A pregnant woman comfortably seated while holding her baby bump.

The Dos and Don'ts of Eating For Two

If you’re pregnant, you probably have plenty of questions about what you should or shouldn’t eat and drink during pregnancy, especially if you’re a first-time mom. Friends and family members may already be bombarding you with dos and don’ts during your pregnancy. To help you know what’s safe and what should be avoided while eating for two, we’ve compiled some helpful information and tips, outlined below.

Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much — in fact, women generally need only 300 more calories per day while pregnant. The source of these additional calories is important, however. “Empty” calories from junk food and sweetened beverages should be avoided. A balanced diet that includes whole grains, plenty of vegetables and fruits, some dairy, and protein from meat, beans, nuts, and some kinds of fish (more on that below) is important during pregnancy.


How much weight you should gain during your pregnancy depends largely on your pre-pregnancy weight. According to the Institute of Medicine:

  • Women who were underweight before pregnancy should gain between 28 and 40 pounds.
  • Women who were at a normal weight before pregnancy should gain between 25 and 30 pounds.
  • Women who were overweight before pregnancy should gain between 15 and 25 pounds.
  • Women who were obese before pregnancy should gain between 11 and 20 pounds.

Use this BMI calculator to determine where your weight falls.

You may wonder—if baby only weighs between six and eight pounds (on average), where does all that extra weight go? Here’s a breakdown:

  • Baby — 6 to eight pounds
  • Placenta — 1 ½ pounds
  • Amniotic fluid — 2 pounds
  • Uterus growth — 2 pounds
  • Breast growth — 2 pounds
  • Your blood and bodily fluids — 8 pounds
  • Your body’s protein and fat — 7 pounds
Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much — in fact, women generally need only 300 more calories per day while pregnant.


Is Fish Safe to Eat During Pregnancy?

Fish can be an excellent source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and there’s evidence to suggest that eating fish may provide additional benefits for pregnant women. Some fish should be avoided because of high levels of mercury or other contaminants or carcinogens.

Do not eat the following:

  • King mackerel
  • Shark
  • Swordfish
  • Tilefish

Opt instead for up to 12 ounces (two servings) per week of the following fish/shellfish:

  • Canned light tuna
  • Catfish
  • Clams
  • Cod
  • Crab
  • Oysters
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Scallops
  • Shrimp
  • Tilapia

Avoid uncooked fish or shellfish, which can contain harmful microbes, and make sure fish is thoroughly cooked—fish should be opaque and flake easily with a fork.

Other foods to avoid altogether include smoked seafood, such as salmon and mackerel, unpasteurized cheese, milk, and juices, store-made salads, such as chicken, tuna, or egg salad, hot dogs or deli meats (unless steaming hot), raw sprouts of any kind, and herbs and plants used as medicine (unless approved by your doctor).

Vitamins and Minerals

Prenatal vitamins are important for pregnant women, helping them get the nutrients their babies need. Check with your doctor to see which specific vitamins and minerals you may need to supplement during your pregnancy.

Women who are pregnant need more of these nutrients:

  • Folic acid — 400-800 micrograms (mcg)/day in early pregnancy and throughout pregnancy
  • Calcium — 1,000 milligrams (mg)/day; more for women 18 or younger
  • Iron — 27 milligrams/day
  • Vitamin A — 770 micrograms (mcg)/day; less if 18 or younger
  • Vitamin B12 — 2.6 micrograms (mcg)/day

Pregnant women should also make sure they are getting enough vitamin D. Many people—even women who are not pregnant—are prone to vitamin D deficiencies, especially those who live in northern regions or who spend a lot of time indoors with little sun exposure. Ask your doctor about vitamin D and other supplementation.

Pregnant woman holding a glass of water and vitamins.


There is no known safe amount of alcohol a woman can consume during pregnancy. Alcohol enters the woman’s bloodstream, making its way through the umbilical cord and into the baby’s body. Drinking alcohol poses serious risks to your baby—learn more about the effects of fetal alcohol exposure here.


A moderate amount of caffeine (less than 200 mg/day) appears to be safe during pregnancy. This is equivalent to about 12 ounces of coffee, depending on the brand and strength of the brew. Caffeinated teas and soft drinks usually have less caffeine than coffee. Ask your doctor whether consuming caffeine during your pregnancy is safe for you.

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