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Eating Right Before and During Pregnancy

It is important to get the nutrients you need both before getting pregnant and during your pregnancy.

In addition, there are a few special considerations for breastfeeding mothers. For more information, please see Nutrition Tips for Breastfeeding Mothers.


  • Preconception — Make sure you get enough calories to maintain a reasonable weight. Adjust the number of calories you eat as needed to attain your weight gain or weight loss goals.
  • Pregnancy — Increase your diet by 300 calories per day starting in the second trimester. Monitor for appropriate weight gain and adjust your diet as needed.
  • Breastfeeding — Add 500 calories a day to your normal pre-pregnancy diet.


  • Preconception — Protein should account for 12 percent to 20 percent of your daily calories. Make sure to eat 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight (to convert pounds to kilograms, divide the pounds by 2.2), with a minimum of 40 grams of protein a day. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds, you should eat roughly 44 grams of protein a day.
  • Pregnancy — During pregnancy, you should get a minimum of 60 grams of protein a day, which will account for approximately 20 percent to 25 percent of your calorie intake.


  • Preconception — The amount of carbohydrates you should eat varies from person to person and should be based on an individualized nutritional assessment. That said, for most people, carbohydrates account for approximately 50 percent to 60 percent of their daily calories.
  • Pregnancy — Some women experience gestational diabetes, or diabetes during pregnancy, which may require them to limit their carbohydrate intake to 40 percent to 50 percent of their daily calories. To learn more, please see Dietary Recommendations for Gestational Diabetes.


  • Preconception — The amount of fat you should eat varies from person to person and should be based on an individualized nutritional assessment. For most people, less than 10 percent of their daily calories should come from saturated fat and up to 10 percent from polyunsaturated fat. Eating monounsaturated fat is preferred.
  • Pregnancy — During pregnancy your body needs more fat. Roughly 25 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat, depending on your carbohydrate goals. Eating monounsaturated fat is preferred over saturated varieties.


Both before and during pregnancy it is important to eat between 20 and 35 grams of fiber each day. This is the same as the guidelines for the general population.


Sodium intake recommendations both before and during pregnancy are the same as those for the general population: 3000 milligrams a day. In some cases, there are medical reasons to restrict the amount of sodium in your diet. Talk with your doctor if you are unsure about your sodium intake.


It is important not to drink alcohol both if you are planning to get pregnant and if you are pregnant. Alcohol exposure during early fetal development can cause serious problems for your baby.

Artificial Sweeteners

  • Preconception — It is safe to use any artificial sweetener on the market.
  • Pregnancy — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved aspartame, acesulfame-K and sucralose for use during pregnancy. Check with your doctor before using other artificial sweeteners.

Folic Acid

  • Preconception — It is important to get enough folic acid, or folate, before you become pregnant. Begin adding 400 micrograms a day prior to conception to reduce risks of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
  • Pregnancy — During pregnancy, increase your folic acid consumption to 600 micrograms a day.
  • Breastfeeding — While breastfeeding, make sure to get 500 micrograms of folic acid a day.


  • Preconception — Between the ages of 14 and 18, you need 15 milligrams of iron a day. Between 19 and 50 years of age, you should get 18 milligrams of iron a day.
  • Pregnancy — During pregnancy you need more iron and should get 27 milligrams a day. Some women suffer from anemia and need even more iron, up to 60 milligrams a day as directed by their doctor.
  • Breastfeeding — While breastfeeding you don't need as much iron and can reduce your intake to 9 milligrams a day, 10 milligrams a day if you are 18 years or younger.

Do not take your prenatal vitamin or iron at the same time as calcium.


  • Preconception — Between the ages of 14 and 18 you need 9 milligrams of zinc a day. Between 19 and 50 years of age, you should get 8 milligrams of zinc a day.
  • Pregnancy — During pregnancy you need more zinc and should get 11 milligrams a day, 13 milligrams if you are 18 years old or younger.
  • Breastfeeding — While breastfeeding you should get 12 milligrams of zinc a day, 14 milligrams if you are 18 years old or younger.


Before, during and after pregnancy while breastfeeding, you need the same amount of calcium, although it does vary slightly by age. If you are 18 years old or younger, you need 1300 milligrams a day. If you are between 19 and 50 years old, you need 1000 milligrams of calcium a day.

Do not take calcium at the same time that you take iron or your prenatal vitamin.


Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Women's Health Center

Obstetrics and Gynecology Services at Mount Zion
2356 Sutter St.
San Francisco, CA 94143
Obstetrics: (415) 353-2566
Gynecology: (415) 885-7788
Obstetrics Fax: (415) 353-2496
Gynecology Fax: (415) 353-9550

Obstetrics Services at Parnassus
400 Parnassus Ave., Floor B1, Suite A-096
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-2566
Fax: (415) 353-2496

Obstetrics & Gynecology Services at Serramonte
333 Gellert Blvd., Suite 120
Daly City, CA 94015
Gynecology: (415) 885-7788
Obstetrics: (415) 353-2566
Fax: (650) 991-2748

Prenatal Diagnostic Center
350 Parnassus Ave., Suite 810
San Francisco, CA 94117
Phone: (415) 476-4080
Fax: (415) 353-4077

Young Women's Clinic
1833 Fillmore Street, Third Floor
San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: (415) 353-7332

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