Nutrition and Exercise During Pregnancy

Healthy eating is always important. When you’re pregnant, it’s even more so. That doesn’t mean overeating, and it doesn’t mean you have to maintain a perfect diet. But you should try your best to make healthy choices most of the time, and pay attention to certain nutrients and foods you need most right now. The highlights of a smart pregnancy diet:

Calories Count

A good rule of thumb is to add 300 extra calories a day to your diet to support your pregnancy—just be sure you mostly choose nutrient-dense foods (ideally, whole and unprocessed) and limit foods with empty calories like soda, sweetened drinks, candy and junk food.

Aim for Balance

Choose from a wide range of foods, emphasizing whole grains, protein, fruits and veggies, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats (such as olive oil, nuts and avocados).

Remember Key Nutrients

The big three for pregnancy are folic acid, iron and calcium. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects; you need at least 600 mg a day, which you can get from fortified bread and cereal, as well as your prenatal vitamin. Your iron intake (27 mg a day) is crucial to make extra blood to supply your baby with oxygen. Prenatal vitamins take care of your iron needs, as do foods like lean red meat and poultry, dried beans and cheese, and leafy veggies like spinach.

Calcium is necessary for your baby to develop teeth, bones, nerves and muscle tissue. Try to get 1,000 mg a day, which you can get with three daily servings of dairy or calcium-fortified foods.


Not only is it safe for you to work out while pregnant, it’s good for you and your baby to keep moving. Exercise keeps your heart healthy, your weight gain in check, your mind clear, and stress at bay. It may also help ease some pregnancy complaints, such as back pain and constipation. Just check with your doctor first (women with multiple or high-risk pregnancies should get the all-clear), but feel free to hit the gym, the walking/jogging track, the dance class, the pool, etc.

Finding your weight-gain sweet spot isn’t about how quickly you’ll lose pregnancy pounds postpartum.

Too much weight presents problems, such as a risk for a large baby, a preterm birth, or gestational diabetes and high blood pressure issues. Gaining too little is a major risk factor for low birth weight and premature birth.

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule; how much you should gain depends on where you started.

Here are basic guidelines:

  • If you are normal weight: Aim to gain 25-35 pounds
  • If you are underweight or pregnant with twins or more: Aim to gain 35-45 pounds
  • If you are overweight: Aim to gain 10-20 pounds

Talk with your healthcare provider about the amount of weight gain that’s right for you.

Coping with Morning Sickness

Also called NVP (nausea and vomiting in pregnancy), morning sickness usually kicks in around six weeks, fades away by the second trimester, and poses zero harm to your baby. (That said, be sure you tell your doctor if you are so sick you can’t eat or drink. That condition, called hyperemesis gravidarum, can be dangerous).

To deal with garden-variety queasiness, follow these tips:

Keep snacks near your bed.
Nibbling a few plain crackers and sipping water before you even get up can help settle your stomach. Avoid fatty foods. These take a long time to digest, triggering nausea. (Bland foods like bananas, rice and cereal are good choices).

Eat smaller, frequent meals.
Don’t let your stomach get totally empty or overly stuffed. Eating five or six modest meals can keep you feeling well-nourished.

Drink plenty of fluids.
It's important to stay hydrated, so focus on drinking plenty of water.

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