup cooked -- 168 mcg
  • Orange juice, 1 cup -- 110 mcg
  • Enriched bread, 2 slices -- 34 mcg

Iodine

Baby Benefits: Needed for brain and nervous system development; important for preventing stunted growth, severe mental disability, and deafness; important in preventing miscarriage and stillbirth.

Your Benefits: Important for a healthy thyroid.

Pregnancy RDA: 250 mcg, do not exceed 1,100 mcg

Best Food Sources

  • Cod, 3 oz -- 99 mcg
  • Yogurt, plain, ¾ cup -- 58 mcg
  • Cottage cheese, 1 cup -- 65 mcg
  • Baked potato with peel 60 mcg
  • Cow's milk, 1 cup -- 56 mcg
  • Fish Sticks, 2 -- 35 mcg
  • Baked turkey breast, 3 oz -- 34 mcg
  • Navy beans, ½ cup cooked -- 32 mcg

Iron

Baby Benefits: Helps prevent premature delivery.

Your Benefits: Wards off anemia in pregnant women.

Pregnancy RDA: 27 mg; don't exceed 45 mg

Best Food Sources

  • Whole Grain Total Cereal, 3/4 cup -- 22 mg
  • Cheerios, 1 cup -- 10 mg
  • Enriched rice, 1 cup cooked -- 8 mg
  • Canned white beans, 1 cup -- 8 mg
  • Beef, 3 oz cooked -- 3 mg
  • Lamb, 3 oz cooked -- 2 mg
  • White meat chicken, 3 oz. cooked -- 1 mg

Potassium

Your Benefits: Helps keep blood pressure in check and maintain proper fluid balance; necessary for normal heart beat and energy.

Pregnancy RDA: 4,700 mg

Best Food Sources:

  • White beans, 1 cup canned -- 1,189 mg
  • Winter squash, 1 cup -- 896 mg
  • Spinach, 1 cup cooked -- 839 mg
  • Lentils, 1 cup cooked -- 731 mg
  • Sweet potato, 1 medium cooked -- 694 mg
  • Yogurt, fat-free, 1 cup -- 579 mg
  • Orange juice, 1 cup -- 496 mg
  • Broccoli, 1 cup cooked -- 457 mg
  • Cantaloupe, 1 cup -- 431 mg
  • Raisins, 1 cup -- 250 mg

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Riboflavin

Your Benefits: Needed to produce energy; helps your body use the protein from food.

Pregnancy RDA: 1.4 mg

Best Food Sources:

  • Raisin bran cereal, 1 cup -- 1.7 mg
  • Yogurt, plain, 1 cup -- 0.5 mg
  • Mushrooms, 1 cup cooked -- 0.5 mg
  • 1% milk, 1 cup -- 0.5 mg
  • Frosted Mini Wheats cereal, 1 cup -- 0.5 mg
  • Cottage cheese, low-fat, 1 cup -- 0.4 mg

Vitamin B6

Your Benefits: Helps produce protein for new cells, boosts the immune system, and helps form red blood cells.

Pregnancy RDA: 1.9 mg

Best Food Sources:

  • Product 19 cereal, 1 cup -- 2 mg
  • Garbanzo beans, canned, 1 cup -- 1.1 mg
  • Baked potato with flesh and skin, 1 medium -- 0.6 mg
  • Beef, top sirloin, 3 oz cooked -- 0.5 mg
  • Chicken breast, 3 oz cooked -- 0.5 mg
  • Pork tenderloin, 3 oz cooked -- 0.4 mg
  • Halibut, 3 oz cooked -- 0.3 mg

Vitamin B12

Your Benefits: Helps produce red blood cells and helps your body use fat and carbohydrates for energy.

Pregnancy RDA: 2.6 mcg

Best Food Sources:

  • Salmon, 3 oz cooked -- 5 mcg
  • Rainbow trout, 3 oz cooked -- 4 mcg
  • Light tuna, canned and drained, 3 oz -- 3 mcg
  • Beef, 3 oz cooked -- 2 mcg
  • Wheat Chex cereal, 1 cup -- 1 mcg

Vitamin C

Your Benefits: Makes it easier for your body to absorb iron from plant foods; builds strong bones and teeth; boosts immunity; keeps blood vessels strong and red blood cells healthy.

Pregnancy RDA: 85 mg; do not not exceed 2,000 mg

Best Food Sources:

  • Sweet red pepper, 1 cup raw -- 283 mg
  • Orange juice, 1 cup -- 124 mg
  • Strawberries, 1 cup -- 106 mg
  • Grapefruit juice, 1 cup -- 94 mg
  • Broccoli, 1 cup cooked -- 74 mg
  • Orange, 1 medium -- 70 mg
  • Tomato, 1 medium -- 32 mg

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Vitamin D

Baby Benefits: Helps your baby's body use calcium to build bones and teeth.

Your Benefits: Helps your body absorb calcium from food and use it to build your bones and teeth.

Pregnancy RDA: 600 international units (IU); don't exceed 4,000 IU

Best Food Sources:

  • Milk, plain or flavored, 1 cup -- 100 IU
  • Fortified orange juice, 1 cup -- 137 IU
  • Fortified breakfast cereals, 1 cup -- 40 to 50 IU
  • Egg,1 large (vitamin D is in the yolk) -- 18 IU

Zinc

Baby Benefits: Brain development.

Your Benefits: Necessary to grow and repair cells and produce energy.

Pregnancy RDA: 11 mg; don't exceed 40 mg

Best Food Sources:

  • Cooked oysters, 3 oz -- 76 mg
  • Whole Grain Total Cereal, 3/4 cup -- 17 mg
  • Beef, 3 oz cooked -- 9 mg
  • Crab, 3 oz cooked -- 5 mg
  • Pork, 3 oz cooked -- 4 mg
  • White beans, 1 cup canned -- 3 mg
  • Yogurt, plain, fat-free,1 cup -- 2 mg

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