Eating healthfully is essential to your well-being and, during pregnancy, choosing the right foods will help promote your baby’s growth and development. Smart selections include lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains.
What to pick and what to skip, along with the essentials of not overeating for two (moderation is key), follow.
Fish, meat, poultry, eggs and legumes pack plenty of protein, along with B vitamins and iron.
Fatty fish, such as salmon, is also rich in vitamin D and in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which may help develop your baby’s brain and spinal cord. The weekly recommendation for expectant and breastfeeding moms is up to 12 ounces of a variety of fish (the equivalent of three servings, each about the size of a deck of cards) that does not contain higher levels of mercury (see Best to Skip below).
Top Picks: Salmon, shrimp, cod, trout, herring, sardines, pollock, tilapia, catfish, light canned tuna, up to six ounces per week of white albacore tuna, chicken, turkey, lean pork, lean beef, lamb, beans, peas, lentils and nuts.
Best to Skip: Fish high in mercury, including swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t go for raw, undercooked and smoked seafood and raw-fish sushi (California roll, which contains cooked crab, is fine). Avoid raw or undercooked eggs or meat, and refrigerated pâté or meat spreads.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide many minerals and vitamins, as well as fiber that helps with digestion and preventing constipation. Vitamin C, found in fruits and veggies, aids iron absorption. Dark green vegetables are good sources of vitamin A, iron and folate.
Top Picks: Fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, melon, mangoes, bananas, apricots and prunes. Veggies such as carrots, spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and sweet red peppers.
Best to Skip: Avoid unpasteurized juice or cider. Raw or undercooked sprouts, such as alfalfa, mung bean, clover and radish, may contain E.coli or Salmonella.
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, may help your baby’s development. Milk, yogurt and eggs, along with some grains, are fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. It’s always a good idea to read nutritional labels on products to help uncover unhealthy fats and keep your portion sizes, as well as sugar content, in check.
Top Picks: Avocados, nuts, nut butters and seeds contain healthy fats. Dress your salads with olive oil and vinegar in lieu of cream-based, cheese-filled choices.
Best to Skip: Saturated fats, trans fats, butter, lard, rich cheeses and processed, convenience foods.
Grains provide essential carbohydrates, which help fill you up and give you long-lasting energy. Many whole-grain and enriched products also contain fiber, iron, B vitamins and many minerals. Fortified bread and cereal provide folic acid.
Top Picks: Cold and cooked cereals (especially whole-grain cereals), brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and whole-grain bread such as rye and pumpernickel.
Best to Skip: Sweetened cereals and white bread.
Staying hydrated is crucial. It’s a good idea to carry a water bottle with you to sip throughout the day.
Top Picks: Water, juice, decaf coffee, decaf tea and soft drinks all help you meet your daily fluid requirements.
Best to Skip: All alcoholic beverages and sugar-laden drinks.
A Word About Dairy
Calcium in dairy products and fortified soymilk helps build your baby’s bones and teeth, as does vitamin D. Dairy products, such as fortified milk, also contain vitamin D and protein, as does orange juice.
Top Picks: Fat-free or low-fat yogurt, skim or one-percent milk or soymilk and low-fat hard cheeses.
Best to Skip: Unpasteurized milk, soft cheeses containing unpasteurized milk, including brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, queso fresco, gorgonzola and chevre.
The Importance of Folic Acid
Folic acid can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain and spinal cord). Your provider can recommend the appropriate amount of folic acid for your specific needs.
Top Picks: Leafy green veggies, asparagus spears, berries, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified cereals and some vitamins.
Consult your provider regarding taking a daily prenatal vitamin or any other supplement. Keep in mind that prenatal vitamins are beneficial but are no substitute for healthy nutrition, so you still need to be proactive in making the best food choices.
How Much Is Too Much?
Pregnant women need approximately 300 extra calories daily. Whether you are expecting one child or expecting multiples, it’s important to eat healthy amounts of the right foods. Talk to your provider about the appropriate portion sizes, calorie counts and weight gain for you.