Healthy Pregnancy Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid During Pregnancy

Healthy Pregnancy Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid During Pregnancy

Congratulations, Momma! You're embarking on an incredible journey of nurturing and bringing new life into this world. This is an exciting time full of anticipation and joy. Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your growing baby.

In this blog, we'll discuss all the essential nutrients as well as foods you should eat and avoid to maintain proper nutrition during pregnancy.

7 Key Nutrients for a Healthy Pregnancy

7 Key Nutrients for a Healthy Pregnancy

Folate and folic acid

Folate (a B vitamin) is crucial to your baby's brain development. *Folic acid is its synthetic form that's usually found in supplements and other fortified foods.

Getting at least 600 micrograms per day during pregnancy reduces the risk of developing birth defects and prevents preterm birth.*

Dietary sources: Fortified cereals are great sources of folic acid. Dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, dried beans, lentils, and peas are good sources of folate.

Related Article: Methylfolate vs. Folic Acid: Which is Better?

Calcium

Getting enough calcium is super important for you and your growing baby. Calcium is a key nutrient to help your baby build strong bones, teeth, muscles, and nerves.*

As you carry your little one in your womb, your bones will support the added weight, making it important to keep them strong. Aim to get at least 1,000 mg of calcium while you're pregnant.

Dietary Sources: Dairy products, leafy greens, fruit juices, and other fortified foods such as breakfast cereals can help you meet your daily calcium needs.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A (or retinol) plays a vital role in various processes, such as cell growth, immune system function, vision, and your baby's organ development.*

While pregnant, you may also experience changes in your vision, including difficulty seeing in low light conditions, commonly known as "night blindness." So, adequate amounts of vitamin A are vital for your eye health during pregnancy. * Just make sure not to take too much, as high levels of vitamin A intake can lead to birth defects and other complications.*

Dietary sources: Potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, pumpkin, and red bell peppers. These plant-based foods are rich in beta-carotene, a type of provitamin A carotenoid that is safe for consumption during pregnancy, and do not pose a risk of excessive vitamin A intake.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D supports your immune system, promotes healthy bone development, and aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. *Adequate vitamin D intake during pregnancy has also been associated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. *

Dietary Sources: Fatty fish (such as salmon), eggs, fortified milk, and orange juice are great food sources of vitamin D.

Protein

Protein is essential for your baby's growth throughout pregnancy. It supports various aspects of their development, such as the growth and repair of tissues, the production of antibodies, hormones, and enzymes, proper muscle function, and the transportation of oxygen. You should aim to consume an additional 25 grams of protein per day to meet the needs of your growing baby.

Adequate protein intake during pregnancy has been associated with a healthy birth weight for the baby, which may reduce the risk of future health problems such as diabetes and obesity.*

Dietary Sources: Plant-based sources include tofu, beans, lentils, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products. Animal-based protein sources are beef, chicken, fish, and eggs.

Potassium

One of the key benefits of potassium is its ability to regulate fluid balance in the body, which can help manage annoying pregnancy bloat. It also aids in metabolizing carbohydrates and protein, which are vital for providing energy and nutrients to your baby.*

Adequate potassium intake promotes healthy blood pressure and reduces the risk of pregnancy-related complications such as preeclampsia.*

Dietary Sources: Bananas, sweet potatoes, avocado, spinach, white beans, acorn squash, yogurt, and salmon

Iron

The body uses iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body's tissues. Your body needs this iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. 

You'll need twice as much iron as you normally would when you're not pregnant. Not getting enough iron during pregnancy increases your risk of developing iron defiency. *Blood volume increases when you're pregnant, which is why anemia during pregnancy is common. If you follow a strict vegetarian diet or have a chronic health condition, your healthcare provider may recommend taking an iron supplement to help increase your iron stores.*

Dietary Sources: Lean red meat, fish, and poultry are good sources of iron. Other great options include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, beans, and vegetables.

DHA

DHA (a type of omega-3 fatty acid) plays an essential role in your baby's brain and eye development. Omega 3-s, in general, helps metabolize fat-soluble vitamins like A and E. They may help reduce the risk of prenatal and postpartum depression.*

Fats are an integral part of any healthy diet and play a key role during pregnancy. *However, the types of fat are essential. For example, getting omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is critical during pregnancy. Supplementing with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids during pregnancy may reduce the incidence of preterm birth.*

Additionally, high intakes of saturated fat can increase the risk of pregnancy complications.*

You can safely consume some saturated fats during pregnancy, but you should have unsaturated fats more often for optimal health.

