A healthy pregnancy diet should include lots of fruits and vegetables, particularly during a woman’s second and third trimesters. Aim to eat three servings of fruits each day and two to four servings of veggies, Krieger said. Other recommendations include limiting salt, sugar and caffeine; eating a balanced diet including whole grains, lean protein, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, plenty of fluids such as water and juice; restricting energy drinks or soda pop; getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week
A healthy pregnancy diet should include lots of fruits and vegetables, particularly during a woman’s second and third trimesters. A cup of fruit has fiber and nutrients that your body will use to make breast milk or grow a baby. Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that help to develop your baby’s brain, organs, bones and muscles. Eating dark leafy greens during pregnancy can also lower the risk of developing gestational diabetes later in your pregnancy—and keep blood sugar levels in line during delivery.
While a pregnant woman’s caloric requirements do increase — she needs to take in an additional 300 calories each day during her second and third trimesters — they’re not much higher than what you’d need to maintain your weight, said Krieger.
Foods To Eat When Pregnant First Trimester
Even if you’re already packing an alphabet’s worth of vitamins and minerals into your daily meals, you might still worry that you’re not quite hitting the healthy pregnancy diet mark — especially if your appetite hasn’t quite gotten up to speed yet.
Enter these nutritional superstars. When it comes to the best foods to eat when pregnant, try to reach for picks that pack plenty of nutrients into just a few bites and not much in the way of empty calories. This will help you and your baby get the vitamins and minerals you both need. (Though the occasional cookie or ice cream cone is just fine, so don’t feel bad about treating yourself from time to time!)
Speaking of nutrients, while all are important right now, the best foods for pregnancy are high in vitamins and minerals that play a key role in supporting your baby’s growth and development, including:
- Folate. Getting at least 600 micrograms per day during pregnancy reduces the risk for neural tube defects.
- Iron. You need nearly twice as much iron during pregnancy, or 27 milligrams daily. The mineral is used to make more blood that carries oxygen to your baby.
- Calcium. Aim for 1,000 milligrams daily. Calcium is key to help your baby build strong bones, teeth, muscles and nerves.
- Vitamin D. It helps calcium do its job and keeps your immune system strong. You should get 600 IU daily.
- DHA. An omega-3 fatty acid, DHA plays a role in your baby’s brain and eye development. You need 200 to 300 milligrams per day.
- Iodine. The mineral promotes your baby’s brain and nervous system development. You should get 290 micrograms daily.
- Choline. Aim to get 450 milligrams of this vital nutrient each day to help prevent neural tube problems and support your baby’s cognitive development.
Keeping track of your nutritional needs during pregnancy can feel like a big job, but picking the right foods can help you cover more of your bases (along with taking a prenatal vitamin, of course). So make an effort to keep these pregnancy superfoods on hand — and make them mainstays of your daily menus.
More Healthy Eating Tips
The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of every cell in both your body and your baby’s. High-protein foods also keep your hunger at bay by stabilizing your blood sugar, which is why you should aim for at least three servings (that’s about 75 grams) of protein per day.
That makes lean meat one of the best foods to eat during pregnancy. In addition to being protein-packed, it’s also high in iron, critical to help your baby develop his red blood cell supply and support yours, too. (Blood volume increases when you’re pregnant, which is why anemia during pregnancy is so common.) Iron also plays a role in baby’s brain development.
How to eat it: Lean beef cuts like round, sirloin, chuck and loin; ground beef with less than 15 percent fat; pork tenderloin or loin chop; poultry like chicken and turkey; and lamb leg, arm or loin all fit the bill. A little goes a long way, so add your favorite cut to veggie-filled soups, salads and rice or noodle dishes. Finally, remember to cook your meat thoroughly. An internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit is high enough to kill illness-causing bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella.
Whether you’re a meat eater or not, this vegetarian protein source deserves a place on your plate. A cup of cooked lentils packs around 17 grams of protein along with about 7 milligrams of iron.
Lentils are also rich in the B vitamin folate (called folic acid in supplements), which is vital to forming your baby’s brain and nervous system and has a powerful protective effect against neural-tube defects like spina bifida, a birth disorder in which a spine does not form properly. Lentils are also high in fiber, which can keep your digestive system humming along and help stave off pregnancy-related constipation.
How to eat them: To top it all off, lentils are easy to cook and can work in almost any dish. Try firm French or black lentils in salads, use softer brown lentils in place of chickpeas in your favorite hummus recipe or make a thick, stew-like soup with creamy, quick-cooking red lentils.
Your baby needs a steady supply of calcium for his growing bones, and you need it to keep yours strong and help your nerves and muscles function. Three to four servings of dairy foods can help you meet your daily calcium needs, and yogurt is one of your best bets.
