As part of a healthy pregnancy diet, some of the best foods you can eat include fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. Sounds obvious right? But did you know you should avoid certain types of fish, saturated fats, and deli meats?
It can be stressful trying to figure out what to eat and what not to eat. Adding cravings into the mix makes it even more difficult because you sometimes crave things you can’t have. However, with the right guidelines, you can keep your baby healthy and satisfy your cravings.
When my wife was expecting, we wanted to make sure our developing bambino was getting all the right nutrition. In this post, we’ll give you a definitive guide of everything you should eat to keep your baby healthy and all of the things you should avoid. Read on to find out more about the best and worst foods to eat during pregnancy.
The Best Foods To Eat For A Healthy Pregnancy
One mistake that many women make is thinking that they can eat anything and everything they want while pregnant. However, eating too much and eating the wrong foods can be harmful to your baby .
Instead, you should focus on eating the right foods and incrementally increasing your caloric intake to accommodate your growing baby. Below are some of the best foods you should eat during pregnancy.
Dairy products pack a nutrient and vitamin punch with protein and calcium, both of which are important for your baby’s health . Go ahead and eat cheese, milk, and yogurt. You may want to opt for low-fat milk and cheese. If you like Greek yogurt, it’s even better for you than regular yogurt, with much more protein and calcium and (usually) less sugar.
Dark, Leafy Greens And Broccoli
Dark, leafy greens and broccoli are some of the best foods you can eat during your pregnancy. You get all kinds of vitamins and minerals, like folate, Vitamins A, C, K, calcium, iron, and more. They’re high in fiber as well.
These foods are good for you and your baby and may help reduce the risk of low birth weight. Try to include greens like kale and spinach in your salad. If you’re not a huge fan, it’s easy to add a little spinach or kale to some of your favorite dishes, and you’ll barely notice them.
Berries aren’t just delicious. They also contain a lot of important antioxidants, fiber, carbs, and vitamin C. They’re also hydrating. If you’re craving sweets while pregnant, berries can be a healthy way to satisfy that craving instead of turning to candy or other junk foods.
While all berries have great nutritional value, some of the best berries you can eat while pregnant include strawberries, blueberries, acai berries, raspberries, and goji berries. Eat a handful or mix some with Greek yogurt to make a smoothie for a healthy treat.
Some of the most important nutrients you can eat while pregnant – protein, fiber, and folate – are found in legumes. Plant-based foods are a great way to get some of these all-important nutrients without eating meat, perfect if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
Legumes include beans, chickpeas, peanuts, soybeans, lentils, and more. You can find so many great recipes that include legumes; it’s easy to work them into your daily pregnancy diet.
While you’ll often hear that you should avoid fish while you’re pregnant (see our list below of fish you shouldn’t eat), salmon is perfectly safe and incredibly healthy for pregnant women . Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids that can have many benefits for your baby. It can help with healthy eye and brain development. It can also lengthen your gestational period, increasing your chances of a full-term baby at healthy birth weight. You should limit your portions of oily fish to two a week .
If you’re craving some carbs or need something that feels a little more satisfying than fruits or veggies, sweet potatoes are a great option. You’ll get lots of beta carotene and fiber, two essential nutrients during pregnancy.
Another great thing about sweet potatoes is that you can cook them in a multitude of ways. If you’re dying for some french fries, try making oven-baked sweet potato fries with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite seasonings.
Eggs are called the “incredible, edible egg” for a reason. They have a little bit of everything that’s important to eat during pregnancy: protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fat, and more. They also contain choline, which helps with your baby’s brain development and can prevent problems with the spine and brain.
If you think eggs are just a breakfast food, keep in mind that you can eat them at all times of the day. Make a quiche for lunch or dinner, or have a hard-boiled egg for a snack. There are so many ways to make eggs; you’ll never get tired of them.
Avocados have become something of a wonder food in the last several years, and for good reason. Avocados contain healthy fats, which are essential to your baby’s development. They’re also full of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and more. It’s easy to see why they’re so popular.
