What to Eat When You're Expecting

Torso view of a pregnant woman holding a salad

Now more than ever, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet. That’s because what you eat during your pregnancy affects the development of your baby, including the teeth. A baby’s teeth begin to develop between the third and sixth months of the pregnancy. A sufficient quantity of nutrients—especially vitamins A, C, and D, protein, calcium and phosphorous—are needed. Making smart food choices now can help set your child up to be Mouth Healthy for life.

What to Eat

According to MyPlate, a website from the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, an agency of U.S. Department of Agriculture, a balanced diet should include:

  • Fruits and vegetables. Combined these should be half of what you eat every day.
  • Grains. Make sure at least half of the grains you eat are whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread and brown rice.
  • Dairy. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods.
  • Lean proteins. Make lean protein choices, such as lean beef, skinless poultry and fish. Try to vary your protein choices to include eggs, beans, peas and legumes, too. Eat at least 8 oz. of seafood a week.

In addition to maintaining a healthy diet, try to resist the urge to snack constantly. While it’s normal for pregnant woman to have the desire to eat more, frequent snacking can be an invitation to tooth decay. When you do snack, choose foods that are nutritious for you and your baby such as raw fruits and vegetables, yogurt, or cheese, and make sure to follow your physician’s advice regarding diet.

Tips for Eating Well During Pregnancy

The National Maternal and Child Oral Health Policy Center has compiled this list of tips to follow during pregnancy:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods, such as fruits; vegetables; whole-grain products such as cereals, breads or crackers; and dairy products like milk, cheese, cottage cheese or unsweetened yogurt.
  • Eat fewer foods high in sugar, including candy, cookies, cake, and dried fruit; and drink fewer beverages high in sugar, including juice, fruit-flavored drinks, or soft drinks.
  • For snacks, choose foods low in sugar such as fruits, vegetables, cheese and unsweetened yogurt.
  • Read food labels so you can choose foods lower in sugar.
  • If you have trouble with nausea, try eating small amounts of healthy foods throughout the day.
  • Drink water or milk instead of juice, fruit-flavored drinks or soft drinks.
  • Drink water throughout the day, especially between meals and snacks. Drink fluoridated water (via a community fluoridated water source) or if you prefer bottled water, drink water that contains fluoride.
  • To reduce the risk of birth defects, get 600 micrograms of folic acid each day throughout your pregnancy. Take a dietary supplement of folic acid and eat foods high in folate and foods fortified with folic acids, including:
    • Asparagus, broccoli and leafy green vegetables such as lettuce and spinach
    • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
    • Papaya, tomato juice, oranges or orange juice, strawberries, cantaloupe and bananas
    • Grain products fortified with folic acid (breads, cereals, cornmeal, flour, pasta, white rice.)

For more information about nutrition during pregnancy, including food safety risks, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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