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Nutrition and Weight Gain During Pregnancy - Topic Overview

A balanced, nutritious diet during pregnancy is important to maintain your health and nourish your fetus. Be sure to increase your daily caloric intake by 300 calories after you become pregnant.

The average woman needs 2,200 calories a day and 2,500 when she is pregnant. If she is carrying twins, her need increases to 3,500 calories, and for triplets or more, she needs 4,500 calories.1 Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about your daily calorie needs because your needs depend on your height, weight, and activity level.

Your doctor may give you a nutrition plan to follow throughout pregnancy and while breast-feeding. You may also receive a prescription for a vitamin and mineral supplement or a list of recommended nonprescription supplements.

Healthy eating

Eating a variety of foods can help you get all the nutrients you need. Your body needs protein, carbohydrate, and fats for energy. Good sources of nutrients are:

  • Unsaturated fats like olive oil and canola oil, nuts, and fish.
  • Carbohydrate from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils), and low-fat milk products.
  • Lean protein such as all types of fish, poultry without skin, low-fat milk products, and legumes.

Eating healthy foods during pregnancy is good for your overall health and for the health of your baby. You may already have a healthy diet, or you may need to make some changes to eat healthier.

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It's also important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. These not only give you necessary nutrients but also help you get fiber. Planning your meals can help you add healthy foods to your diet.

Quick Tips: Adding Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet
Meal Planning: Menu and Grocery List(What is a PDF document?)

Folic acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin. Taking folic acid before and during early pregnancy reduces the chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect or other birth defects.

  • Women of childbearing age should get 0.4 mg (400 mcg) to 0.8 mg (800 mcg) of folic acid from fortified food, supplements, or a mix of food plus supplements.2 This amount is found in most once-a-day multivitamins.
  • Women who are pregnant with twins or more should take 1 mg (1000 mcg) of folic acid daily.3
  • Women who have a family history of neural tube defects, who have had a baby with a neural tube defect, or who are on medicines for seizures should take additional folic acid: a daily dosage of 4 mg (4000 mcg) of folic acid is recommended. Do not try to reach this amount of folic acid by taking more multivitamins, because you could get too much of the other substances that are in the multivitamin.4
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 14, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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