Choosing a nutritious prenatal diet

  • For a nutritious prenatal diet, make every calorie count with wholesome, nutrient-dense choices from all food groups.
  • What you eat over several days matters, not meal by meal.
  • Schedule time to talk about your personal nutrition plan with a Gerber registered dietitian. (Yes, it’s complimentary!)
  • Your pregnancy foods and nutrition should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, which provide important nutrients.

Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much food, but it should mean making your food work twice as hard. Make every calorie count by choosing nutrient-dense foods, in other words get more bang for your calorie buck. By choosing a variety of food from all food groups, you can be assured of a well-balanced, nutritious prenatal diet.

But what if you have no appetite some days or occasionally feel nauseous? Just remember that a quality diet over several days is what counts, not meal by meal.

What’s the right plan for me?
These food group guidelines, from USDA Choose My Plate, are an easy way to get started on a healthy and nutritious pregnancy diet. Of course, your beginning weight, height, age, stage of pregnancy and the number of children you are carrying will determine how many calories and how much food you will need.

Pregnancy Daily Meal Plan

This featured daily meal plan shows slightly more amounts of food during the second and third trimesters to accommodate your changing nutritional needs. Because this is a general plan, you may need more or less than what is featured here.*

Food Group 1st Trimester 2nd and 3rd Trimesters What counts as 1 cup or 1 ounce?
Eat this amount from each group daily.*
Vegetables 2 1/2 cups 3 cups 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables or 100% juice
2 cups raw leafy vegetables.
Fruits 2 cups 2 cups 1 cup fruit or 100% juice
1/2 cup dried fruit.
Grains 6 ounces 8 ounces 1 slice bread
1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal
1/2 cup cooked pasta, rice, or cereal.
Dairy 3 cups 3 cups 1 cup milk
8 ounces yogurt
1 1/2 ounces natural cheese
2 ounces processed cheese.
Protein Foods 5 1/2 ounces 6 1/2 ounces 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or seafood
1/4 cup cooked beans
1/2 ounce nuts or 1 egg
1 tablespoon peanut butter.
*If you are not gaining weight or gaining too slowly, you may need to eat a little more from each food group. If you are gaining weight too fast, you may need to cut back by decreasing the amount of "empty calories" you are eating.

Want to get a Daily Meal Plan for for a nutritious prenatal diet designed just for you?

Sign up at USDA Choose My Plate to have your custom plan created.


Fat, in moderation, can be good for you. Nuts, seeds, avocado and salmon have omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for a nutritious prenatal diet.

Essential pregnancy foods, fruits and veggies

Naturally occurring beneficial compounds, called phytochemicals, are in fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes. Some of these foods also provide antioxidants, such as Vitamin A from Beta-Carotene and Vitamins C and E. Working more vegetables and fruits into your daily prenatal diet can include blending them into a juice or smoothie, tossing some into salads and using them as your go-to snack.

Here’s a handy chart of the benefits of phytochemicals in common fruits and vegetables.

Phytochemical Proposed Benefits Food Sources Good Things to Know
Beta-Carotene Immune System
Skin Health
Bone Health
Sweet Potato
Winter Squash
Collard Greens
Think orange and dark, leafy green veggies
Lycopene Cancer (Prostate)
Heart Health
Pink Grapefruit
Red Peppers
Tomato Products
Cooked tomato products are great because heating makes lycopene easier for the body to absorb
Lutein Eye Health
Heart Health
Collard Greens
Brussels Sprouts
This phytochemical is found in the eye
Resveratrol Heart Health
Lung Health
Red Wine
1 cup of red grapes would be a serving; no red wine!
Anthocyanidins Blood Vessel Health Blueberries
Red Onions
Red Potatoes
Red Radishes
Think anything red and purple
Isoflavones Menopause
Cancer (Breast)
Bone Health
Joint Inflammation
Lower Cholesterol
Soybeans ½ cup of boiled soybeans
offer 47 mg of isoflavones
Reprinted with permission from the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

Pregnancy foods to add to your grocery list:
  • Whole grains such as brown rice, whole-wheat breads and whole-grain pasta.
  • Dairy foods such as non-fat milk, low-fat yogurt and cheese provide Calcium, Vitamin D and protein.
  • Olive oil and canola oil, avocados and fatty fish (such as salmon) can be healthy additions to your diet.

We're here to help

Dorothy can help with questions about food and nutrition needs during pregnancy. She's your Personal Baby Expert, and is backed by our Registered Dietitians!

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