Eating for two means twice as much ice cream and pickles at midnight, right? Actually healthy eating during pregnancy is a little more complicated than that, and focus should be on common sense and sound science, rather than satisfying those weird late night cravings.

FOCUS ON FOOD, NOT SUPPLEMENTS: Most doctors will recommend a specially formulated prenatal vitamin. It’s good insurance, but the conventional wisdom is to focus on eating nutrient dense foods. Real food contains a wide variety of micronutrients and phytonutrients that just aren’t available in a pill. One important nutrient for new moms, omega-3 fatty acids, can become oxidized when put in pill form, rendering them ineffective and unhealthy. Not all omega-3 supplements are equal, and it appears that more research and oversight is needed to ensure safety and efficacy of omega-3 supplements.

DEAL WITH NAUSEA: Toki Tover, in her “RockTheBabyBump” blog, has written a great article on morning sickness. My favorite remedy is ginger tea made with real ginger root.

KEEP WEIGHT GAIN IN CHECK: The best time to achieve a healthy weight is before pregnancy. But statistics show that more than half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. If you’re one of the lucky ones who was at a normal weight when you conceived, then eating for two means targeting 25 to 35 pounds of weight gain during your pregnancy. But if you were overweight or obese when you conceived, your target weight gain should be much lower. See chart below on optimal Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Prepregnancy BMI

BMI (kg/m2)

Total Weight Gain




Normal weight

18.5 – 24.9





Obese (includes all classes)



MINIMIZE STRESS: Negative emotions and stress can send you searching for comfort food. We all know how that big bowl of mac and cheese, or that bag of cookies can hijack your healthy eating plan. Stress and high cortisol levels during pregnancy can increase your chances of gaining too much weight during pregnancy, and of keeping that weight after pregnancy. Depression during pregnancy and in the postpartum period can also negatively impact your struggle to keep weight in check. Lack of sleep is also associated with postpartum weight retention. Exercise and meditation are both great stress busters.

MAXIMIZE FOODS SAFETY: Potentially harmful foods to avoid in pregnancy include raw or rare meats, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, and cheese made with raw milk. (Note that raw-milk cheeses that have been aged for at least 90 days are considered safe.) During pregnancy, be extra vigilant about keeping food hot or cold, and using up leftovers quickly or throwing them out. My motto for food safety has always been, “If in doubt, throw it out.” That will keep you and baby safe and healthy.

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