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A Nutritional Guide to Eating While Pregnant

Posted by Antoinette Peters on

During pregnancy, your body is doing remarkable things. For a solid nine months, you are growing an entire human and that takes a lot of energy and the right nutrition to ensure baby grows strong and healthy. While you are not necessarily “eating for two”, you do need to keep in mind that your nutrition is far more important during these months.

So, let’s go over what you should be eating and some foods or drinks to avoid during your pregnancy.

You need specific nutrients!

While you are carrying baby, you are going to need more calcium, more iron, more protein, and more folic acid than a typical woman’s diet, according to the American College of Obstetrics.

  • Calcium- Calcium helps build strong bones and teeth in babies. Your body does incredible things to ensure your baby gets all they need, so if you are not consuming enough calcium, the mineral will be drawn from your stores in your bones and given to the baby to meet its needs. To avoid this from happening, take care to consume the following foods: milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines or salmon with bones, and leafy greens such as kale or bok choy.
  • Iron- Your iron intake should be double the amount of a non-pregnant woman. Iron is needed to make more blood which supplies the baby with oxygen. Too little iron during your pregnancy can result in anemia which increases your chances of fatigue and risk for infection. Increase iron absorption with sources of vitamin C, such as orange juice, or find iron in these food sources: meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereal.
  • Protein- Protein is a builder nutrient and helps build baby’s important organs, such as the brain and the heart. It is rare that pregnant women have trouble getting protein-rich foods, but if you are struggling for ideas, these foods are high in protein: meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, eggs, nuts, tofu
  • Folic acid- Folic acid, also known as folate, is essential in preventing birth defects in the baby’s brain and spinal cord. To make sure you are getting enough folic acid, you can take a vitamin supplement containing 600 micrograms a day (which is usually found in your prenatal vitamin). Additionally, you can eat leafy green vegetables, enriched cereals, breads, or pastas, beans, and citrus fruits.

Let’s break down your pregnancy “diet”

While you are carrying baby, you need to make a nutritious diet one of your number one goals. To make sure you are maximizing your prenatal nutrition, emphasizing the following five food groups is essential: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and dairy.

So how can you accomplish this healthy eating? Take it one meal at a time and portion your plate in this way

  • Half of the plate is filled with fruits and veggies
  • A quarter is filled with whole grains
  • A quarter is filled with lean protein
  • And one dairy item is included in your meal

Fruits and Veggies

During the second and third trimesters, these foods will be your best friend. Including 10 servings of produce every day will fill you and your baby with great amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Lean Protein

Since protein supports the growth of your baby, including lean protein at every meal is extremely important for growing a healthy, strong fetus. Include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, cheese, nuts and seeds, and other sources of lean protein into your daily nutrition.

Whole Grains

Did you know half of your carbohydrate intake during pregnancy should come from whole grains? These are an important source of energy and provide B-vitamins, iron, and fiber needed in your nutritional diet. Whole grains, such as oatmeal, breads, brown rice, and whole-grain pastas are exactly what you need to maintain balanced meals.


Milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium, protein, and vitamin D. While you are carrying baby, aim for 3 to 4 servings of these foods per day.

Limit These Foods During Your Pregnancy

While most foods are either green light or red light, these are two specific items you may want to consider cutting back on during your pregnancy. These foods can be consumed in moderation, but too much can be detrimental to you and baby.


Moderate caffeine consumption is okay during pregnancy and does not seem to contribute to any miscarriages or premature births. To err on the side of caution, consider consuming fewer than 200 mg of caffeine a day, which is typically found in a single 12-ounce cup of coffee.


Fish is an extremely good source of lean protein. In fact, salmon and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids which are good for the heart. Additionally, it is safe for pregnant women to eat 8 to 12 ounces of cooked fish and seafood per week. However, “white” tuna should be limited as it has high levels of mercury. No more than 6 ounces of this fish should be consumed weekly by a pregnant woman, and it may be safer to just avoid it altogether.

Mercury is a metal that can be harmful to your baby’s developing brain, so avoiding it is probably best, but if you want to consume some tuna, the canned light tuna is the safest option.

Avoid These Foods Like the Plague

Okay, we’re joking—sort of. These foods are not the most nutritional and can even be detrimental to the baby if consumed or overconsumed. With all the healthy options on the market, it should be simple to avoid these foods. Keep these in the back of your mind when creating your grocery lists or going out to eat for your nine months of carrying and remember—it’s just nine months—you’ll be able to eat these items again.


Did you know alcohol in your blood can pass directly to the baby through the umbilical cord? While you may hear some people profess, “a glass of wine per day won’t harm you”, heavy alcohol use during pregnancy is linked with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. This group of disorders could mean physical, learning, and behavioral issues for your child after birth. Steer clear while baby is cooking, and you’ll be just fine!

Fish with High Levels of Mercury

Some fish out there contain high levels of mercury, which is a toxic chemical that can be passed from you to the baby through the placenta. This chemical can be extremely harmful to the baby’s developing brain, kidney, and nervous system. Our advice—avoid seafood such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, orange rough, and tilefish while you are pregnant to avoid those fish with high levels of mercury.

Unpasteurized Food

According to the USDA, pregnant women are at a higher risk of contracting two different forms of food poisoning: listeriosis and toxoplasmosis. Unpasteurized food creates a higher risk because the foods have not been heated to a high temperature to kill harmful bacteria (pasteurization).

Furthermore, the CDC warns that Listeria infection can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labor, and illness or death in newborns. Take care and caution to avoid getting listeriosis by doing the following

  • Avoid unpasteurized milk and foods made from it. This includes the following: Feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheese, Queso Blanco, and Queso Fresco
  • Avoid hot dogs, luncheon meats, and cold cuts unless you heat to steaming hot prior to eating to kill the bacteria
  • Avoid ham salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, and seafood salad
  • Avoid unpasteurized refrigerated meat spreads or pates

Raw Meat

Toxoplasma infection can cause both blindness and mental disability later in life, according to the CDC. This infection can be passed on through the mother to the baby during pregnancy. Avoid these foods to prevent you and baby from going through toxoplasma:

  • Raw or undercooked meats and poultry
  • Raw fish—sushi, sashimi, ceviches, carpaccio
  • Raw or undercooked shellfish—clams, mussels, oysters, scallops

Other foods can increase your risk of other food poisonings, such as salmonella or E. coli bacteria. These foods can pose a threat to your health during pregnancy and should be avoided:

  • Raw or undercooked eggs—soft-cooked, runny, or poached eggs
  • Raw cookie dough or cake batter, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, homemade ice cream, homemade eggnog, and hollandaise sauce all contain undercooked eggs. Avoid.
  • Raw or undercooked sprouts, such as alfalfa or clover
  • Unpasteurized juice or cider

It can be a lot to remember, just use us as your guide!

If you are ever feeling overwhelmed or unsure about the foods or drinks you should be consuming during your pregnancy, just come back and peek at this blog. It is full of information that helps keep both mama and baby healthy throughout the entire pregnancy.

Remember, be balanced with your food intake, and you should be just fine. Keep an eye on trigger items like caffeine, alcohol, unpasteurized foods, and raw foods and you’ll stay in the clear. When you are unsure, consult your doctor and let him or her lead you in the right direction.

Enjoy all the delicious foods so your baby will grow healthy and strong! Let us know what your favorite nutritious meal has been during pregnancy!



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