Protein — Promote growth

Protein is crucial for your baby's growth throughout pregnancy.

How much you need: 71 grams a day

Good sources: Lean meat, poultry, fish and eggs are great sources of protein. Other options include beans and peas, nuts, seeds and soy products.

Food Serving size Protein content
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28
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 17 g
Lentils 1/2 cup (99 g) boiled lentils 9 g
Milk 1 cup (237 mL) skim milk 8 g
Peanut butter 2 T (32 g) peanut butter 7 g
Eggs 1 large hard-boiled egg (50 g) 6 g

Iron — Prevent iron deficiency anemia

Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. During pregnancy, you need double the amount of iron that nonpregnant women need. Your body needs this iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby.

If you don't have enough iron stores or get enough iron during pregnancy, you could develop iron deficiency anemia. You might become fatigued. Severe iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy also increases your risk of premature birth, having a low birth weight baby and postpartum depression.

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 28
Cereal 1/2 cup (40 g) quick oats fortified with iron 20 mg
Meat 3 oz. (85 g) roasted lean beef tenderloin 3 mg
Spinach 1/2 cup (90 g) boiled spinach 3 mg
Beans 1/2 cup (88.5 g) boiled kidney beans 2 mg
Poultry 3 oz. (85 g) roasted dark turkey 1 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 at least 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, as some herbal supplements might be harmful to your pregnancy.

Feb. 15, 2017 See more In-depth