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Foods to eat (and avoid!) when pregnant

It’s hard to remember which foods to eat while pregnant vs. which ones to avoid. Let’s review.


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May 9, 2017

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Baby plus you makes two, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat for two.

It’s actually a myth that pregnant women should double the amount of food they eat each day, Park Nicollet registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist Anna Lebsack, RD, LD, says.

“Healthy women typically gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. This means you only need to eat an additional 300 calories each day,” she says. “That’s not much, considering there are more than 300 calories in a coffee shop mocha.”

Below, Lebsack gives tips on how expecting moms can make the extra calories they’re eating count. And she answers some of the common questions she gets about nutrition during pregnancy.

Are pregnancy cravings real?

I haven’t encountered a pregnant woman yet who did not have pregnancy cravings! Morning sickness in your first trimester can make it difficult to eat fruits and vegetables. This is why you may tend to crave carbs early on. When it is hard to eat or drink without feeling sick, don’t worry about denying yourself. Instead, just limit the portion sizes of the unhealthy foods you crave. What’s most important is that unhealthy foods aren’t your main source of extra calories.

Is fish okay to eat?

Yes, you can eat fish while you are pregnant. In fact, you should eat 8-12 ounces of fish each week. Fatty fish like salmon and herring have a lot of omega-3 fats. These are the fats that are important for growing babies. But, be cautious of the mercury levels and serving size of some fish. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends you don’t eat bottom-dwelling fish like mackerel and swordfish because of their high mercury levels. And if you eat albacore tuna, don’t eat more than 6 ounces per month. You can find a bunch of yummy recipes for fish at chooseyourfish.org.

What vitamins are important?

Your doctor will recommend you take a prenatal vitamin each day to give your baby the extra nutrients needed for growth. Depending on your vitamin, you may also need to eat certain foods to get additional supplements, like:

  • Omega-3: These are found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed meal or oil, and soybeans or soybean oil.
  • Iron: Increase your iron by eating a diet rich in meat, beans, lentils and dark green leafy vegetables. Iron is also supplemented in whole-grain breakfast foods, like oatmeal or certain cereals.
  • Folic Acid: Dark green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of folic acid. So are citrus fruits, lentils and whole grain breakfast foods.

More about Anna Lebsack, RD, LD

Anna Lebsack is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist. She has been with our organization since 2011 and recently gave birth to her first child. She says that has given her a new perspective on helping pregnant women take steps to achieve their health goals. “It’s been really fun in this stage of life to work with my patients who are pregnant because I can relate to many of their struggles,” Lebsack said.

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