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Nutrition During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, most women need to eat more healthy food to help the baby grow. During pregnancy, a woman needs approximately 300 additional calories each day. These extra calories are needed to reach the recommended amount of weight gain during pregnancy (usually 25 to 35 pounds). It is not a good idea to lose weight during pregnancy. Talk to your health professional about how much weight you should gain.

By following a healthy diet and gaining the appropriate amount of weight, you can help prevent high blood pressure and other problems during pregnancy.

A pregnant woman also needs additional iron and folic acid. Your health care professional will prescribe a daily prenatal vitamin and or other vitamin and mineral supplements to help meet these additional needs.

A Healthy Meal Plan for Pregnancy

During your pregnancy, eating a variety of foods is beneficial to meet the needs for you and your baby. The Choose My Plate program reminds you that it is important to include foods from all groups to meet the additional needs. The web site includes many resources for you during pregnancy and breastfeeding and also provides guides for feeding for preschoolers and older children.

Everyone’s calorie needs are different. This chart shows what one serving includes from the choose my plate program. It also lists the minimum number of servings you should eat from each group every day. Your individual needs will be different. A registered dietitian can help you learn how many servings from each food group you should consume on a daily basis.

Food Group

Serving Size

Minimum Servings per Day

Grains (Breads, Cereals, Rice, Pasta) 1 ounce = 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal at least 5 ounces every day
Vegetables 1 cup = 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens at least 2 ½ cups every day
Fruits 1 cup = 1 cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit at least 1 ½ cups every day
Dairy (Milk, yogurt, cheese) 1 cup = 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 1 ½ ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese at least 3 cups every day
Protein (Meat, Poultry, Fish, Meat Subs) 1 ounce = 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked dry beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of beans, nuts or seeds at least 5 ounces every day
Fats and Oils 1 teaspoon = 1 teaspoon oil, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise-based salad dressing, 1/3 ounce of nuts, ½ tablespoon peanut butter, 1 teaspoon margarine at least 5 teaspoons every day

Recommended Foods from My Plate

When you are pregnant, your diet has to nourish you and the baby. For this reason, it is important to choose specific foods from each food group that will supply more vitamins and minerals. Use the points below to make the healthiest food choices for you and your baby.

  • Choose bread and cereal products that are fortified with iron. Look at the Nutrition Facts Label to see how much iron is in a food product. These iron-fortified foods, along with your prenatal vitamin, will help meet the increased iron needs of pregnancy.
  • Drink 8-12 cups of water and other beverages a day. Limit your intake of beverages that contain caffeine.
  • Choose at least 1 fruit or vegetable that is a good source of vitamin C. Examples include:
    • Oranges
    • Orange Juice
    • Broccoli
    • Green, leafy vegetables
    • Most melons
    • 100% fruit juice that is fortified with vitamin C
  • Include foods rich in folic acid (folate) in your diet daily. Examples include:
    • Leafy, dark green vegetables
    • Dried beans and peas
    • Citrus fruits and juices
    • Most berries
    • Fortified ready-to-eat cereals and cereal bars
  • Choose at least 1 fruit or vegetable each day that is a good source of vitamin A. Examples include:
    • Leafy, dark green vegetables
    • Orange vegetables and fruits
    • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • Choose foods that are high in fiber. These will help prevent constipation. Examples include:
    • Whole grain breads and cereal products
    • Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
    • Cooked beans, peas, and legumes

Foods Not Recommended

The following foods and beverages are not recommended during pregnancy.

Food Group

Food and Beverages To Be Avoided or Limited



  • Alcohol


  • Caffeine
  • Herbal Teas
Fish, Meat, and Poultry


  • Raw or uncooked meats, fish (including sushi), poultry, or eggs
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • King Mackerel
  • Tilefish


  • All other fish should be limited to 12 ounces per week or less
Milk and Dairy Products


  • Raw and unpasteurized cheese and other dairy products such as the following cheeses: feta, brie, blue cheese, and Mexican cheeses


  • Sugar substitutes, unless otherwise advised by your doctor

To read more about Mercury content in fish and recommendations during pregnancy go to the Food and Drug Administration's website.

Other Items to Avoid:

  • Tobacco
  • Herbal supplements
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements that are NOT recommended by your physician, nurse, or midwife

Sample 1-day menu

Breakfast 2 cups fortified cereal
8 ounces fat-free or 1% milk
8 ounces orange juice
Hot Beverage
Snack Small bagel
1-2 ounces hard cheese
Lunch Whole sandwich with 3 ounces tuna*, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise
1 cup carrot and celery sticks
Fresh apple
8 ounces fat-free or 1% milk
Snack 8 ounces tomato or vegetable juice
Dinner 3-4 ounces roast beef
1 cup mashed potatoes
½ cup broccoli
1 cup tossed salad with dressing
Dinner roll
½ c sliced peaches
8 ounces fat-free or 1% milk
Snack 3 graham cracker sheets
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
8 ounces fat-free or 1% milk

Note: Additional fluids should be consumed throughout the day;
* 3 ounces of tuna counts towards the total 12 ounces or less of fish per week that should be consumed during pregnancy

Food safety

A pregnant woman and her baby are at a greater risk for food-borne illness. Harmful bacteria that can be present on food can cause pregnancy complications and even death of the baby. Follow these cooking tips to keep your food safe.

  • Wash hands in soapy, warm water before cooking
  • Keep counters and cooking areas clean and sanitized
  • Cook meats, fish, or poultry until well done to prevent the risk of food borne illness
  • Keep all meat, fish, and poultry refrigerated until you are ready to cook it.
  • Defrost all meat, fish, and poultry in the refrigerator and not on the counter.
  • Fresh meat, fish, and poultry must be consumed within 48 hours of being purchased or should be frozen.
  • Heat hot dogs and deli/luncheon meats until steaming hot or do not eat at all.
  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.
  • Store food promptly after eating. Place hot food in shallow containers so that they will cook quickly in the refrigerator. Do not stack containers of warm food in the refrigerator.
  • Use leftovers quickly.
  • Do not store eggs on the refrigerator door.
  • Keep your refrigerator at 35-40 F.
  • If you question the freshness or safety of a food product at all, avoid it. Remember, when in doubt, throw it out.
  • Visit the USDA's website for additional information:

Special Diets

If you have a special diet need, talk with your doctor or registered dietitian about a healthy diet that is right for you and your baby.

After Delivery

After your baby is born, eating a healthy diet is still important. A balanced meal plan will allow your body to heal properly. If you choose to breastfeed the baby, the diet you eat will also help nourish your baby. You will need plenty of fluids and approximately 500 additional calories each day during the period of breastfeeding.

Revised March 2012​​

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Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

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