Recommended dietary allowance for key nutrients

What to Know

  • Learn which nutrients are important for every life stage
  • How to cover your bases with the proper amount of key nutrients

Healthy eating before, during and after pregnancy is now understood to be more important than ever to your baby’s health and yours. Eating a balanced and varied diet based primarily on whole foods will help keep you well-nourished and provide your baby the nutrients he needs to grow and develop.

Woman eating superfood salad with tomatoes and spinach

A number of nutrients are particularly important during these exciting stages of life, with each nutrient playing a unique role in the body. Focusing on getting the right amount of nutrients during each stage will help support the health of you and your baby for a lifetime.

While you can meet most nutrient requirements through food alone, for some supplements are recommended, discuss your needs with your healthcare provider. It’s not feasible or necessary to track each and every nutrient intake to the milligram and microgram, but following the Dietary Guidelines can help you determine food portions and possible nutrient shortfalls allowing you to fulfill your needs with confidence.

Here is a guide for recommended amounts of nutrients by life stage:

Preconception:

  • Folate 400 micrograms/day
  • Iron 18 milligrams/day
  • Calcium 1,000 milligrams/day
  • Zinc 8 milligrams/day
  • Vitamin D 15 micrograms/day
  • Iodine 150 micrograms/day
  • Choline 425 milligrams/day
  • Omega 3 fatty acids 1.1 grams/day*

Prenatal:

  • Folate 600 micrograms/day
  • Iron 27 milligrams/day
  • Calcium 1,000 milligrams/day
  • Vitamin D 15 micrograms/day
  • Zinc 11-13 milligrams/day
  • B6 2.9 milligrams/day
  • Iodine 220 micrograms/day
  • Choline 450 milligrams/day
  • Omega 3 fatty acids 1.4 grams/day*

Breastfeeding Postpartum:

  • Folate 500 micrograms/day
  • Iron 9 milligrams/day
  • Calcium 1,000 milligrams/day
  • Zinc 12 milligrams/day
  • Vitamin A 1300 micrograms retinol activity equivalents/day
  • Vitamin D 15 micrograms/day
  • Iodine 290 micrograms/day
  • Choline 550 milligrams/day
  • B12 2.8 micrograms/day
  • B6 2 milligrams/day
  • Omega 3 fatty acids 1.3 grams/day*

Postpartum (not breastfeeding):

  • Folate 400 micrograms/day
  • Iron 18 milligrams/day
  • Calcium 1,000 milligrams/day
  • Zinc 8 milligrams/day
  • Vitamin D 15 micrograms/day
  • Iodine 150 micrograms/day
  • Choline 425 milligrams/day
  • Omega 3 fatty acids 1.1 grams/day*

*Note that there is not yet enough data to establish a recommendation for daily omega 3 fatty acid intake. The amounts listed above are adequate for the average American in each stage.

What to Do

Read more in the Happy Family library of articles

If you are interested in learning more about particular nutrients, check out Happy Family’s nutrient-specific library. Read up on food sources and the role of these nutrients at each stage.

Try How can I optimize my diet while trying to get pregnant?, Key nutrients for a healthy pregnancy, Enriching your diet well while you’re breastfeeding and Strategies for effective postpartum weight loss to get you started.

Follow the Dietary Guidelines to build nutrient-rich meals and snacks

Fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit (and more of the former than the latter), a quarter of your plate with whole grains and a quarter of your plate with lean protein.

Choose healthy fats (like those found in nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado) and emphasize water.

Take a prenatal or postnatal vitamin

Sources

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