The healthiest foods to eat during pregnancy are high in...

The healthiest foods to eat during pregnancy are high in iron, such as spinach, broccoli and beans. Credit: Getty Images / Blend Images / JGI

There is still a lot of confusion about nutrition and other health issues during pregnancy. Here are some tips from pregnancy experts and the Institute of Medicine:

How much weight should I gain? According to the Institute of Medicine, a woman who is of normal body weight or body mass index should gain between 25 and 35 pounds. A woman who is normally underweight should gain between 28 and 40 pounds during pregnancy. If you begin your pregnancy overweight or obese, you should pay specific attention to your weight gain in order to minimize pregnancy-related complications. A woman who begins pregnancy overweight should gain 15 to 25 pounds, while a woman who is obese should gain between 11 and 20 pounds.

What are the healthiest foods to eat during pregnancy? Foods high in iron, such as spinach, broccoli, beans, 100 percent whole grains, eggs and peanut butter.

Asparagus has lots of nutrients, including vitamin B6, folic acid, thiamin, fiber and potassium, which can help regulate blood pressure.

Make sure to take prenatal vitamins. Babies need nutrients for healthy growth.

If you’re already eating a balanced diet, aim for 300 extra calories each day (6 to 8 ounces of food high in protein, such as eggs, red meat, chicken, fish, beans, cheese, nuts and dairy foods).

You need 1,000 milligrams of calcium each day (from milk, yogurt, cheddar or Swiss cheese, broccoli and greens).

Have four 1-ounce servings of 100 percent whole-grain bread or cereal, 4 to 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Eat oranges and other fruits, such as berries, papayas and kiwi, which are high in vitamin C.

What should I avoid during pregnancy? Smoking during pregnancy is the single most preventable cause of illness and death among mothers and infants.

Alcohol passes through the placenta, so when you drink, your unborn baby drinks with you. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant.

Avoid harmful drugs and medications; consult your obstetrician before continuing any prescribed medications.

Avoid unpasteurized juices and dairy products, such as raw milk and cheese, as well as raw fish, meat and eggs, because they may contain bacteria that can be harmful to the baby.

Avoid deli meats and soft cheeses, such as Brie and feta. They may also have harmful bacteria.

Eat fewer than 12 ounces of fish a week and avoid swordfish, tilefish, shark and king mackerel, which may contain very high levels of mercury. Types of fish that are safe to eat include salmon, shrimp and sardines. Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids and is good for your baby’s brain and eye development.

Limit caffeine intake to one to two cups of coffee per day. Keep in mind that other products, including chocolate, soda and over-the-counter drugs, also have caffeine.

What should I do if I am too nauseated to eat? Nausea is very common early in pregnancy and usually goes away after the third month. Here are some strategies for battling morning sickness:

  • Eat crackers or dry toast before getting out of bed.
  • Try to move slowly in the morning.
  • Drink fluids between meals instead of with meals. Avoid fried foods and very spicy foods.
  • Eat many small meals a day.

Which vitamins and nutrients do pregnant women need most? Folic acid: Folic acid is a B vitamin that can help prevent major birth defects. Take a vitamin containing 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day, before and during pregnancy.

What are the best forms of exercise during pregnancy? Regular exercise has benefits for both you and the baby. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day.

If you are used to swimming, jogging or yoga, you can safely continue these activities.

Avoid exercise that can cause you to fall, such as horseback riding, skiing and contact sports. Stretching, belly breathing, proper posture and relaxation are all beneficial.

Sitting on an exercise or birth ball can help with stomachaches and back pain. You can sit on it, lean on it or bounce on it to help relieve pain.

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