Protein — Promote growth

Protein is crucial for your baby's growth, especially during the second and third trimesters.

How much you need: 71 grams a day

Good sources: Lean meat, poultry, fish and eggs are great sources of protein. Other options include dried beans and peas, tofu, dairy products, and peanut butter.

Food Serving size Protein content
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26
Cottage cheese 1 cup (226 g) low-fat, 1% milk cottage cheese 28 g
Poultry 3 oz. (86 g) boneless, skinless grilled chicken breast 26 g
Fish 3 oz. (85 g) canned pink salmon with bones 16.8 g
Lentils 1/2 cup (99 g) boiled lentils 8.9 g
Milk 1 cup (237 mL) skim milk 8.3 g
Peanut butter 2 T (32 g) smooth, vitamin- and mineral-fortified peanut butter 8.2 g
Eggs 1 large hard-boiled egg (50 g) 6.3 g

Iron — Prevent anemia

Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. During pregnancy your blood volume expands to accommodate changes in your body and help your baby make his or her entire blood supply — doubling your need for iron.

If you don't get enough iron, you might become fatigued and more susceptible to infections. The risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight also might be higher.

How much you need: 27 milligrams a day

Good sources: Lean red meat, poultry and fish are good sources of iron. Other options include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, beans and vegetables.

Food Serving size Iron content
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 26
Cereal 3/4 cup (15 to 60 g) 100 percent iron-fortified quick oats 29.7 mg
Beans 1/2 cup (88.5 g) boiled kidney beans 2.9 mg
Spinach 1/2 cup (95 g) boiled spinach 1.9 mg
Meat 3 oz. (85 g) roasted lean beef tenderloin 2.6 mg
Poultry 3 oz. (85 g) roasted dark turkey 0.9 mg

Prenatal vitamins typically contain iron. In some cases, your health care provider might recommend a separate iron supplement.

The iron from animal products, such as meat, is most easily absorbed. To enhance the absorption of iron from plant sources and supplements, pair them with a food or drink high in vitamin C — such as orange juice, tomato juice or strawberries. If you take iron supplements with orange juice, avoid the calcium-fortified variety. Although calcium is an essential nutrient during pregnancy, calcium can decrease iron absorption.

Supplements — Ask your health care provider

Even if you eat a healthy diet, you can miss out on key nutrients. Taking a daily prenatal vitamin — ideally starting three months before conception — can help fill any gaps. Your health care provider might recommend special supplements if you follow a strict vegetarian diet or have a chronic health condition. If you're considering taking an herbal supplement during pregnancy, consult your health care provider first.

March 01, 2014 See more In-depth