Nutrition Education Frequently Asked Questions 

Nutrition Education:  Overview | Pregnant women | Postpartum women | Infants | Children | Resources

Pregnant Women

Q: How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?

Answer: The amount of weight you should gain depends on your weight before pregnancy. If you were underweight, you should gain more. If you were overweight, you should gain less, but still gain some weight for the health of the baby. No matter the amount of weight gain needed, it should be slow and steady. Current recommendations for weight gain are:   

Prepregnancy BMI Is Gain This Amount (Singleton)   Gain This Amount (Twins)
Less than 18.5  28 to 40 lbs  Ask your doctor

18.5 to 24.9 

25 to 35 lbs  37 to 54 lbs
25 to 29.9  15 to 25 lbs  31 to 51 lbs
Greater than or equal to 30  11 to 20 lbs  25 to 42 lbs

Q: What should I be eating during my pregnancy?

Answer: It is always important to eat a balanced diet, but especially when a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding. To ensure your diet is adequate, simply follow the Daily Food Plan for Moms. Remember, those with less weight to gain, need to eat closer to the lower end on number of servings.

Q: How often do I need to eat while I am pregnant?

Answer: While you are pregnant, we encourage a mom-to-be to eat 3 meals a day plus 2 to 3 snacks. Snacks will help you be able to get all the needed number of servings you need from each group and will help you from feeling hungry between meals. Also, be sure to get plenty of water; drink to thirst.

Q: Do I need to take a prenatal vitamin?

Answer: Yes! Prenatal vitamins help to ensure that your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs each day. Since some days you may feel like eating more or less than others, or your food choices might be a little lacking in a certain nutrient, vitamins help you to meet all your needs during this special time of development. Prenatal vitamins are designed to ensure that the demands of both baby and your body are met.

Q: Can I exercise during pregnancy?

Answer: Although strenuous exercise is not recommended during pregnancy, some forms of light activity are usually acceptable. It is recommended that you discuss the level of activity that is right for you and your pregnancy with your doctor.

Postpartum Women

Q: What do I eat now that I am breastfeeding?

Answer: Like pregnancy, breastfeeding also requires a few additional calories compared to normal expected intake. While breastfeeding, it is recommended to eat a balanced diet following the Daily Food Plan for Moms. By eating a well balanced diet, you can be sure that you are getting in all the nutrients and calories you need to stay healthy while your body makes the best food possible for your baby. By eating a wide variety from all food groups, your baby will get to experience and taste each food through your breast milk. It is also very important to drink plenty of fluids while you are breastfeeding.

Q: What do I need to eat now that I am no longer pregnant?

Answer

 Food Group Number of Daily Servings   Needed Portion Size
Milk 2-3 8 ounces; 1 ½ oz cheese; 1 cup yogurt; 1 ½ cup cottage cheese

Meat and Meat Alternative

2  2-3 ounces; 2 eggs; ¾ - 1 cup dried beans; 4 Tbsp peanut butter
Fruit 2-4  ½ cup canned, fresh or frozen fruit; ¼ cup dried fruit
Vegetables 3-5   ½ cup cooked or canned vegetables; 1 cup raw vegetables
Breads and Cereals 6-11  1 slice bread, muffin, pancake, biscuit or waffle; ¾ cup cereal; ½ cup rice/pasta
Fats, Oils, and Sweets Use sparingly  1 tsp butter, mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp regular sour cream; 1 Tbsp regular cream cheese

Infants

Q: What do I need to feed my baby?

Answer: Breastfeeding is best; it is the gold standard. However, some mothers choose not to breastfeed for various reasons. Babies who are not breastfed, or who are breastfeeding partially, need to be fed iron-fortified infant formula.

Why does my baby need iron fortified formula?

Answer: Iron is important for the rapid growth and development of infants during their first year of life. Breast milk naturally contains iron and infant formula is fortified with iron to protect infants against the development of iron-deficiency anemia (low blood iron). Iron-deficiency anemia can permanently hurt infants’ physical and metal development.

Due to this concern, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the leading authority on infant nutrition, recommends that all infants receive either breast milk or iron-fortified formula for the first year of life. Many studies have shown that problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and colic, are no more common among infants receiving iron-fortified formulas than those receiving low-iron formulas.

Based on these finding and following AAP advice, Federal WIC regulations require that in most cases iron-fortified formula be issued to WIC infants that are not breastfed.

Q: How do I know when my baby is hungry?

Answer: When a baby is hungry, he/she will give you signs to let you know it is time to eat. Your baby will do the best job eating if he/she is quiet and alert before feeding. Often babies may show the rooting reflex. The rooting reflex is when baby opens the mouth and turns toward you whenever the mouth, cheek, or chin is touched. Baby may suck on the hands, fuss, or make faces. If baby cries, you have waited too long. Crying is a late hunger cue. If you wait till baby is crying to feed, he/she may be too upset to eat well.

