Eating Smart for Prenatal Health

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Now that you’ve got a pea in the pod, it’s time to talk nutrition.

Maybe your diet before pregnancy was a little less than ideal. Or maybe you ate a decent amount of fruits and vegetables, but you’re worried it’s still not enough now that you’re eating for two. We can all improve our diets, but you don’t have to completely overhaul yours to make sure your little one is getting adequate nutrients. Simply adding a few key foods to your diet — along with taking a prenatal vitamin prescribed by your doctor — can make all the difference.

What Does Eating “Smart” Mean?

Smart eating means getting the most out of the calories you take in. If you’re pregnant, you should choose a variety of high-nutrient foods such as lean meats, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. You should also up your calorie intake during pregnancy, but not too much. Eating for two doesn’t mean you should eat twice as much. In fact, you shouldn’t add any calories to your diet in the first trimester. In the second trimester, women who are a normal weight should aim for an additional 340 calories per day. Add another 112 calories to that in your third trimester, until you’re taking in somewhere between 2,200 and 2,900 calories daily.

Prenatal Nutrients

Eating smart also means incorporating key foods into your diet that contain important prenatal nutrients. Folic acid is one of those nutrients, shown to support placenta health and prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Calcium is essential for your bones, fundamental for the development of your baby’s bones, teeth and tissue, and it also protects against blood clots. Iron is another crucial prenatal nutrient because it helps prevent low birth weight and premature delivery. Pregnant women should also eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which break down into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the body. EPA and DHA support the healthy development of your unborn baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system.

Consult the following chart to see how much of each nutrient you need and where you can find them:


Amount Per Day


How Much?


1,000 milligrams (mg)

Greek yogurt

6 oz. = 187 mg


1 fl. oz. = 34 mg


1 cup = 30 mg

Canned sardines

1 can = 351 mg

Folic acid

600 micrograms (mcg)

Black-eyed peas

1/2 cup = 131 mcg


1 oz. = 41 mcg


1 cup = 58 mcg


1 cup = 104 mcg


1/2 cup = 47 mcg

Orange juice

3/4 cup = 35 mcg


27 mg

Ground beef

1/2 lb. = 3.7 mg


1 cup = 14.5 mg


1 cup = 2.1 mg

Dried apricots

1 cup = 3.5 mg


1 cup = 0.8 mg

Omega-3 fatty acids

200 mg / 0.2 grams (g)


4 oz. = 1.5 g

Ground flax seeds

2 tbs. = 3.2 g


1/2 cup = 4.4 g


1 cup = 1 g

Your little one deserves the personalized care Helena Regional Medical Center offers. Call (870) 338-5800 for more information about our birthing center.