ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - What should you eat when you're pregnant?
Northside Women's Center registered dietitian Lauren Cicinelli gets asked that question a lot. Her first rule of thumb is don't go on a diet unless your doctor tells you that you need to.
What you and your baby need, Cicinelli says, is a balance of healthy, nutrient-rich foods.
"So, we really want to make sure that half our plate is non-starchy vegetables, and fruits," Cicinelli says. "Those are going to have a lot of vitamins and minerals and fiber in them."
Protein is also key and should make up a quarter of your plate.
Cicinelli recommends making sure each meal and snack contains protein.
"So, those are going to be things like meat, fish, chicken, eggs, even legumes, nuts and seeds," she says.
Getting enough protein can be more challenging if you're vegetarian, or vegan. But, Cicinelli says, with a little work, you can do it.
"As long as your diet is well planned out, you can get enough protein on a vegan or vegetarian diet," Cicinelli says. "So, things like beans and lentils, nuts and seeds can have some good sources of protein in there. So, those are good things to incorporate during the day."
Cicinelli says a quarter of your plate should contain complex carbohydrates, or healthy starches.
Those are foods like oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes and multigrain breads. How much, and what you need to eat, will change over time.
"In the first trimester, a woman doesn't need to eat many more healthy calories," she says. "Second and third trimesters, we need a little bit more calories in those, so adding 1 or 2 snacks throughout the day can make sure a woman is getting enough of a nutrition that she needs."
The average pregnant woman should be consuming about 300 extra calories a day.
Cicinelli urges pregnant women to cut back on processed or junk foods. She says they can lead you to eat more and they don't have the nutrients you and your baby need.
You don't have to become a perfect eater during your pregnancy, Cicinelli says.
"Take the effort to stay on track most of the time," she says. "There will be times when we're not having foods that are the healthiest, and that is okay."
Finally, Cicinelli says, if you're pregnant or thinking about conceiving, you need to be taking a daily prenatal vitamin with folic acid and iron. While you'll be getting most of the nutrients you need from your diet, prenatal vitamins can fill in the gaps.