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21 Foods to Eat When You're Pregnant

21 Foods to eat while pregnant
Written by: Caitlin Alfano;  LIU Post Dietetic Interns
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Palmer, DO

 In This Article:

★ HOW MANY CALORIES SHOULD A PREGNANT WOMAN EAT?

★ WHAT ARE THE RIGHT FOODS FOR A PREGNANT WOMAN?

★ 21 HEALTHY FOOD FOR PREGNANCY

★ FOODS TO AVOID DURING PREGNANCY 

★ DAILY PRENATAL VITAMIN

While it's always important to incorporate nutritious foods into the diet, pregnancy nutrition is more important than ever for pregnant women to eat optimally. A healthy diet includes a balanced diet of macronutrients and micronutrients that are essential to support your body during this time of growth and development. There is no one specific pregnancy diet, as every woman has different needs during this time. 

Many pregnant women experience different pregnancy symptoms such as nausea that would affect their diet. Specifically, certain types of foods may exacerbate these symptoms while others mitigate the symptoms. One of the best foods for pregnancy is ginger which is an antiemetic known for reducing symptoms of nausea that pregnant women may experience. 

When trying to choose the best pregnancy food, it's always best to pick foods that are nutrient-dense rather than containing empty calories. Pregnancy super foods are items that are nutrient-dense like fresh unprocessed food. This is the best way to get a “bang for your buck” with your nutrition. 

These are the foods to eat during pregnancy that way you and the baby get the most optimal prenatal nutrition. However, the occasional ice cream or candy bar can have its place in your diet when called for. 

★ HOW MANY CALORIES SHOULD A PREGNANT WOMAN EAT?

In general, every woman's calorie needs are different during pregnancy. A rule of thumb is that calorie intake should gradually increase as the baby grows. For expectant mothers, the average calorie intake is about 2,000 calories per day, which is enough nutrients required by both mom and fetus. Consuming nutrient-rich foods is the best way to ensure your baby’s properly developing.

 However, if a woman was underweight before pregnancy, carrying twins or multiple children, she may need additional calories per day. Your healthcare provider will monitor your weight throughout pregnancy to ensure it remains within a healthy range. 

Moving into the second trimester or 27th week of pregnancy until birth an additional 300-340 calories per day is recommended or about 2,200 calories. This is equivalent to 7oz full-fat greek yogurt, medium-sized banana, and 18g of natural raw almonds. 

Then in the third trimester, it is recommended an additional 400-500 calories a day. Which is equivalent to a full meal!

★ WHAT ARE THE RIGHT FOODS FOR A PREGNANT WOMAN?

The best foods to eat while pregnant are fresh foods packed with vitamins and minerals to support the baby's growth. Healthy pregnancy meals should be well-balanced including all the food groups, vegetables, protein, grains, fruit, dairy, and fat. 

A pregnancy diet plan should begin with vegetables that are important to incorporate since they are low in fat, calories, and high in fiber. Choosing a wide variety of colorful vegetables is important to get a variety of vitamins and minerals into your diet. Adding foods like sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, colored peppers, carrots, and asparagus are packed with nutrients. A great way to add more vegetables into your diet is by adding them to sandwiches, any meal, or blending them into your smoothies. 

Proteins are important to support the baby's growth and development and help give mom energy. Examples of lean proteins include chicken, turkey, fish, lean meats, and eggs. There are great sources of plant protein sources that are great alternatives to the animal proteins such as beans and tofu.

Fatty fish are rich in omega 3 fatty acids one of which is DHA. DHA is essential for your baby's brain and eye development. Check out our blog on The Importance of DHA during pregnancy.

Prenatal nutrition needs whole grains because they are rich in fiber, B vitamins, and iron. You need twice as much iron during pregnancy to help deliver oxygen to your baby. Great whole grain sources are brown rice, whole wheat bread, oats, and barley. Whole grains are essential to help with symptoms of pregnancy such as constipation and hemorrhoids. 

Fruits aren't only deliciously sweet and tasty, during pregnancy they can help subside sugar cravings. It's best to choose whole fruits which are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and avoid fruit juices. Examples of fruits to incorporate into your diet are strawberries, mangoes, avocados, citrus fruits, and apples.

Dairy products are important to incorporate into a healthy diet and are a good source of calcium and protein. Calcium is key in your baby's development to build bones, teeth, muscles, and nerve development. When dairy products are taken in moderation it can be a part of a healthy diet. It's important when buying to look for dairy products with the word “pasteurized”. 

Lastly, healthy fats are essential for the baby's brain and eye development. Healthy fats are liquid at room temperature and include olive, canola, or safflower oil. During pregnancy, it's best to avoid large consumption of saturated fats like butter or lard to reduce excess weight gain. 

★ 21 HEALTHY FOOD FOR PREGNANCY

The best thing you can do is eat real food for pregnancy. Here is a list of good foods for pregnancy

    1. Eggs 
    2. Tofu
    3. Fatty fish containing omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, trout, herring
    4. Beans and legumes 
    5. Sweet potatoes
    6. Dry cereal
    7. Whole grains products such as whole wheat breads & whole wheat pasta
    8. Oats
    9. Barley
    10. Brown rice
    11. Quinoa
    12. Nuts
    13. Seeds 
    14. Dairy products such as greek yogurt & low-fat milk
    15. Dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, collard greens, swiss chard, & spinach
    16. Lean meat
    17. Poultry
    18. Broccoli
    19. Avocado
    20. Fruits/dried fruits 
    21. Healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, & safflower oil

★ FOODS TO AVOID DURING PREGNANCY 

An important component of a healthy pregnancy diet is to understand that there are certain foods that should be avoided during pregnancy. There are certain foods that contain bacteria that can make you and the baby sick. This is related to your immune system weakening during pregnancy to support your baby's growth. It's best to stay away from the following foods: 

  • Unpasteurized milk
  • Unpasteurized juice 
  • Unpasteurized cheese 
  • Raw seafood 
  • Rare meats
  • Deli meats
  • Hot dogs 
  • Raw eggs 
  • High mercury fish 
  • Raw sprouts
  • Alcohol 

Food for pregnant women is not an exact science but sticking to foods that are rich in specific nutrients such as protein, vitamin D, iron, calcium, omega 3- fatty acid DHA, and iodine will promote a healthy pregnancy.

best prenatal vitamin

★ DAILY PRENATAL VITAMIN

 While it's important to consume your prenatal nutrients and prenatal vitamins from your diet during pregnancy, a prenatal plus DHA vitamin will help fill in the gap you may be missing from your diet. The Feed Mom & Me prenatal vitamin is one of the best over-the-counter prenatal vitamins to help promote a healthy pregnancy. It was created by both an OBGYN and a Registered Dietitian to assure it contains all the nutrients needed during pregnancy. Each capsule contains ginger and peppermint powder to help in alleviating pregnancy symptoms.