Q: How do I know if my baby has had enough to eat?

Answer: When baby gets full, your baby will stop nursing. Baby might gradually slow down and take longer and longer pauses before going back to nursing; or baby might suddenly stop and refuse to take another swallow. You will know your baby is full when he/she relaxes, lets go of the nipple, squeezes lips shut or no longer turns toward the nipple when you touch the cheek. Pushing away, fussing, getting rigid and arching away are late satiety cues. Take baby’s earlier “no” for an answer and don’t try to get baby to eat more than wanted.

Do be sure that when your baby pauses in feeding you give him/her a chance to rest and go back to eating if baby wants to. However, don’t try to get baby to eat any more than is really wanted. If you urge your baby to eat past the point where he/she had enough, it can confuse baby and make it hard for him/her to eat the right amount of food. Parents often try to overfeed to empty the bottle or to get their baby to go longer between feedings. It doesn’t work. Babies may react by eating less or more than they really need. Either way, it disrupts their growth.

Q: When do I introduce cereal and juice to my baby?

Answer: Cereal and juice can be introduced into your baby’s diet at 6 months of age. It is very important not to start these foods too early, babies just don’t need it. All of baby’s needs can be met through breastmilk or formula until the appropriate time.

Q: When does my baby need to be recertified?

Answer: The month after you baby turns a year old, they will have to be certified as a child in order to continue receiving WIC benefits.

Children

Q: How much should my toddler be eating?

Answer

Age 1 - 2
Food Group Number of Daily Servings  Needed Portion Size
Milk 4 4 ounces

Meat and Meat Alternatives

2 1 ounce
Fruit ¼ cup, 3-4 ounces juice
Vegetables 2 Tablespoons, 3-4 ounces juice
Breads and Cereals  ½ slice bread, ¼ cup cereal, rice/ pasta

Q: How much should my preschooler be eating?

Answer:  

Preschoolers, Age 2-3
Food Group Number of Daily Servings  Needed Portion Size
Milk 4 4 ounces

Meat and Meat Alternatives

2 1 ounce
Fruit 1/3 cup, 3-4 ounces juice
Vegetables 3 Tablespoons, 3-4 ounces juice
Breads and Cereals  ½ - 1 slice bread, ½ cup cereal, ¼ cup rice/pasta

Preschoolers, Age 4-5
Food Group Number of Daily Servings  Needed Portion Size
Milk 4 4 – 6 ounces

Meat and Meat Alternatives

2 1 ½ ounce
Fruit ½ cup, 3-4 ounces juice
Vegetables 4 Tablespoons, 3-4 ounces juice
Breads and Cereals  1 slice bread, ¾ cup cereal, ½ cup rice/pasta

Q: How many times a day does my child need to eat?

Answer: Children are still growing and developing, but not as fast as they did when they were infants. To meet their needs, children should be offered 3 meals a day plus 2-3 snacks. Let your child decide how much or whether or not they want to eat. So, you decide what to offer and when, and your child should decide the amount. Children should not be forced to clean their plate or complete a meal.

Q: What do I do when my child will only eat one food?

Answer: Your child may go through a stage when he wants to eat the same food all the time. We call this a food jag. Planning meals out ahead of time helps make food jags less of a problem. If you ask your toddler what he wants to eat, he’ll tell you he wants his favorite food, so don’t ask. That way, he’ll take his chances like the rest of the family.

Q: My child says he doesn’t like anything I prepare him to eat, what do I do?

Answer: When your toddler says he doesn’t like the food on the table, ignore it, or tell him “That’s fine.” Don’t offer to make him something else. By cooking a different meal, your child will quickly learn how to get his way—through whining, fussing, crying, throwing a fit, etc. Have his milk at his place when he gets there and put some bread on the table so “he won’t starve.” Help him dish up his plate, and let him eat. Remember, he may choose not to eat or he may eat very little, but that is okay. You can help make eating better for you and your child by planning ahead. If you are making a new food, also serve familiar foods on the table. Also, set a good example. Your child learns by watching others eat. Let your child see you and others enjoying new foods.

Q: Should I offer dessert in order to get my child to eat other to get my child to eat other foods at mealtime?

Answer: You should never bribe or reward with your child with food.  This rule goes for eating, behavior, or anything.  Children should eat when they are hungry, not to receive a reward.  Children who eat for reward can learn to overeat.  For good behavior, reward children with parents' attention. Children's love for their parent's attention is far greater than their love for a cookie.