What to Eat When You’re Pregnant

Carrying a pregnancy to term can be confusing, overwhelming, and challenging. Suddenly you need to stop and take a look at your lifestyle. There may be things that you have to put on pause or completely avoid while you are pregnant. This could include a favorite pastime, a hobby, or the most challenging one—your diet.  

During pregnancy, women should take prenatal vitamins, the ones their physicians suggest. You should know what supplements you are taking and why. Talk with your physician about why supplements are important in pregnancy. 

Eat Like a Diabetic 

Pregnancy is not a time to start a new diet or a time to try to lose weight. Eat three meals a day with three little meals in between. All meals should include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Aim for 1/3 carbohydrates, 1/3 fat, and 1/3 protein in a meal. 40 percent carbohydrates, 40 percent protein, and 20 percent fat also works. If you are on a balanced diet, three big and three small meals will cause you to gain about 2 to 3 pounds per month. If you are carrying twins or multiples, you will gain about 4 pounds per month.  

Avoid low fat products. When fat is reduced in a product, carbohydrates increase. Go ahead and enjoy that full-fat ice cream! 

What do I do about food cravings? 
For the most part, eat what you crave. The old ice cream and pickles tradition isn’t really so bad for pregnant women. The ice cream includes all the food groups: protein, carbs, and fat (avoid low fat ice cream). Pickles might supply electrolytes that the ice cream does not. 

What if I’m hungry all the time? 
Try to eat food that is good for you.  Fruit (pears, apples oranges, bananas, grapes), cottage cheese, eggs, and nuts are all good choices. Avoid processed cheeses (i.e., processed cheeses, spray cheese). 

Two Diet Concerns in Pregnancy 

If you read about what to eat in pregnancy, you will often see two topics at the top of the list: folic acid and iron deficiency anemia. 

Folic Acid 

My first practice was in a rural Minnesota community surrounded by farms. During the first six months, I had two patients deliver babies with what are called neural tube defects (problems with spinal cord nerves). To me, this seemed like a high incidence of this birth defect. At the time I thought it might be something in the environment. Later, the connection between too little folic acid and neural tube defects in pregnant women was made. Prenatal vitamins should contain 400 micrograms of folic acid. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that if you have a history of neural tube defect in pregnancy, that you take 4000 micrograms a day when trying to get pregnant, and continue that level of folic acid through the third month of pregnancy. 

Iron Deficiency Anemia 

Iron is also an important supplement to consider when you are pregnant. Your body will make several units of blood during your pregnancy. Because of this increase in the volume of blood, a pregnant woman can appear to be anemic in her pregnancy. Iron is needed to form hemoglobin. It takes about three months for your body to produce red blood cells and for your hemoglobin levels to start going back up from your body’s increase in blood volume. However, iron supplements can make you nauseated and constipated, something you don’t need in pregnancy. It helps to eat before taking prenatal vitamins. If you still have trouble with nausea from taking supplements with iron, talk with your physician. There are other ways to increase your iron intake without taking supplements. 


Dr. Alan Lindemann

Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB/GYN)​

He is an obstetrician and maternal mortality expert with 4 decades of medical practice beginning in Minnesota and presently in North Dakota. He has delivered around 6,000 babies with zero maternal deaths.

Why should you support Rural Doc Alan?

Dr. Lindemann delivered 6000 babies for over 40 years with no maternal mortalities, no eclampsia, and no babies with cerebral palsy. He tells his story here of how he did this in a medical environment that really doesn’t do well with deliveries. He openly admits that much he learned about safe pregnancy came from his patients, not medical books. Donating here will help spread the word to women everywhere so they can learn about safe pregnancy.