Healthy Eating & Nutrition

Healthy Eating and Nutrition

Healthy Eating & Nutrition

Whether you're just thinking about getting pregnant or your kiddo is already scooting around, nutrition plays an important role in your child's growth and development. Find out how to support healthy eating habits from the beginning and learn more about the nutrients you and your child need at whatever stage you're at now.

By milestone
By preferences
Nutritious Prenatal Diet

Planning a nutritious prenatal diet

Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much food, but it should mean making your food work twice as hard. Make every calorie count by choosing nutrient-dense foods, in other words get more bang for your calorie buck. By choosing a variety of foods from all food groups, you can help assure a well-balanced, nutritious prenatal diet.

But what if you have no appetite some days or occasionally feel nauseous? Just remember that a quality diet over several days is what counts, not meal by meal.


What’s the right plan for me?


These food group guidelines, from USDA Choose My Plate, are an easy way to get started on a healthy and nutritious pregnancy diet. Of course, your beginning weight, height, age, stage of pregnancy and the number of babies you are carrying will determine how many calories and how much food you will need.


Pregnancy Daily Meal Plan


This featured daily meal plan shows slightly more amounts of food during the second and third trimesters to accommodate your changing nutritional needs. Because this is a general plan, you may need more or less than what is featured here.* It's also important to incorporate healthy fats and remember to take your pre-natal vitamin as well as DHA and choline.


Food Group

1st Trimester* 2nd and 3rd Trimesters* What counts as 1 cup or 1 ounce?
Vegetables 2 1/2 cups 3 cups 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables or 100% juice
2 cups raw leafy vegetables
Fruits 2 cups 2 cups 1 cup fruit or 100% juice
1/2 cup dried fruit
Grains** 6 ounces 8 ounces 1 slice bread
1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal
1/2 cup cooked pasta, rice, or cereal
Dairy*** 3 cups 3 cups 1 cup milk
8 ounces yogurt
1 1/2 ounces natural cheese
2 ounces processed cheese
Protein Foods 5 1/2 ounces 6 1/2 ounces 1 ounce lean meat, poultry, or seafood
1/4 cup cooked beans
1/2 ounce nuts or 1 egg
1 tablespoon peanut butter

*Eat this amount from each group daily. If you are not gaining weight or gaining too slowly, you may need to eat a little more from each food group. If you are gaining weight too fast, you may need to cut back by decreasing the amount of "empty calories" you are eating.
**Half of your grains should be from whole grains
*** Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy


Do you have questions about your diet? Reach out to a Registered Dietitian with the help of Dotti.

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Your baby's nutritional needs

Breastmilk is nature's perfect food. Your infant is growing at a rapid pace, and breastmilk supplies your baby's nutritional needs for the first several months of life and is the main source of nutrition for the first year. If you are formula feeding, rest assured that infant formulas are the only safe and nutritious substitute.
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Supporting healthy growth in your preemie

The doctors and staff that cared for your baby in the NICU may have talked to you about the importance of nutrition. While your baby is now big enough and strong enough to be home with you, he may still have special nutritional needs.

If you’re having any trouble with breastfeeding or think your baby’s formula should be changed,


While weight gain is very important, keep in mind that weight is not the measure of growth. All babies need to grow in weight, and also in length and head circumference. Preemies need the right balance of nutrients to help promote growth and to help their muscles and organs develop well.



Your baby’s feeding plan


When your baby is getting ready to leave the NICU, his doctor or dietitian will work with you to develop a special feeding plan. The plan may include only breastfeeding, breastfeeding and formula feeding together, or formula feeding alone. After leaving the NICU, your baby’s pediatrician will continue to monitor the feeding plan, and adjust as needed.


Breastfeeding and Providing Breastmilk


Breastmilk provides many benefits to your premature baby. Breastfeeding is an important time for you and your baby to share, and can help the two of you bond.

Unless your baby has a special medical situation, his doctor will likely encourage you to breastfeed and provide breastmilk. However, depending on your baby’s age weight, and how much he’s eating, breastmilk may not provide enough nutrition alone. In this case, your baby’s feeding plan may include a combination of the following:


  • Some breastfeeding sessions
  • Pumped breastmilk that has been fortified with a special formula
  • Pumped breastmilk without fortification
  • Some feeding sessions of a specialized premature infant formula


Supplementation of your breastmilk may continue for a few weeks to months after your preemie goes home, depending on his growth rate. As soon as your baby’s doctor feels his growth is on track, he’ll likely advise you to breastfeed exclusively until complementary foods are added to the diet as long as you aren't having any trouble with breastfeeding.



Formula Feeding


Your baby's doctor will advise you on the best feeding plan to follow at home and what formula to feed.


All infants grow differently, so your baby’s growth will be monitored closely by his doctor and the feeding plan adjusted accordingly. If you think your baby's formula should be changed discuss it with his doctor.

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Homemade baby food how-tos

If you’re making your own baby food, it’s important to know the right texture and consistency for your baby’s milestone. Talk to your pediatrician about your baby’s stage of development and how his food should be pureed, or for older babies, mashed.
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Understanding sugar

Understanding sugar

Your little baby was born with a fondness for sweet tastes, so it’s natural for them to want and like sugar. Find out more about the different types of sugars and how to make sure your baby isn't getting too much.

Natural sugars vs. added sugars


There are two basic types of sugar that can appear in your baby’s diet: sugar that comes from nature and added sugar. A baby’s body can’t tell the difference between them, and both kinds of sugars are digested and broken down the same way.


Natural sugars can be found in nutritious foods in your baby’s diet, like fruits, and also in foods you may not think of as “sweet”: breastmilk, milk and milk products, and vegetables. Added sugars, such as brown or white table sugars, syrups, honey, corn syrup and other sweeteners, can be added to foods in your baby’s diet for taste and sometimes to play a role in functions, such as helping foods brown and adding texture.


What's wrong with added sugars?


The problem with too many added sugars in foods in your baby’s diet is that they usually are found in foods with little other nutrition. Plus, foods that have added sugars, such as soft drinks, cakes, cookies and other sweet desserts, can push more nutritious foods out of your baby’s diet. Fruit is a great way to give your baby something sweet each day in his diet. Soft, diced fruit or fruit purees are better than sweet desserts since they offer nutrients along with a naturally sweet taste. And don’t forget, too many sugary foods are not healthy for your baby’s teeth!


Check the nutrition facts


To check how much total sugar is in your baby’s food, look for “Sugars” listed on the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods, under “Total Sugar,"—which represents all the sugar in the product, natural and added. On a separate line you'll see the added sugar on its own.


Read the ingredients


You can also look for added sugars in your baby’s foods by reading the ingredients list. Added sugar goes by many names, including corn syrup, fructose, rice syrup, dextrose, sugar or sucrose, molasses, honey, cane syrup and others. Ingredients are listed in order from the highest to the lowest amounts, so if you see these or other added sugars at the top of the list that means the product has a large amount of added sugar.

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Did you know?
Your breastmilk is the ideal food for your baby's nutritional needs, and will help give him the best start in life.
Prenatal Nutrient Quiz
Know more about prenatal nutrients
Healthy eating is one of the best gifts you can give your growing baby. While you always need a variety of healthy foods to provide adequate nutrition, during pregnancy you also need to supplement with some nutrients that are especially important and hard to eat enough of. Why are these nutrients so important for you and your baby? Take this quick quiz to find out.


Got questions? Chat with Dotti, your personal baby expert! Got questions? Chat with Dotti, your personal baby expert! Got questions? Chat with Dotti, your personal baby expert!

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