When you’re pregnant, you want to make sure you’re getting plenty of nutrient-dense foods from a well-rounded diet. Check out these tips for the best pregnancy foods to eat when you’re expecting.
My first message: Don’t sweat the details. Your body is creating a new human being. Your goal should be to stay mentally and physically healthy and to create a healthy baby. If you’ve accidentally eaten one of the foods or drinks listed as “foods to avoid,” don’t panic. Just be mindful of the foods you eat going forward. You’ve got this.
What Are a Pregnant Woman’s Nutritional Needs?
For a healthy pregnancy, vitamins are a huge part of the picture. You should take prenatal vitamin supplements combined with a healthy diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, fiber, and healthy fats.
You can add essential vitamins to your diet through both supplements and food. But here are some of the most vitally important nutrients you need, along with foods that have them:
Folic acid– dark, leafy greens, beans, peanuts, whole grains, seafood, peanut butter
Iron– Spinach, lentils, soybeans, oysters, fortified cereals, dark chocolate, sesame seeds, chickpeas, apricots
Calcium– milk, cheese, seeds, yogurt, beans, lentils,
Vitamin D– Salmon, sardines, red meat, egg yolks
DHA– Salmon, oysters, shrimp, trout
Iodine– Prunes, seaweed, cod, shrimp, baked potato (with the skin), cranberries, hard-boiled eggs, turkey breast
Potassium– Bananas, apricots, avocados.
What Foods Should I Eat During the First Trimester?
Your first-trimester diet is crucial for the baby’s development. So, if you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s a good idea to eat foods that you would typically eat if you were pregnant and avoid foods that could be harmful to a developing fetus.
These foods are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients your body (and your baby’s developing body) needs to thrive.
Lean meat– A good source of iron and protein, thoroughly-cooked lean meats like chuck steak, sirloin, turkey, pork tenderloin, turkey, and chicken offer lots of amino acids, the building blocks for cells.
Yogurt– The calcium and protein in each cup (opt for a variety with a short ingredient list low sugars) support bone structure.
Edamame– These soybean pods are packed with protein, plus some calcium, iron, and folate.
Kale– This dark, leafy green is packed with nutrients, including fiber, calcium, folate, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin K.
Bananas– Bananas are an excellent source of potassium. And they’re bland and easy on a queasy stomach.
Beans and lentils– Iron, folate, protein, and fiber are all hiding inside these tasty powerhouses.
Ginger tea– Ginger products may help combat nausea, especially if you’re experiencing morning sickness.
Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats
- 1/2 large banana mashed
- 2 Tbsp natural, creamy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
- 3/4 cup almond milk unsweetened
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Oats
- Mash banana in a large bowl. Then, add peanut butter, Greek yogurt, almond milk, honey, and vanilla and mix until smooth.
- Add in rolled oats, chia seeds, and cinnamon, and mix until smooth.
- Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight. Serve cold.
What Are the Best Pregnancy Foods?
One of the Most Beneficial Pregnancy Foods: Greek Yogurt
Dairy products have casein and whey, two kinds of high-quality protein. Dairy is also one of the best sources of calcium, especially yogurt. You can also get high amounts of phosphorus, Vitamin B, zinc, and magnesium. Greek yogurt contains more calcium than most other dairy products and is especially beneficial. Some varieties also have probiotic bacteria, which support digestive health.
Legumes are great plant-based sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate, and calcium — all of which your body needs more of during pregnancy. Folate is one of the most important B vitamins (B9).
Sweet potatoes are a great plant-based source of beta carotene and fiber. Fiber keeps you full longer, reduces blood sugar spikes, and improves digestive health (hello, pregnancy constipation). Beta carotene is converted into vitamin A by your body, which is important for the baby’s development.
Packed with protein, eggs are a versatile addition to your diet when pregnant. They also provide amino acids that you both need. They contain more than a dozen vitamins and minerals, including choline, which is good for the baby’s brain development.
Salmon is nutrient-rich and high in essential omega-3 fatty acids. This nutrient is found in seafood, and it and can help form the eyes and brain of your baby. They can even help increase gestational length. It’s a low-mercury fish, too.
Broccoli and Leafy Greens
These powerhouses have vitamins A, C, K, and E and calcium, iron, fiber, and folate. Folate is a B vitamin that protects against congenital disabilities.
Lean meat is a good source of high-quality protein. Beef and pork are also rich in iron, choline, and B vitamins, all of which are important nutrients during pregnancy.
Berries contain water, vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, carbs, and plant compounds. And they’re so tasty!
Whole grains provide essential carbohydrates, your body’s main source of energy. Many whole–grain and enriched products also contain fiber, iron, B vitamins, and various minerals. Fortified bread and cereal can help you get enough folic acid.
Avocados are a rich source of magnesium and potassium, which are especially important for healthy blood pressure regulation. During pregnancy, eating plenty of potassium-rich foods can help reduce the risk of developing gestational hypertension.
