Diet & Exercise

Now that you’ve got a baby on board, it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re maintaining your health in a way that is beneficial for your developing little one. Doctors encourage exercising and eating right throughout pregnancy.


Here are some vitamins and minerals to consider inserting into your diet:


Folate (folic acid) is an important B vitamin that can be found in greens such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard. Taking folate will encourage the development of a healthy fetus and help prevent birth defects like spina bifida. Once you are pregnant, the March of Dimes recommends that you increase from 400 micrograms per day to 600 micrograms per day. You can also find folate in many foods. Enjoy it in salads or mix it up—add greens to sandwiches, a fresh fruit smoothie, or bake kale chips in the oven!


Milk is high in calcium, which your developing fetus will need plenty of to support the development of a strong skeletal system. For those who are lactose intolerant or prefer not to consume dairy, you can turn to foods like legumes, broccoli, enriched breads and grains, and fish with bones—all high in calcium! You should also consider Vitamin D, which helps regulate calcium and promote bone growth.


The March of Dimes, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Surgeon General and more all warn against alcohol consumption. Early fetal development is extremely important—your baby’s nervous system begins to form even before you miss your period. Alcohol is the leading known preventable cause of mental and physical birth defects in the U.S. So, just cut it out all together.


Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries are a sweet, delicious treat, but they’ve also got a nutritious side. They’ve got phytonutrients to help fight disease and a ton of vitamin C. Preterm delivery has been linked to low levels of vitamin C, so start snacking!


Yogurt contains plenty of probiotics, just as long as the label indicates that there are live active cultures. Probiotics are good bacteria to boost your immune system. And yogurt is a great partner with those berries we were talking about! If you’re lactose intolerant or prefer not to consume dairy, try options like kefir and tempeh.


Listeria is a bacterial infection that many pregnant women are susceptible to, and it’s been linked to miscarriage and other major health problems. So, avoid unpasteurized soft cheeses like Brie, feta, and blue cheese. Hot dogs and deli meats have also been linked to listeria, so avoid those too.


Beef contains high levels of zinc, which can help keep fertility and your reproductive system in check. Zinc can also be found in baked beans and fortified cereal.


These have high mercury concentrations, and the United States Environmental Protection agency warns that this can be harmful to an unborn baby. However, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that pregnant women consume about 8 to 12 ounce of seafood a week. So, look to options like crab, shrimp, canned light tuna (no more than 6 ounces), salmon and tilapia, which are all low-mercury options.


A woman needs her iron. Your body uses it to create blood for baby and to increase your blood volume by 50%. Iron-deficiency can increase the risk for preterm delivery and the risk of delivering an underweight baby. Try lean meats like grass-fed beef or lean buffalo. And be sure it’s well cooked. Other great sources of iron include baked potatoes, spinach, and enriched cereals and pastas.


DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 fatty acid that supports fetal brain and eye development. Try fish like Atlantic salmon or tuna once a week. For less fishy options, look for omega 3 fortified foods such as eggs, pastas or various juices.


Protein is an essential building block and it’s important for your baby’s muscle and organ development. During your second and third trimesters your baby will be growing the most, so getting enough protein is key. Try and get three to four servings of protein daily. Meats like chicken breast, salmon and lean beef are great sources of protein. If you don’t eat meat, you can also get protein from sources like peanuts, soybeans, low fat yogurt and milk.


Be sure to check your regular exercise regimen with your doctor. He or she will be able to advise you on which activities are safe for you and baby to continue, and which are not. As a general rule—be sure to not overdo it. Unless otherwise specified by your doctor, you can exercise moderately up to delivery. That’s about 30 minutes, five to six days a week. But, be sure your heart rate doesn’t exceed 140 beats per minute.

Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.