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The Importance of Good Nutrition during Pregnancy

Table of Contents

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What is good nutrition?

We all know what nutrition is, but what is good nutrition? Or better yet, a healthy, balanced lifestyle of eating nutritious foods essential to our bodies? Good nutrition is when your body gets all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs to work its best. A daily diet includes varied fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, protein, and water.  Try to make good choices when considering what you want to eat. Don’t worry; we will get into food sensitivities in a bit.  


Why is nutrition so important during pregnancy?

Good nutrition is the tree trunk of health, and getting your body’s nutrients during pregnancy can help avoid many complications. Good nutrition also plays a crucial role in your baby’s growth and development. It’s that simple! Good health for you and your baby.  Positive lifestyle changes will increase the likelihood of living longer, and sharing those healthy habits with your child teaches them to continue those. 

**Always remember that any good healthy habits you start benefit your baby even more.**

"But I'm eating for two; can't I eat whatever I want?"


The answer is no! It will always be no. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. NO, NO, NO!

I don’t know who created the “Eating for Two” sayings, but it is the last thing your body needs. 

Yes, you are eating for two, but that doesn’t mean you can go and eat three Big Macs and a large chocolate shake. Good pregnancy nutrition means adding about 200 extra calories daily by the second trimester. You don’t need to add anything extra at the beginning. 

Typically, you get a pass in the first trimester because any nutrition is better than nothing if you can keep it down. You want to start looking at healthy food consumption in the second trimester.  

In the third trimester, you will want to increase your intake to 400 more calories.  Those extra calories must come from high-protein, high-calcium, and iron-rich foods. Avoid sugary foods such as candy, cookies, and soft drinks. I know, sometimes you can’t help but want a special treat. Moderation is the key. Treats need to stay special, not turn into an everyday meal.  It doesn’t have to be perfect; sometimes, the only thing to eat is something less nutritious, which is ok as long as you eat.  After that less healthy meal, opt for better the next meal. Talk to your care provider about what is best for you and your baby when adding calories, exercise, and supplements. 


Pro tip: Eat small frequent meals to help maintain blood sugar stabilization. This can help reduce morning sickness and help relieve heartburn. 

3 key nutrients for a healthy pregnancy

  • Protein—It is recommended that you Consume 70-80 grams of protein during pregnancy. Protein is one of the most important nutrients because it builds all your body’s cells. Increasing protein in your diet helps with the blood volume growth of your placenta, uterus, and baby. 
  •  Carbohydrates-carbs are your primary energy source. It is essential to get 200 grams or more daily. Strive for lower sugared carbs, including whole grains, legumes, citrus, starchy veggies, and nuts. 
  • Fats– healthy fats are essential for your baby’s brain development and nervous system and aid in vitamin absorption. Strive to avoid saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, and trans fats. Limit fat intake to under 85 grams. 

Helping with the well-balanced diet for pregnancy

What are the eight essentials for pregnancy, and how much of each do I need? Remember to always chat with your care provider about proper nutrition to meet your needs. But here are the basics for overall nutritional balance…

  1. Vitamin E–400 units
  2. Vitamin C–500 mg
  3. Folate–800 mcg
  4. Iron–75 mg
  5. Calcium–1200 mcg
  6. Magnesium–600 mg
  7. Zinc–20 mg
  8. Fish Oil–900 mg

Sometimes, daily supplements are needed to get all the nutrients your body needs, but above all else, whenever possible, food comes first, followed by supplements. Supplements should only be supplemental! 


Note on supplements: 

  • Vitamin E is best taken with foods that contain fat. 
  • Take vitamin C and iron together to enhance absorption.
  • DO NOT take calcium and iron together; they counteract each other. 

Why is fish oil so important?

Let’s take a second to chat about fish oil; typically, this one needs to be included in most people’s diets. Fish oil isn’t talked about much. Did you know the average American is deficient in omega-3s?

