Dos and don’ts of eating for two: What to choose when you’re pregnant or nursing


By Chad Thomas, MD PeaceHealth OB/GYN

If you’re eating for two, you know a balanced diet of nutritious food is important – for your health and that of your baby.

You can expect to need about 300 more calories per day than before baby came into the picture. (If you’re overweight, talk with your doctor about what’s right for you.)

You’ll want to plan well so every calorie counts. Your baby will be making hormones that make you hungrier, so you’ll eat more without realizing it. The foods you eat should be high in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that will help you stay healthy and help your baby grow.

When you’re pregnant, here are a few “do’s” and “don’ts” to help you get the nutrients you and your baby need.

Eat every day:

• Five or more servings of vegetables and fruits, which have a lot of vitamins and minerals and are a good source of fiber to help your digestive system stay on track. Some vegetables, such as broccoli, are rich in iron and can help prevent anemia.

• Three servings of protein from various sources such as beans, nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs and lean meats cooked well. Protein will help you stay strong and help your baby grow.

• Four servings of calcium for good bone health and growth. Milk and milk products (hard cheeses, yogurt, etc.) are great. If you’re not a milk drinker, other sources include broccoli, kale, chickpeas, quinoa, almonds and molasses.

• Plenty of water (eight 8-ounce glasses per day). Water helps your body function better.

A prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms or more of folic acid to help prevent birth defects.

Limit or avoid:

• Sweets. Candy and cookies are “empty” calories that do little to help you or your baby. They fill you up and spike your blood sugar, then leave you with less energy and hungry again.

• Fish: Some is good, but avoid fish with lots of mercury: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Eat up to 12 ounces of fish per week.

• Caffeine. High levels of caffeine have been linked to miscarriage and stillbirths. It can also disturb your sleep and cause heartburn. Limit your intake to 200 milligrams per day (about 12 ounces of coffee).

• Raw vegetable sprouts, unpasteurized soft cheeses (brie, goat, feta and blue), cold cuts and hot dogs. These can carry listeria, a type of bacteria that can cause miscarriage and other serious health problems.

• Undercooked meat or eggs. These can also carry substances that are harmful to you and your baby.

• Alcohol. It keeps your baby from developing normally.

When nursing:

If you’re nursing, carry over the good eating habits you developed during your pregnancy and continue eating fruits and vegetables, whole grain products and drinking water for milk production and energy. For the health of your baby, continue to avoid fish high in mercury and alcohol.

And if your baby is fussy, you might want to limit or avoid:

• Gassy foods such as broccoli, cabbage and onion

• Caffeine

• Cow’s milk

• Chocolate

• Spicy foods

Interested in learning more about pregnancy? Join PeaceHealth on May 12 for Oh Baby! Planning your Pregnancy. Find registration information at

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