Cup for cup, it contains as much calcium as milk — plus it’s packed with protein, iodine and folate. The active cultures (i.e. good bacteria) in yogurt can also help prevent stomach upset as well as yeast infections (which are more common in pregnancy).
But not all yogurts are created equal. Plain varieties can be a better choice than flavored ones since they’re free of added sugars and easy to customize with mix-ins.
How to eat it: Try a drizzle of honey or chopped fresh fruit to sweeten it up, if you’d like. Aside from eating it from the cup or bowl, you can add yogurt to smoothies, layer it with granola to make a creamy-crunchy parfait or use it in place of sour cream or mayo in dips, dressings or baked goods.
The fatty fish earns its rep for being one of the best foods to eat while pregnant.
Cold-water fish like salmon are packed with DHA omega-3s, which are essential for a number of reasons. The body can’t make them on its own; they help metabolize fat-soluble vitamins like A and E; they may help reduce the risk of prenatal and postpartum depression; and they’re critical for your baby’s developing eyes and brain (both the brain and retina are primarily composed of DHA).
Salmon, too, is a good source of iodine and vitamin D.
As for concerns about mercury? Salmon is a safe seafood choice for pregnancy, so feel free to enjoy 8 to 12 ounces (two to three servings) a week. (Sardines and herring are other good choices.) Stick with wild salmon over farmed when possible.
How to eat it: Try roasting salmon filets and serving them over greens or rice. Enjoy alongside a sweet potato and steamed veggies, or pile flaked salmon on top of grain bowls or salads.
The creamy green fruit is full of folate, along with vitamin B6, which promotes healthy tissue and brain growth for baby and could help ease morning sickness for you.
It’s also a yummy source of healthy monounsaturated fats, which help your body better absorb many of the vitamins found in fruits and veggies. Avocado’s high fat content can keep you fuller longer, so you’re less likely to get hit with that hangry, need-to-eat-now feeling.
How to eat it: You probably know avocado is a must for guacamole, but that’s not all it’s good for. Try using mashed avocado in place of cheese or mayo in sandwiches, or adding diced avocado to a salad.
You might know that the cooked soybean pods are a tasty source of vegetarian protein, serving up 18 grams per cup shelled. But they’re rich in other important pregnancy nutrients, too. A cup of edamame offers up nearly 100 milligrams of calcium, 3.5 milligrams of iron and 482 micrograms of folate.
How to eat them: Best of all, they’re easy to cook (the frozen pods can be steamed or microwaved in just a few minutes) and highly versatile. Top edamame with sea salt for a quick, satisfying snack, puree them with lemon juice and olive oil to make a creamy spread, or throw them into salads for a fast protein boost.
Talk about small but mighty. Nuts are chock-full of important vitamins and minerals like magnesium, zinc, potassium and vitamin E, along with protein, fiber and healthy fats. Plus, they’re easily portable, making them an ideal on-the-go pregnancy snack.
Are certain types better than others? All nuts have their own unique nutritional profiles — and they can all fit into a healthy pregnancy diet. But some might be especially worth reaching for. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, while almonds deliver a welcome dose of calcium. And peanuts? They’re loaded with folate. (Who knew?)
How to eat them: Use nuts to add flavorful crunch to oatmeal or yogurt, or grind them and use in place of breadcrumbs for chicken or fish dishes.
Their bright orange color means that carrots are crammed with beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. And that nutrient is critical for your baby’s developing eyes, skin and organs.
How to eat them: In addition to munching on the go, try shredding carrots and folding them into pancakes, muffins or quick bread batters. Or steam and mash them with a little bit of butter and cinnamon, just like sweet potatoes.
Red bell peppers
These veggies are a top source of vitamins C and A, plus fiber to keep things moving. Another big benefit? Research has found that eating a vegetable-rich diet during pregnancy could help reduce the risk for complications like high blood pressure and preeclampsia.
How to eat them: Take advantage of their crunchy texture the next time you get a craving for crispy pretzels or chips. When dunked into hummus, ranch dressing or even plain yogurt for a snack, they’re sure to hit the spot.
Stomach doing flips at the thought of veggies? Good news: Mangoes are another great way to get your fill of vitamins like A and C.
How to eat them: Use fresh diced mango in a zippy salsa that’s tasty on top of fish or chicken, or blend the frozen cubes with yogurt for a sweet-tart smoothie.
You probably know that eggs are an inexpensive, easy-to-cook source of protein — a single large egg delivers 6 grams. But that’s not all.
Eggs are one of the few food sources of vitamin D, serving up 44 IU per large one. Vitamin D plays a key role in helping build strong bones and teeth for your baby, as well as keeping your immune system in fighting form. What’s more, getting enough of the nutrient may reduce the risk for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and low birth weight, findings suggest.
They’re also rich in choline, an essential nutrient for brain and nervous system development.
