5 Tips for Eating Healthy While Pregnant
Cravings getting the best of you? Here's what you should (and shouldn't!) be eating while expecting, so you and your growing baby can thrive.
Wondering What You Should (and Shouldn't!) Be Eating? Here's the Scoop
Need a little help figuring out what exactly is safe to eat and what you should be steering clear from while you’re expecting? Check out these tips to get started eating healthy while pregnant. Remember, you’re not just eating for yourself now – you’re also eating to help your growing baby develop and thrive! Try our tips below to start your prenatal journey on the best (and healthiest) foot forward:
Tip #1: Eat the Rainbow
Be sure to integrate as many fruits and vegetables as possible into your diet. This is one of the simplest ways to ensure you’re eating healthy while pregnant! Eating the rainbow – or a variety of colors from all sorts of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables – means generous portions of kale, carrots, bananas, broccoli, oranges, apples, blueberries, grapefruits, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, strawberries, and red, green, yellow, and orange peppers included in meals and snacks. Try a side of fresh fruit with breakfast and be sure that your helping of vegetables is the largest one on your plate during dinner. Pregnant women need more protein, folic acid, and iron than those who are not expecting, and it’s also important to ensure you’re getting the daily recommended amount of great-for-you nutrients and minerals like calcium, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. Different fruits and vegetables can give you all of those ultra-important things, so pack your plate with them and enjoy!
Tip #2: Err on the Side of Caution and Steer Clear of These Foods
What you don’t eat is equally as important as what you do – and you’re doing your growing baby a big favor by not putting him or her at risk! Certain foods and drinks may have bacteria in them that can be dangerous while pregnant. Bacteria like listeria and E. Coli can be very harmful to your growing baby and may adversely affect you, particularly with a lowered immune system while pregnant. For the time being and to ensure you’re eating healthy while pregnant, keep the following out of your diet:
- Raw or rare (uncooked or undercooked) seafood or shellfish, like oysters or sushi
- Unpasteurized juices or milks
- Raw or rare (uncooked or undercooked) meats and eggs, such as soft-cooked, poached, or runny eggs
- Soft cheeses, such as brie, goat cheese, or feta, and pates, unless they have been pasteurized
- Lunch meats, cold cuts, and store-bought deli salads, like ham, chicken, or seafood salad
- Foods that may contain uncooked eggs, such as cake, brownie, or cookie batter, eggnog, mousse, or certain salad dressings
Many moms-to-be opt to also limit their caffeine and added sugar intakes, though a conversation with your healthcare provider on recommended caffeine amounts for pregnant women can help you decide exactly how much to limit things like coffee, caffeinated teas, and sodas. Finally, it goes without saying – definitely no alcohol while you’re expecting!
Tip #3: Don't Go Too Long Between Meals and Snacks
This doesn’t mean go crazy with unhealthy snacks, like bowls of ice cream, bags of chips, and other goodies that you might be craving! Rather, have healthy foods (think almonds, walnuts, fruits, low-fat yogurt, or granola or protein bars) nearby to stay satiated if there’s a stretch between meals. It’s incredibly important to keep yourself and your growing baby fed and hydrated, because your body is working extra hard to provide all the nutrients your little one needs to develop. And, though it may seem counterintuitive, keeping your stomach from becoming too empty can also ward off nausea, fatigue, and other symptoms of morning sickness.
Tip #4: Be Careful with Fish
It can be difficult remembering what’s healthy while pregnant and what foods are generally advised against. Fish is one of those foods where certain types are excellent for you and your growing baby – and highly recommended – while other types can be harmful and should be strictly avoided.
In general, fish is a great source of protein and healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), pregnant women can eat between 8 – 12 ounces of cooked fish or seafood per week. Just be sure to avoid fish with high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to your baby’s developing brain. For that reason, fish to steer clear of include:
- White (albacore) tuna
- Orange roughy
Conversely, seafood and fish that is safe to consume during pregnancy includes:
As you can see, you still have plenty of variety to choose from!
Tip #5: Get the Right Amount of Calories Each Day
Though moms-to-be need an increased average amount of calories each day, it doesn’t necessarily mean “eating for two,” consuming a bunch of extra empty calories, or tripling your daily intake of food. Be sure to eat smarter by selecting healthy, filling, nutrient-dense foods full of vitamins, fiber, minerals, and healthy fats. According to health.gov, pregnant women should adhere to the following guidelines as closely as possible:
- During the first trimester (or the first 12 weeks of pregnancy), most women do not need any extra calories
- During the second trimester (or weeks 13 – 26 prenatal), most women need about 340 extra calories per day
- During the third trimester (or after 26 weeks prenatal), most women need about 450 extra calories per day
Work with your healthcare provider to ensure you’re getting the ideal quantity and quality of foods throughout your pregnancy journey. As your prenatal appointments become more frequent, don’t worry about the number on the scale. Weight gained during pregnancy is composed of many different things, including your baby and placenta, so focus instead on keeping yourself and your growing little one healthy!
Eating Healthy While Pregnant Will Help Develop Lifelong Good Habits
What you eat while pregnant may have a lasting effect – in fact, your baby’s taste buds have developed by 13 – 15 weeks pregnant! That means that he or she can taste what you’re eating through your amniotic fluid. Research shows that what you eat while pregnant can help shape your little one’s taste preferences for the long-term – so, if you want your baby to grow into a kid who (willingly) eats their vegetables, it can’t hurt to make sure you’re eating a lot of greens now!
If you have any questions about what you should or shouldn’t be eating while expecting, be sure to contact your healthcare provider. Having an open dialogue and staying in communication with him or her throughout your pregnancy can ensure peace of mind as questions arise. Remember, what you eat can directly affect how you're feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally, especially at a time when your hormones may feel all over the place. Checking out resources like Expectful can help support you with additional tools to nurture your mental and emotional health through your pregnancy and after you welcome your baby. Remember, Medela is here to support you through every stage of this wonderful journey!