Parkview Health Logo

Can pregnant women eat …

Last Modified: March 20, 2023

Women & Children


Start typing the title of this post into a search engine and you’ll find a smattering of results, ranging from fish to feta, and everything in between. Expecting mothers are incredibly concerned about the things they’re consuming during their pregnancy and how those foods, and the amount of them, impacts their developing little one. We took some of the most common nutrition questions to Abby Mitchell, NP, PPG – OB/GYN, Huntington, for her expert take on portions, prenatal nutrients, hydration and more. 

Why is nutrition during pregnancy so important?

The demands on a woman’s body during pregnancy change her nutritional needs. Consuming adequate nutrition to meet those demands promotes normal fetal development, while poor nutrition can increase risks for both mom and baby.

Do I need to eat more calories while I’m pregnant?

Expecting mothers should follow a healthy dietary pattern. This includes eating a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, grains and dairy, as well as healthy fats found in nuts and some seafoods (salmon, for example). Avoiding overly processed foods and trying to eat more whole foods is beneficial.

The recommended calorie intake during pregnancy varies from patient to patient. A patient with a BMI in the normal range (20-24.9) would need about 2,200 to 2,900 calories per day. A patient with a lower BMI will likely need more calories, and a patient with a higher BMI may need less calories. The common saying, “You’re eating for two,” isn’t really accurate. It’s important to talk with your OB provider about your individual recommendations for nutrition and weight gain during your pregnancy.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming about 70 grams of protein and 175 grams of carbohydrates per day while pregnant. And don’t forget about hydration! Most expecting women should drink about 2.3 liters (76 ounces or about 10 cups) of water a day.

Do I have any special nutrition needs now that I’m pregnant?

Folic acid is an important nutrient prior to and during pregnancy. Starting a prenatal vitamin a few months before trying to conceive can ensure adequate levels of folic acid to help with your baby’s neurological development. If there is a family history of neural tube defects, talk with your OB care provider to see if you may need a higher dose than what most prenatal vitamins contain.

Additionally, iron is vital for fetal brain and placenta development, as it helps generate an increase in maternal blood volume to support pregnancy. Most prenatal vitamins contain iron in appropriate doses, however, many prenatal gummy vitamins are missing this important supplement, so be sure to check the labels.

Are there any foods I should avoid during pregnancy?

The March of Dimes recommends avoiding the following foods during pregnancy:

  • Raw or undercooked beef, poultry and pork (including hot dogs and deli meat). All meat should be fully cooked before consumed.
  • Raw fish and shellfish
  • Fish that is high in mercury (shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish)
  • Meat spreads or smoked seafood
  • Raw eggs (including raw cookie dough and cake batter)
  • Unpasteurized cheese like brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, queso fresco and panela
  • Unpasteurized juice or milk
  • Alcoholic beverages and wine
  • Limit caffeine to no more than 200mg per day (equivalent to 12 ounces of coffee)
Any additional information that would be helpful?

If you have concerns about personal dietary restrictions (vegetarian or vegan, food allergies or intolerances), please speak with your OB care provider to discuss ways to manage this and still get the necessary nutrition to support you during pregnancy.


Additional reading

Considering pregnancy? Start from a healthy place

Prioritizing health before, during and after pregnancy

Nutrition in pregnancy: Dietary requirements and supplements - UpToDate

Eating healthy during pregnancy | March of Dimes

Related Blog Posts

View all posts