How to eat them: If you’re looking for ideas beyond the usual scramble, you’ve got plenty to choose from. Pile a poached egg on top of a grain bowl or salad, or sprinkle sliced hard-boiled eggs with everything bagel seasoning and enjoy as a snack. Just be sure to cook eggs thoroughly — until they’re firm and no longer runny — to avoid getting sick from Salmonella.
The leafy green is always a good choice, and it’s a particularly potent pregnancy superfood. Kale serves up folate, iron, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K and fiber — all in a tasty package that can be enjoyed in a million different ways.
How to eat it: Try swapping kale for basil in your favorite pesto recipe, tossing it with pasta, layering it on a sandwich or swirling it into scrambled eggs.
Getting the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day can help you feel fuller longer and keep uncomfortable pregnancy constipation at bay. And good news: A cup of cooked oatmeal serves more than 4 grams.
More good news? That same cup also delivers more than 30 percent of your daily magnesium, another mineral that plays a key role helping your baby build healthy bones and teeth.
How to eat it: Not a fan of hot oatmeal for breakfast? Try grinding oats in a food processor to make a flour and using it in place of all-purpose flour in your favorite baked goods.
They’re a tasty source of energy when you get hit with that urge to eat something, anything, ASAP. Plus, they’re easy on your stomach even when you’re feeling queasy. (Bananas contain vitamin B6, which is linked with lowering pregnancy nausea!)
Bananas are also rich in potassium, a mineral that plays a key role in promoting healthy blood pressure. They might even help you manage annoying pregnancy bloat, since potassium helps your body release puff-promoting minerals like sodium through your urine.
How to eat them: If a banana by itself doesn’t cut it for a snack, try piling sliced bananas on top of a piece of peanut butter toast. Or toss frozen banana chunks in the food processor to make a delicious — and surprisingly creamy — dairy-free ice cream.
A single sweet potato serves up more than 400 percent of the vitamin A that you need in a day. That’s especially important during your first trimester, when your baby’s cells are dividing at rapid speed to become different organs and body parts. (While vitamin A is important during pregnancy, steer clear of supplements, since getting megadoses of the nutrient could increase the risk for birth defects.)
How to eat them: Try roasting sliced sweet potatoes to make oven fries, or create a meal-in-a-bowl by topping a halved baked sweet potato with cooked beans, shredded cheese and diced avocado.
What To Eat During Pregnancy To Have a Beautiful Baby
Childbearing is the time when you need to take your health seriously and think carefully about what to eat during pregnancy. A healthy diet matters a lot in keeping your baby well-nourished from the time of conception.
It is typical to start going over your diet routines the moment you discover that you’re pregnant. But like others, you may be inclined to seek advice from your mom or friends, the Internet, or you simply rely on your past pregnancy habits. What you may not realize is that each pregnancy is different. Age or environment can be a contributing factor to physical or hormonal changes that may affect pregnancy, so the body’s response could be different.
Like it or not, there are conditions that only a specialist can understand and help you get through. There are also questions about prenatal diet that only a certified nutritionist** can accurately answer.
What to Eat During Pregnancy? Eating Right for Baby’s Health!
A balanced diet is ideal for everyone; however, during pregnancy, it’s important to make dietary adjustments based on your specific needs. Knowing what foods are good to eat during pregnancy will help address your pregnancy symptoms (nausea, vomiting, edema, constipation and heartburn, leg cramps and headaches, etc.) and nourish your baby well.
There is no one-size-fits-all meal plan for expecting moms. Some do not have problems with the food they eat and others may start experiencing issues. Certain types of food may worsen their symptoms, while some alleviate them. This is one reason why you might seek help from a prenatal nutritionist, who offers sound advice in terms of food restrictions. These food restrictions during pregnancy are based on several factors such as lifestyle, physical changes and hormonal changes. For now, stick to the basics described below:
Eat more vegetables
When you eat vegetables regularly, you are providing many benefits to your body. Some of the benefits of vegetables include:
- they are low in fat, calories and cholesterol
- they are good sources of fiber (to help combat and prevent constipation)
- they contain many vitamins and minerals, including folate (which helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects and spina bifida during fetal development)
Don’t be afraid to get creative with adding vegetables to your diet, such as adding them to sandwiches, mixing them into dishes or blending them into smoothies. You can also try to eat a variety of vegetables in any form (raw, cooked, fresh, frozen, canned or dried) and in a variety of colors, as they will provide different vitamins and minerals. If canned, choose ones that are low in sodium content. Vegetables are generally healthy, so you don’t need to stick to a particular kind; however, raw leafy vegetables are usually considered the best. Make sure to wash any vegetables thoroughly before eating, since you will be more susceptible to infections during pregnancy.