Avocados are a fruit but have a much different quality than most fruits or even vegetables. They’re incredibly satisfying and can bring a creamy element to your meal without adding unhealthy fats. For example, instead of butter on toast, try avocado on toast. You’ll get the same savory goodness with so much added value.
Other Fruits And Vegetables
Fresh fruits and veggies should be at the core of any pregnancy diet. You’ll get a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your growing baby needs. Try to mix it up and eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits to make sure you’re getting what you need. Many dieticians recommend aiming to eat a range of colors.
Fruits can often cure a craving for something sweet without having to eat a lot of refined sugar. Vegetables can be prepared in various ways and are usually low in calories, meaning you can usually eat as many as you want.
Meats and proteins are vital to a healthy pregnancy. However, not all meats are created equal. You should aim for lean cuts of chicken, beef, and pork, not fried chicken tenders or greasy hamburgers.
In addition to protein, lean meats are also packed with choline, iron, and vitamin B. These all aid in your baby’s growth and development.
Iron is of particular importance. You may notice that your OBGYN checks your iron levels periodically throughout your pregnancy. Low iron levels can lead to anemia, which can result in low birth weight and other issues.
While refined grains like pasta, white bread, and white rice won’t give you a lot by way of nutrition, you can get a lot out of whole grains, particularly fiber and vitamins. Try to add foods like quinoa, brown rice, barley, oats, and other whole grains to your pregnancy diet.
These grains will give you the full feeling you get from eating other carbs while letting you avoid unnecessary sugars. Try eating oatmeal with berries for breakfast or add quinoa or brown rice as a side at dinner.
It probably goes without saying that water is essential to any pregnancy. Many pregnant women fall victim to dehydration. Your baby needs a lot of water, and your body will give your baby what they need above all else. If you’re not drinking enough water for both you and your baby, you may wind up dehydrated.
Water can also help with two other problems women face during pregnancy: urinary tract infections and constipation. While these aren’t life-threatening to your baby, they can cause you added discomfort.
You should try to drink about 80 ounces of water each day, remembering that some of the things you drink like juice and soda contain water. If water isn’t your favorite, you can jazz it up by adding fresh fruit or mint to make it more palatable.
What Foods To Avoid While Pregnant
There are several foods you should avoid while pregnant. While some foods are unhealthy, like saturated fats, others can be harmful to your baby . Be sure to read carefully so that you completely avoid the foods that have the potential to harm your baby.
Fish With A High Mercury Content
While many fish are safe to eat during pregnancy, you want to completely avoid fish with high mercury content. Mercury is extremely toxic, and it’s unsafe even in the smallest amounts. Consuming mercury can cause birth defects or worse in your baby.
Most fish with a high mercury content are found in deep seas and open waters, as these areas tend to have a higher concentration of mercury. The main fish to avoid are the larger, saltwater varieties.
You should avoid:
- King Mackerel
- Orange Roughy
If you’re in doubt about a type of fish, it’s best just to avoid it.
Raw Or Undercooked Fish
Your visits to the sushi bar will have to wait until after the baby is born. Consuming raw or undercooked fish can cause a whole host of infections, from viral, bacterial, to parasitic. You can get Salmonella, norovirus, and Listeria, just to name a few.
While these infections tend to cause mild symptoms in adults, it’s best to avoid being sick while pregnant. Further, these infections can cause detrimental harm to your unborn baby. Some can even be fatal.
While there are a few types of sushi that may be safe, it’s best to avoid sushi, sashimi, raw oysters, and other undercooked fish during pregnancy.
You may hear differing opinions on alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Some cultures feel a glass of wine here and there is okay, while others suggest avoiding alcohol completely. Since most scientists agree that there is really no safe alcohol level, you should forego alcohol while pregnant.
Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which can cause physical deformities, learning disabilities, and heart defects.
Processed, Raw, Or Undercooked Meat
While it’s best to avoid raw fish, it’s also best to just avoid raw and undercooked meat altogether. If you typically order your steak rare, you may need to up the cooking time until after your pregnancy. Some steak and lamb cuts are okay to eat less than well done, but it’s best to err on the side of caution when pregnant.
