When you're pregnant or breastfeeding, it's important to take a close look at your diet to make sure that you and your baby are getting all of the calories and nutrients you need. What changes should you make? To find out, look over the table below, which lists the recommended daily allowances for various nutrients before conception, during pregnancy, and while you're nursing your baby. The table also explains the importance of each of these nutrients.
The best way to improve your diet is by eating a variety of healthy foods. Taking a daily prenatal vitamin recommended by your health care provider will help fill in any nutritional gaps. (If you're a vegetarian or are on another special diet, be sure to talk to your caregiver about additional dietary changes you may need to make.) Remember, too, that "eating for two" doesn't mean twice as much. You need just 300 extra calories a day (400 while nursing) - equal to one glass of milk, a banana, and 10 crackers.
|Nutrient||Non-pregnant Women||Pregnant Women||Lactating Women||Function|
|Vitamin A [micrograms = mcg or retinal equivalents (RE)]||700||770||1300||Aids vision; needed for growth of bones and teeth.|
|Vitamin B6 (milligrams = mg).||1.5||1.9||2.0||Aids in the formation of red blood cells.|
|Vitamin B12 (mcg).||2.4||2.6||2.8||Aids in the formation of red blood cells.|
|Vitamin C (mg)||75||85||120||Needed for wound healing, resistance to infection, and collagen formation.|
|Vitamin D (mcg)||15||15||15||Aids in the growth of bones and teeth.|
|Vitamin E (mg TE)||15||15||19||Needed for the formation and use of red blood cells and muscles.|
|Vitamin K (mcg)||90||90||90||Prevents a rare bleeding disorder in the newborn.|
|Calcium (mg)||1200||1000||1000||Essential for the growth and health of bones and teeth and proper muscle and nerve function.|
|Folate (mcg)||400||600||500||Prevents neural tube defects in the fetus; essential for blood and protein production and cell division.|
|Fiber (g)||Ages 19 to 50: 25; Ages 50 and older: 21||28||29||Improves laxation; reduces risk of coronary heart disease; assists in maintaining normal blood glucose levels.|
|Iodine (mcg)||150||220||290||Required for hormone production.|
|Iron (mg ferrous iron)||18||27||9||Essential for the production of hemoglobin, an important blood protein.|
|Magnesium (mg)||320||350 - 360||310 - 320||Needed for proper nerve and muscle function.|
|Niacin (mg NE)||14||18||17||Promotes healthy skin, nerves, and digestion; helps the body use carbohydrates.|
|Omega-3 fatty acids(g)||1.1||1.4||1.3||Essential for health. Aids with blood clotting and brain cell building. Help protect against heart attack and stroke.|
|Phosphorous (mg)||700||700||700||Essential for the growth and health of bones and teeth.|
|Protein (g)||46||71||71||Needed for overall health and growth; aids in blood production and supplies the "building blocks" for your baby's body.|
|Riboflavin (mg)||1.1||1.4||1.6||Aids in the release of energy to cells.|
|Thiamin (mg)||1.1||1.4||1.4||Helps the body digest carbohydrates.|
|Zinc (mg)||8||11||12||Aids in the production of enzymes and insulin.|
These additional nutrient requirements can be taken in by choosing the right kinds of foods. For instance, green leafy vegetables are both high in folic acid and iron. Calcium can be taken in through dairy products and also through foods such as salmon, beans, and tofu. Dairy products are helpful in getting nutrients such as phosphorous, riboflavin, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D.
[NOTE: Women in their reproductive years should know that the excessive use of vitamin A shortly before and during pregnancy could be harmful to their babies. One thousand RE equals 5,000 international units (IU). More than 10,000 IU should be considered harmful.]
Although pregnancy requires additional nutrients, it doesn't require a drastic change in caloric intake. Remember, don't skip meals and keep saturated fats to a minimum.
Reviewed By: Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. A.D.A.M. Editorial Update: 06/11/2014