Among others, these veggies are full of vitamins and nutrients important during pregnancy:
- Salad greens
- Sweet potato
Pack on healthy proteins
Fill your plate with healthy proteins. Foods rich in protein will effectively support your baby’s growth and at the same time, provide you the energy that your body needs. It will also promote your baby’s healthy brain and heart development.
Include a portion of the following in your daily meal plan:
- Lean meat
- Peanut butter
- Meat substitutes like tofu
Don’t forget the grains
Your prenatal nutrition must include whole grains like brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, cereals and oatmeal. They are rich in fiber, iron, B vitamins and folic acid, which are beneficial for your baby’s physical development. These will also ward off constipation and hemorrhoids, which are some of the common discomforts that you may experience during pregnancy.
Color your diet with fruits
Some people will warn you against fruit consumption when you ask them about what not to eat during pregnancy. This is a myth. Fruit isn’t just delicious; it can help curb your sugar cravings and supply you and your baby the necessary nutrients. As long as you aren’t eating them in juice form too often, fruits are an important part of your pregnancy diet. If canned, choose unsweetened.
Be cautious in your preparation of fruit. Don’t use knives used for other raw foods that may have bacteria, and always thoroughly rinse raw fruit under running water. Rinsing your fruit is important since bacteria can be found on the outer rind or peel, which can cause illness or be harmful to you and baby. Cut off damaged or bruised spots to help remove any bacteria hiding out in these areas.
It is worth noting that eating fruits should be done with care. Observing how your body reacts every time you have some will help. For example, if you have a spike in your blood sugar or notice abnormal weight gain, you should cut back.
You can have moderate servings of the following fruits:
- Citrus fruits
- Dried fruits
Include healthy dairy
Dairy products are good sources of protein and calcium, which help with your baby’s bone development. If taken in moderation, you do not have to worry about weight gain, but this isn’t your major concern.
When buying dairy products, look out for the word ‘pasteurized,’ especially on cheeses like cotija. During pregnancy, your body is more prone to infections, and pasteurization helps kill germs in dairies like cheese, yogurt and milk. Ideally, pick dairy products that are low-fat.
Say ‘yes’ to healthy fats and oils
Among the many food restrictions during pregnancy, oils and fats are on top. Nutritionists do not advise completely giving them up, as they are beneficial for your baby’s brain and eye development. However, your oil intake should be limited to six teaspoons every day. It is also important to consume only plant oils like olive, canola or safflower. Regarding fat intake, solid fats (like lard and butter) are foods you should avoid taking in large amounts while pregnant so you do not gain excess weight.
If you eat healthy, drink healthy, too!
Water is a wonder drink. It addresses many different kinds of health issues and pregnancy is no exception. As much as possible, drink the recommended amount of water every day. Staying hydrated may help alleviate pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and nausea. In contrast, dehydration, especially if this occurs during your third trimester, can lead to contractions and pre-term labor. Hydrate with water but never with energy drinks.
Cut back on soda and caffeine intake. Switch to fruit drinks and juices as a substitute for soda and caffeine, but still try to limit the amount of fruit juices so you are not taking in too much sugar too quickly. Even better would be to eat a small serving of fruit to help satisfy the sugar or caffeine craving.
And by all means, avoid any kind of alcohol as this will impact your baby’s health. Even once the baby is born, you’ll want to follow these same precautions (including limiting alcohol) while breastfeeding. Continuing these precautions while breastfeeding is important because unsafe foods, like alcohol, can pass through the breast milk to the baby. We consider this the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy.
Important Reminders During Your Pregnancy
It doesn’t matter whether you are a first-timer or well familiar with pregnancy–you need to evaluate your diet for each pregnancy. Everything changes when you become pregnant and each pregnancy can be different from the previous one. You may need to re-educate yourself about what foods are good to eat during pregnancy or what foods to avoid while pregnant.
Professional assistance plays an important role in ensuring you and your child’s safety. It would help if you have someone you can call whenever you have questions or concerns regarding your diet or condition; someone to guide you throughout or warn you against bad eating decisions, big or small.
Below are some of the things you need to consider when eating:
- Food sensitivity is common during pregnancy. Apart from pregnancy, you may have underlying medical conditions that would require you to take extra precautions with your diet. In these cases, having a prenatal care specialist is highly recommended.
- Food allergies do not take a break and neither do food cravings. Often, you will feel hungry now that you are eating for two. Increased hunger means an increased risk of developing food allergies. Your local perinatal dietitian or nutritionist will recommend you the best alternatives so you can avoid certain foods that might cause allergic reactions.
- Cooking your meals thoroughly is a good rule of thumb, especially when you are pregnant. Your immune system is affected during pregnancy so the risk for food borne illnesses is higher for you and your unborn child. Proper food preparation is one way of protecting yourself and your baby from health risks.