You should also stay away from processed meat, such as deli meats and hot dogs. Undercooked or processed meats can carry bacteria, viruses, and parasites just like raw fish can. If you still want to hit up your favorite deli, you just need to make sure that any deli meats you order have been cooked until steaming to kill off any viruses or bacteria.
Unpasteurized Dairy Products And Juice
While dairy products have great nutritional value for a healthy pregnancy, any unpasteurized dairy and juice products may contain bacteria or parasites .
Undercooked Or Raw Eggs
In some cases, undercooked or raw eggs can carry the Salmonella bacteria. While a Salmonella infection usually causes minor symptoms like upset stomach and nausea during pregnancy, it can cause uterine cramps that can sometimes result in premature birth or stillbirth.
If you like to eat eggs, make sure they’re fully cooked, and the yolks aren’t runny. Avoid eating homemade sauces that contain raw eggs, like homemade mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce. In some cases, these sauces contain pasteurized eggs, which should be okay, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution unless you’re 100% sure.
Caffeine is often one of the most difficult things for women to give up during pregnancy. Many of us rely on our morning cup of coffee or tea to get going in the morning. However, too much caffeine can cause problems for your unborn baby.
While adults can metabolize caffeine relatively easily, it can pass through the placenta, where it’s much slower to metabolize. Too much caffeine at a time can cause low birth weight, which in some cases can be fatal.
You don’t have to forego your daily caffeine fix completely while pregnant. Most doctors recommend that you limit your intake to one cup of coffee or tea per day.
Unwashed Produce And Raw Sprouts
While fresh fruits and vegetables are generally healthy for your pregnancy, you do have to be careful about a few things. First, raw fruits and vegetables need to be thoroughly washed before eating. You may also peel or cook them for added safety. Unwashed produce can contain any number of parasites and bacteria, making it easy to get sick.
While most of these parasites and bacteria won’t make adults that sick, they can cause harm to your fetus. In some cases, your baby may develop issues later in life, such as blindness or learning disabilities. Some can cause blindness or brain damage at birth.
Raw sprouts should be avoided altogether. These may contain Salmonella that may still be present even after a thorough washing. You should only eat sprouts after cooking.
Junk food can be tempting, especially when you’re pregnant. You may feel hungry all of the time, and you likely feel like something healthy like a salad or fresh fruit isn’t going to satisfy that hunger. However, junk food may feel more filling, but it won’t fill you up the way nutrient-dense foods will.
Most junk foods are processed and are high in saturated fats, sugar, or both. These foods aren’t optimal for a healthy pregnancy, and it’s better to break your junk food habit before your baby is born. If you want your baby to eat a healthy diet, it’s important that you model that.
When you are pregnant it is very common you develop cravings. Sometimes it’s food you already enjoy, or it may even be food you haven’t eaten in a long time. Some women even find they crave food they don’t normally like! It’s important to listen to your body and embrace your cravings. You’ll find by doing this you’ll automatically feel better. Pregnancy is a special time in your life and should enjoy the experience.
Be careful if you are craving something on the unhealthier side. You can still have some treats in moderation. For example, if you’re craving ice cream, it’s okay to have a small bowl every once in a while (even though you may be craving the whole tub!). Just try your best not to overindulge. While some weight gain is healthy during pregnancy, if you gain too much weight, you can run into issues like gestational diabetes.
Eating healthy during your pregnancy is one of the most important things you can do for your baby. After all, you are your baby’s only source of nutrition, and he or she depends on you to give them everything they need to grow and develop.
Be sure to eat lots of nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy, and lean proteins to give your baby the right start. These foods keep you healthy and promote healthy weight gain. They also give your baby what they need.
Avoid foods like raw meats, unwashed fruits and vegetables, alcohol, and high levels of caffeine intake. These are foods you can’t eat in pregnancy and can put your baby at risk and, in some cases, can be fatal. Also, avoid junk foods, as these can cause unnecessary weight gain.
Remember morning sickness can greatly affect what you feel like eating whilst you are pregnant. For more information on this, take a look at our post on morning sickness.
Want to get ready for more exciting parts of your pregnancy? Read our article on creating a maternity bag using our comprehensive hospital bag checklist. Make sure you have everything you need when it’s time to go to the hospital.