The Do's and Don'ts of Prenatal Nutrition

DO strive for variety.

Along with taking your prenatal supplement, the best way to make sure that you'll get all the proper nutrients is to eat the following daily (see page 2 for serving size information):

  • 9 servings from the whole-grains group--bread, cereal, rice and pasta 
  • 2–3 servings of protein-rich foods from the meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts group
  • 4 servings of vegetables
  • 3 servings from the fruit group
  • 3 servings from the milk, yogurt and cheese group.

DON'T forgo water and fiber.

Drink at least eight glasses of water daily to help prevent dehydration. This can also can help prevent constipation, as can eating high-fiber foods such as whole-wheat and whole-grain breads and pastas, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Fiber also helps you feel full, so you may be less likely to overeat. Aim for at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber every day (3?4 cup of bran cereal, for example, contains an average of 5 grams of fiber).

DO avoid risky foods.

Unpasteurized soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, feta, blue-veined and Mexican-style cheeses, can harbor listeria, a bacterium that causes listeriosis, a serious infection that can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery or stillbirth. Deli meats also may pose a risk, so buy prepackaged cold cuts rather than those from the deli counter, or heat deli-counter meats thoroughly before eating them. "To minimize the risk of listeriosis, cook all leftovers and deli foods to at least 140? F," Hertz says. For the same reason, never eat raw or undercooked meat, seafood (that includes sushi!) or eggs.

DON'T eat high-mercury fish.

These include shark, king mackerel, tilefish and swordfish. Federal guidelines recommend limiting low-mercury fish to 12 ounces a week. Safe choices include canned light tuna (limit albacore tuna, which is higher in mercury, to 6 ounces a week, maximum), catfish, pollock, salmon and shellfish. For more on seafood consumption during pregnancy, including the best sources of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, go to

How Much is a Serving?

Dairy: 1 cup milk, soy milk or yogurt; 1 1?2 ounces natural cheese; or 2 ounces processed cheese
Protein: 2-3 ounces cooked lean meat, poultry or fish; 1?2 cup tofu; 2 eggs; or 2 tablespoons peanut butter
Fruits: 1 medium-size piece (such as an apple or banana); 1?2 cup chopped fruit; 1?2 cup cooked fruit (such as applesauce); or 3?4 cup fruit juice
Vegetables: 1 cup raw leafy vegetables;  1?2 cup raw or cooked vegetables; or 3?4 cup vegetable juice
Whole Grains: 1 slice bread; 1?2 cup cooked cereal (such as oatmeal); or 1?2 cup pasta or brown rice

Kim Galeaz, R.D., is a nutritionist in Indianapolis.

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