Pregnancy Food Tips – Eating Well During Pregnancy : Food Tips and Nutrition Guide. Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it can also be challenging as your body goes through many changes. Eating well during pregnancy is one of the most important things you can do to keep you and your growing baby healthy. Here is an in-depth guide on healthy eating and nutrition tips for pregnancy.
Introduction – Pregnancy Food Tips
Your baby depends on you for nutrients and energy to grow properly. A healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy provides the essential building blocks for your baby’s development. Most experts recommend eating an additional 300 calories per day during the second and third trimesters to support your baby’s growth and development. Focusing on eating quality foods packed with nutrition for you and baby is key.
Here are some of the top food tips and nutrition recommendations when you’re expecting:
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, dairy and healthy fats
- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and fluids
- Take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, iron and other key nutrients
- Get extra calories from nutritious sources like avocado, nuts and yogurt
- Avoid raw meat, fish and eggs to reduce infection risk
- Limit caffeine and avoid alcohol, smoked seafood and deli meats
Top Foods and Nutrients for Pregnancy
Here are some of the top foods and nutrients you and your baby need during pregnancy:
- Protein – Helps build your baby’s tissues and muscles. Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds.
- Folate/Folic Acid – Essential for baby’s brain and spinal cord development. Get from fortified grains, green leafy veggies, beans, citrus fruits.
- Iron – Helps produce extra blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to you and baby. Find in meat, poultry, fish, spinach, lentils, beans.
- Calcium – Needed for developing baby’s bones and teeth. Consume dairy products, leafy greens, calcium-fortified foods.
- Vitamin C – Promotes iron absorption and helps build baby’s bones and teeth. Citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli and strawberries are good sources.
- DHA – An omega-3 fat that supports baby’s brain development. Get it from salmon, tuna, sardines and DHA-fortified foods.
Foods to Enjoy
Here are some nutritious and delicious foods to include in your pregnancy diet:
- Fruits: Berries, bananas, apples, melon, oranges, mangos. Focus on variety!
- Veggies: Spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, green beans, asparagus, tomatoes.
- Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta. Rich in fiber, B vitamins.
- Lean protein: Chicken, turkey, eggs, lean beef, pork, fish, nuts, beans, tofu.
- Dairy: Milk, unsweetened yogurt, cheese sticks. Excellent source of calcium and vitamin D.
- Healthy fats: Avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds like almonds and walnuts.
- Legumes: Lentils, black beans, chickpeas, peas. Packed with plant-based protein, fiber, iron.
Drinking enough fluids is essential during pregnancy. Aim for about 10 cups of total fluids per day. Water should make up the bulk of your fluid intake. Other healthy options include milk, herbal tea, kefir and fresh juice. Limit sugary drinks like soda and fruit punch which provide empty calories. Dehydration during pregnancy can lead to complications like urinary tract infections and early contractions. Stay well hydrated by sipping on water consistently throughout the day. Keep a refillable water bottle with you.
Foods to Limit
While eating nutritious foods is vital, you also need to limit less healthy items that are common pregnancy contraindications:
- Raw meat, fish and eggs: Risk of food poisoning and harmful bacteria. Cook thoroughly.
- Unpasteurized milk and juice: May contain dangerous bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli.
- Deli and cured meats: Higher risk of listeria bacteria which can cause miscarriage.
- Caffeine: No more than 200 mg daily. Found in coffee, soda, tea, chocolate.
- Fish high in mercury: Avoid shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel. Limit tuna.
- Alcohol: None is considered safe during pregnancy due to risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
- Junk foods: Limit sweets, fast food, chips and greasy snacks high in fat, salt and calories.