During pregnancy, Omega-3 DHA and EPA fatty acids (found in fish oil) are extremely important. The benefits include…

For Mom:

  • less chance of developing preeclampsia
  • less chance of preterm labor
  • lowers the risk of postpartum depression

For Baby:

  • better brain development
  • better sleep patterns
  • better eyesight
  • fewer behavioral problems 

Serving size examples

Maintaining a healthy pregnancy can be tricky if you aren’t sure how many servings of each food group you need daily. It can only be easier to figure it out if you know what a serving size looks like. This also helps you avoid overeating and getting too many calories daily.  Here is a list of nutrients and the serving sizes you need daily. Keeping a food journal can also help. Sometimes, your provider would like you to keep one to see what foods you are eating and how your body feels about those foods because we all know that a tuna sandwich doesn’t always sit well! 

  • Protein-6 servings daily. One serving size is 3 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards for a piece of meat. Peanut butter is two tablespoons, about the size of a golf ball. Dried fruit and nuts are the sizes of an egg, and one egg is also one serving of protein. 
  • Calcium-3 servings daily. One serving of milk is 1 cup, and cheese is 1.5 ounces, about the size of 4 dice. Butter or oil (one teaspoon) is one die.
  • Fruits and Vegetables-2-3 servings daily. Typically, a serving size is one item, such as one apple. Vegetables: 1 cup or 2 cups leafy greens. 1/2 cup of fruit looks like a tennis ball. And one cup of raw or cooked vegetables looks like a baseball.  
  • Grains—9 servings daily. One slice of bread or one tortilla is one serving. One cup of pasta is about the size of a baseball, and half a bagel is one serving. For rice and cereal, the serving size is 3/4 cup and looks like the size of a closed fist. 

Foods to eat and foods to avoid

Weight gain during pregnancy

Weight gain during pregnancy is a topic not many women want to discuss. But having the mindset that gaining the proper amount of weight is a good thing.  Let’s break down where the extra weight goes to help ease your mind. Now remember that this is an average. Depending on pre-pregnancy height and weight, these numbers can change a bit. Make sure to chat with your care provider about what a healthy weight gain for you is. 

Here is an average breakdown of where the weight goes…

  • Baby 7 to 8 1/2 lbs
  • Placenta 1 to 1 1/2 lbs
  • Uterus 2 lbs
  • Amniotic fluid 2 lbs
  • Breasts 1 lb
  • Blood volume 2 1/2 lbs
  • Fat 5 to 8 lbs
  • Tissue 6 lbs

With a total of 27-31 1/2 lbs!

See, that isn’t so scary once you break it down. Just remember to keep a healthy balance of nutrition and only eat the recommended extra calories, and you will be good to go. Make those extra calories count with healthy, nutritious foods. 

 Your care provider will monitor your weight gain at appointments and at home, especially in the first few months, when you only see your provider every few weeks. You can grab a free weight tracker chart here…

Nutrition for specific needs

Good nutrition is essential during pregnancy, but what if you are limited to certain foods and have food allergies, even if it is difficult to obtain proper nutritious foods? 

This doesn’t mean you will have an unhealthy pregnancy. Your main goal is to eat a well-balanced diet as best as possible. Chat with your care provider about supplements to help keep your diet well-balanced. 

Be creative; for example, if you are vegan, there are plenty of good protein sources. Food allergies are real, even during pregnancy, so avoid the foods you can’t eat and find other nutritious foods and supplements to help you get your proper daily intake. Check out local resources like WIC, food banks, and other organizations to help you get the food you need during hard financial times. 


All women deserve a healthy, happy pregnancy, and nutrition is vital. So reach out to me or someone if you need help during your pregnancy. There are unlimited resources for you! 

My favorite pregnancy nutrition books


I am Leah. Welcome to The Loving Cedar LLC. Here is where you will find parenting tips and tricks to help you simplify life.