Dietary Sources: walnuts, flaxseeds, and fatty fish, such as salmon, herring, and trout, are some of the best food sources of foods rich in polyunsaturated fat.

Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

The best foods for pregnancy are high in vitamins and minerals that play a key role in supporting your baby's growth and development. Here's a list of food that you can enjoy to ensure proper nutrition during pregnancy.

Whole Grains

Whole grain foods such as oats, brown rice, beans and lentils, fruit, and vegetables are rich in fiber.  Having a diet high in fiber can also reduce the risk of developing complications associated with pregnancy, such as hemorrhoids and constipation. Getting the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day can help you feel fuller longer and keep uncomfortable pregnancy constipation at bay.

Lean Meats/Protein

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.

Dairy Products

Dairy products are a good source of several important nutrients such as calcium, protein, vitamin D, B12, phosphorus, and zinc which are all beneficial for you and your baby's overall health and development.

It's important to remember that not all dairy products are the same. Some dairy products can be high in saturated fat, which can lead to weight gain and other health issues if consumed in large amounts. That's why it's recommended that you choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products whenever possible. This will ensure that you're getting the important nutrients you and your baby need from dairy without consuming excessive amounts of saturated fat.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are generally low in calories but high in nutrients and antioxidants, making them an ideal food choice during pregnancy when the body's nutritional needs are higher. They are also rich in fiber, which can help prevent constipation and other digestive issues that are common during pregnancy. 

Healthy Fats

Fats, particularly DHA (a type of omega-3 fatty acid), are essential for a baby's vision and cognitive development. Healthy fats also help to regulate hormones in the body and aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, E and, which are important for a healthy pregnancy.

Water

H2O is technically not a food but essential for a healthy pregnancy diet. It plays a key role in delivering nutrients to your baby and helping her body make new cells. Staying hydrated is vital for you, too. Getting enough water is one of the best ways to stave off constipation during pregnancy. Plus, dehydration can increase the risk of early labor.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

The following foods are not good for your health and may cause a delay in fetal development during pregnancy:

Fish With High Levels of Mercury

Don't eat bigeye tuna, king mackerel, orange roughy, swordfish, and tilefish, as they have high mercury content. If you love eating fish, salmon should be a safe and excellent choice for pregnancy, so feel free to enjoy 8-12 ounces (2-3 servings) per week.

Unpasteurized Dairy Products

It's important to avoid unpasteurized dairy products during pregnancy because they can be contaminated with harmful bacteria like Listeria and Salmonella. These bacteria can cause food poisoning and serious health issues for you and your baby. Avoid eating soft cheeses, including feta, queso blanco and fresco, brie or blue-veined cheese, and goat cheese — unless labeled "made with pasteurized milk."

Too Much Caffeine

Excessive intake of caffeine during pregnancy has been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, fetal development issues, and low birth weight.

Alcohol

Alcohol use during pregnancy is strongly discouraged as it can cause a range of negative effects on both you and your baby. Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause congenital and developmental disabilities, also known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).

Healthcare professionals highly recommend limiting or completely avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and undercooked meat and eggs during pregnancy.

Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins help fill in any gaps in your diet and ensure that you're getting all the essential nutrients your body needs to support the demands of pregnancy

Healthy eating during pregnancy is important, but it can be difficult to get all the nutrients you need from food alone —especially with morning sickness and other changes that most pregnant moms encounter and experience. Prenatal vitamins help fill in any gaps in your diet and ensure that you're getting all the essential nutrients your body needs to support the demands of pregnancy.

It's worth noting that prenatal vitamins are not created equal. Some prenatal supplements may include additional ingredients or fillers that may cause allergic reactions or other side effects. For example, prenatal gummies usually contain excessive sugar that's not safe for you, especially if you have gestational diabetes or other health concerns that may be affected by excessive sugar intake.

It's important to read the label carefully and only buy from a reputable brand that's FDA-approved and third-party tested. Your healthcare provider can guide you in choosing the best prenatal vitamins for you and your baby. We've also created another blog for you that tackles 4 important things to consider when choosing a prenatal supplement.

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