Pregnant women are at higher risk of food poisoning from bacteria, viruses or parasites. Use these food safety guidelines:
- Cook meats to safe internal temperatures
- Avoid unpasteurized products
- Wash all fruits and veggies thoroughly
- Prevent cross-contamination by separating raw and cooked foods
- Avoid foods that commonly harbor bacteria like sprouts
- Check “sell by” and “use by” dates and discard expired foods
Healthy Snack Ideas
Snacking is important when you’re pregnant to help meet higher calorie needs. Aim for smaller snacks 2-3 times per day to keep your blood sugar stable. Here are nutritious pregnancy snacking ideas:
- Fresh fruit with yogurt or cottage cheese
- Trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit
- Smoothies made with milk, yogurt, fruit
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Hummus, veggies and whole wheat pita
- Cottage cheese and berries
- Hard boiled egg and raw veggies
- Oatmeal or granola bars (look for higher protein, lower sugar options)
- Banana and nut butter toast
- Edamame sprinkled with sea salt
Gaining a Healthy Amount of Weight
Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy through diet and exercise is key to your health and the health of your baby. The recommended pregnancy weight gain is:
- 25-35 pounds if you were a normal weight before pregnancy
- 15-25 pounds if you were overweight before pregnancy
- 28-40 pounds if you were underweight before pregnancy
The rate of weight gain matters too. You should gain 2-4 pounds total in the first trimester and about 1 pound per week in the second and third trimesters. Work closely with your healthcare provider to determine your own personalized pregnancy weight gain goals through eating well and staying active.
Managing Pregnancy Discomforts
Along with nutrition, you can use diet to help relieve some common pregnancy discomforts too:
Nausea: Eat small, frequent meals. Focus on bland, easy to digest foods like crackers, plain pasta, rice cereal or toast.
Heartburn: Avoid spicy, acidic and fried foods. Eat smaller meals more often.
Constipation: Up fiber intake from fruits, veggies, whole grains and prunes. Stay hydrated and active.
Leg Cramps: Consume foods high in magnesium like leafy greens, nuts and bananas.
Food Cravings and Aversions
Cravings and aversions to certain foods are very common in pregnancy due to hormonal shifts. Give in to harmless cravings occasionally for healthier treats like fruit, yogurt or nuts. To help with aversions, focus on getting nutrition through foods that appeal to you and try the avoided foods again in a few weeks. Discuss severe aversions with your doctor.
Vegetarian or Vegan Diet
You can safely eat a vegetarian or vegan diet during pregnancy. Focus on getting sufficient protein, iron, vitamin B12, omega-3s, calcium, zinc and vitamin D from plant-based sources or supplements. Talk to your doctor if you follow restrictive diets. Most vegans will need a vitamin B12 supplement.
FAQs About Pregnancy Food Tips
Here are answers to some common pregnancy nutrition questions:
How many extra calories do you need during pregnancy?
Most women need 300 extra calories per day during the second trimester and 450 extra calories per day during the third trimester. Talk to your doctor about your weight gain goals.
When should you start taking a prenatal vitamin?
Start taking a prenatal vitamin at least one to two months before conception or as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Select one that contains 400-800 mcg of folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D and DHA.
Can you eat spicy foods while pregnant?
Yes, unless you develop heartburn or acid reflux which spicy foods can worsen. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid laying down after meals to prevent discomfort.
Is it safe to eat deli meat during pregnancy?
No, deli meats carry a higher risk of listeria bacteria. Heat deli meats to steaming hot before eating or avoid them entirely while pregnant.
Can you drink coffee when pregnant?
Up to 200 mg of caffeine per day appears safe, but limit coffee and other caffeinated beverages. Caffeine crosses the placenta so moderation is key.
Can you eat sushi while pregnant?
Only if it is made with cooked fish or seafood. Raw fish and shellfish can increase your risk of food poisoning and infections.
Eating nutritiously during pregnancy is one of the most important things you can do for your health and your baby as you prepare to become a mother. Focus on a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, fiber-rich whole grains, healthy fats and dairy. Drink plenty of fluids, take a prenatal vitamin and practice food safety. Work with your doctor on your personalized nutrition needs for a healthy, comfortable pregnancy. Eating well now will set up you and your new baby for the best possible health.