Not One of the Pregnancy Foods, but Still Very Important: Water
Your blood volume increases by about 45 percent during pregnancy, so your body will keep your baby hydrated. But you may become dehydrated yourself if you don’t watch your water intake. Increasing your water intake may also help relieve constipation and reduce your risk of urinary tract infections (a common occurrence during pregnancy).
What Foods Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?
Mercury is a highly toxic element frequently found in polluted water, which means certain fish can contain high levels of mercury. These include tuna, swordfish, and king mackerel.
While it has no known safe exposure levels, it can damage your vital organs and systems in larger amounts. It can pose a dangerous risk to your baby’s development, even in smaller amounts. So, your safest option is to avoid high-mercury fish during breastfeeding and pregnancy.
Eating undercooked meat or raw meat increases your probability of infection from several bacteria or parasites. Toxoplasma, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella, can all be harmful to the baby. It can also result in stillbirth or severe neurological illnesses like intellectual disability, epilepsy, and blindness. You should fully cook any meat or poultry you eat to prevent any food-borne infections.
Undercooked or Raw Fish
Raw fish can cause several viral, bacterial, or parasitic infections. Examples include norovirus, Vibrio, Salmonella, and Listeria. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to listeria infections. This harmful bacteria can be found in water, soil, or plants that have been contaminated. Babies can contract listeria bacteria via the placenta, despite the mother showing no symptoms of illness. According to the CDC, this can lead to listeriosis, miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth, and other serious health problems.
This one is controversial. Manufacturers now spray cold cuts with a food additive that helps prevent listeria before packaging. You don’t need to panic if you are pregnant and have been eating deli meats. It’s a high probability that everything is fine. When it comes to deli meats, the likelihood of you being exposed to listeria is low. On the flip side, you need to know that there’s still a small risk.
Organ Meat (like Pâté)
Organ meat has plenty of Vitamin A. However, doctors recommend limiting animal-based vitamin A during pregnancy. It can lead to congenital malformations and miscarriage. You can get plenty of plant-based vitamin A from fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, carrots, and broccoli.
Salmonella bacteria can contaminate raw eggs. Symptoms of salmonella infections include fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. However, in rare cases, the infection may cause cramps in the uterus, leading to premature birth or stillbirth. Most products that have raw eggs are made with pasteurized eggs and are safe to consume. However, you should always read the label to be safe.
Unpasteurized Milk, Cheese, and Fruit Juice
Soft cheeses and blue–veined cheeses, such as Danish blue cheese, gorgonzola, and Roquefort, can also be unsafe to eat when you’re pregnant. The high-moisture content runs the risk of listeria growth. It’s fine to eat pasteurized cheeses, however.
Fresh-squeezed juice is another listeriosis risk. When you cut or peel fruits and vegetables, harmful bacteria on the outside can spread to the inside of the produce. Manufacturers pasteurize 98% of the juice you can buy in stores, though. You may just want to skip the fancy health-food store fresh-squeezed juice.
Well, you should always wash your produce, pregnant or not. But toxoplasma, a parasite found on unwashed fruits and vegetables, can be particularly harmful to a pregnant woman and the unborn baby.
Strive for Moderation With Pregnancy Foods Like Processed Junk Food
While there’s no hard and fast rule for junk food during pregnancy, many people take the “eating for two” excuse a little too far and wonder why they put on so much weight. A balanced diet relies mostly on fresh, whole foods, like vegetables, fruit, meats, dairy, fish, nuts, and whole grains. Healthy eating habits will benefit both you and your baby in the long run.
Raw sprouts may be contaminated with Salmonella. Examples of raw sprouts include alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts. These require a humid environment to start sprouting. Bacteria thrive in those kinds of conditions, and they’re nearly impossible to wash off. However, if they’re cooked, they’re completely fine.
Alcohol is one of the most toxic substances you can consume during pregnancy. Doctors do not consider any alcohol amount or safe to a growing fetus. The trouble is, the most crucial parts of fetal development often happen before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can result in a series of congenital disabilities commonly referred to as FASD or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
If you consume high amounts of caffeine normally, you may want to consider cutting back. But according to March of Dimes, it’s safe to drink about 12 oz of caffeinated coffee.
While studies have not produced consistent results regarding the effects of caffeine on unborn children, it does affect the mother. Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it increases your blood pressure and heart rate, both of which are not recommended during pregnancy according to the American Pregnancy Association. Caffeine also increases the frequency of urination. This causes a reduction in your body fluid levels and can lead to dehydration.
Try to cut down on your caffeine habit while pregnant and/or breastfeeding and replace it with your favorite herbal tea or sparkling water.
Find More Tips for Pregnancy Foods and Diet
Talk to a healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your nutritional needs during pregnancy or if you have dietary restrictions that prevent you from getting adequate nutrients. Pregnancy is a beautiful but difficult time! If you set up healthy habits early on, you’ll be set to go for a happy and healthy pregnancy!