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Pregnancy Health and Nutrition

Is it true you can “eat anything you want” when you are pregnant?

Actually – no! During pregnancy, your baby is counting on you for the nutrients he or she needs to grow healthy and strong. You should eat more (roughly 300 additional calories per day than you would normally eat), but your choices should be healthy ones. 


What are the basic guidelines?

  • Eat 4-6 smaller meals a day to help relieve heartburn and discomfort you feel as your baby grows.
  • Try to eat foods from each of the five food groups every day. The five food groups include grains, vegetables, fruits, milk products and proteins.
  • Be sure you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals you’ll need to keep you and baby healthy, such as folic acid and calcium. Take a prenatal vitamin everyday as a part of a healthy pregnancy.
  • It is extremely important to avoid cigarettes (your own or other people’s), which are one of the leading causes of pre-term birth and can cause serious health problems for your baby.
  • Avoid alcohol and street drugs.
  • Limit caffeine to 200mg a day. That’s about one 12 oz. cup of coffee.     
  • Limit sodas and juice, and aim for 6-8 glasses of water a day.
  • Limit “junk food” as much as possible.

So what should I eat during my pregnancy?

Each day, you should eat:

  • 6 ounces of grains (1 ounce= 1 slice of bread, 1 cup cereal, ½ cup cooked cereal, ½ cup pasta or rice)
  • 2-3 cups of vegetables
  • 2 cups of fruits
  • 3 cups of dairy products (1 cup= 1 cup of milk, 8 ounces yogurt, 1 ½ ounces cheese, 2 ounces processed cheese)
  • 5 ½ ounce protein (1 ounce = 1 ounce meat, 1 egg, ¼ cup cooked dry beans or tofu, 1 tablespoon peanut butter)

What should I avoid?

  • These foods if they are raw or undercooked: eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, and sprouts
  • Soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Feta, Gorgonzola and Mexican style cheeses that include queso blanco and queso fresco, unless they clearly state that they are made from pasteurized milk.
  • Unpasteurized milk or juice
  • Deli meats and hot dogs, unless reheated until meat is steaming
  • Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
  • Food-borne illnesses by making sure you’re taking extra steps to handle food safely and keep food fresh.

How much weight should I expect to gain?

It depends - you should discuss this with your doctor. If you were underweight or overweight before your pregnancy, there will be special guidelines for you. But typically, women should gain 25-35 pounds during their pregnancy.

Anything else to think about?

Now that you are pregnant, you might be eligible for WIC (for assistance with nutrition, click here to go to our WIC page) or BadgerCare Plus (for health insurance assistance, click here to go to our Community Health Access page). 

While you are pregnant, it’s a good time to start thinking about feeding your baby AFTER he or she is born. Consider breastfeeding - it’s the safest, most natural, healthiest choice for new babies. Breast milk is nature’s perfect food for babies. Breastfed babies have fewer allergies, fewer illnesses, and are less likely to have asthma, than bottle-fed babies.

Where can I find more nutrition resources?

Where can I find more breastfeeding resources?

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