or breastfeeding women
need to get between 300 to 500 additional calories per day to meet their energy needs
and support the healthy growth of their baby.
During pregnancy or while breastfeeding your baby, be sure to eat a variety of
What Nutrients Do Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women Need?
The essential nutrients below will help you and your baby thrive. They're found
in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, dairy products, and lean
Calcium helps build strong
bones and teeth, and plays an important role in the healthy functioning of the
circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should
get 1,000 mg of calcium a day. Healthy sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products,
calcium-fortified orange juice and cereals, and spinach.
Eating carbohydrates helps provide energy to support the growth and development
of a baby and, after delivery, breastfeeding. The best sources of carbs are whole
grains, fruits, and vegetables, which also are good sources of fiber.
Fiber is a nutrient that can
help ease the constipation commonly associated with pregnancy. Whole grains (like
whole-wheat bread, whole-grain cereals, and brown rice) and fruits, vegetables, and
legumes (beans, split peas, and lentils) are good sources of fiber.
Folic acid helps the
healthy development of a baby's brain and spinal cord. It's also needed to make red
blood cells and white blood cells. Women who get 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of
folic acid daily prior to conception and during early pregnancy can reduce the risk
that their baby will be born with a neural tube defect (a birth defect involving incomplete
development of the brain and spinal cord). Good sources of folic acid include fortified
cereals, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, beans, and nuts.
Healthy fats (unsaturated fats)
are used to fuel a baby's growth and development. They are especially important for
the development of the brain and nervous system. Healthy fats are found in olive oil,
peanut oil, canola oil, avocados, and salmon. While fat is necessary in any healthy
diet, it's important to limit fat intake to 30% or less of your daily calorie intake.
Iodine helps the body's thyroid gland make hormones that help with growth and brain
development. Not getting enough iodine during pregnancy can put a baby at risk for
thyroid problems and
cognitive delays, some of which can be severe. Pregnant or lactating women should
use iodized salt in their cooking and eat foods high in iodine, like seafood and dairy
products. They also should take a daily prenatal vitamin that includes 150 micrograms
of iodide (a source of iodine that's easily absorbed by the body). If
your prenatal vitamin doesn't have enough, talk to your doctor about taking an additional
Eating a diet rich in iron and
taking a daily iron supplement while pregnant or breastfeeding helps prevent iron-deficiency
anemia. Women who don't get enough iron may feel tired and are at risk for infections.
Good dietary sources of iron include lean meats, fortified cereals, legumes (beans,
split peas, and lentils), and leafy green vegetables.
Protein helps build a baby's muscles, bones, and other tissues, especially in the
second and third trimesters of pregnancy. The recommended protein intake during the
second half of pregnancy and while breastfeeding is 71 grams daily. Healthy sources
of protein include lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, peanut butter, eggs, and tofu.
Vitamin A helps develop a baby's heart, eyes, and immune system. Prenatal vitamins
should not contain more than 1,500 micrograms (5,000 IU) of vitamin A and pregnant
women should not take vitamin A supplements. Both too little and too much vitamin
A can harm a developing fetus. Good sources of vitamin A include milk, orange fruits
and vegetables (such as cantaloupe, carrots, and sweet potatoes), and dark leafy greens.
Vitamin B6 helps form a baby's red blood cells; breaks down protein, fat, and carbohydrates;
and is needed for normal brain development and function. Good sources of vitamin B6
include poultry, fish, whole grains, fortified cereals, and bananas.
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the formation of a baby's red blood cells,
as well as brain development and function. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products
like meat and eggs, so it's important to speak with your doctor about taking a B12
supplement during your pregnancy and while breastfeeding if you're vegetarian or vegan
and don't plan to eat animal products. Good sources of vitamin B12 include lean meats,
poultry, and fish, and fat-free and low-fat milk.
Vitamin C plays an important role in tissue growth and repair, and in bone and
tooth development. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron. Good sources of vitamin
C include citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, and fortified fruit juices.
Vitamin D aids in the body's
absorption of calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Good sources of vitamin D include
fortified low-fat or fat-free milk, fortified orange juice, egg yolks, and salmon.