The Best Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

Reviewed by Sarah Klemm, RD, CD
The Best Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

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Eating for two doesn't just mean eating more, it means eating better. Think beyond calories and consider the nutrients necessary to keep you healthy while providing proper nutrition for the growth of the baby.

Keeping it Balanced

Standard recommendations for pregnancy nutrition rely on a well-balanced, nutrient-rich eating plan, including a variety of foods from all five food groups fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods and dairy.

Vegetables, fruits and whole grains, such as fortified cereals, provide some of the all-star prenatal vitamins and minerals, such as folate for preventing neural tube defects, vitamin A for cellular growth and calcium for bone formation and fluid regulation. These foods also offer a steady supply of dietary fiber which is crucial for maintaining healthy digestion during pregnancy.

Because both your baby's and your cells are made mostly of protein, it's essential to get enough protein throughout pregnancy. Your exact protein needs will vary depending on your calorie needs, if you're expecting more than one baby during your pregnancy and which trimester you're in. Good sources of protein include eggs, beans, lentils, seafood, poultry, lean meats and low-fat dairy products.

Some fish provide omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to brain development, but due to their mercury content, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency created guidelines regarding safe fish choices. Fish are categorized in three groups - "Best Choices" (2 to 3 servings a week), "Good Choices" (limited to one serving per week) and "Choices to Avoid" during pregnancy, while breast-feeding and for young children. Tilefish, shark, swordfish, orange roughy, big-eye tuna, marlin and king mackerel, fall into the "Choices to Avoid" category and should not be eaten during pregnancy due to their high mercury levels. Whereas salmon, trout, anchovies, canned light tuna and sardines are examples of "Best Choices", so two to three servings per week of these fish may be eaten by soon-to-be moms.

Eating for Pregnancy Symptoms

While a well-balanced eating plan is ideal, it's not always simple. Most women experience some degree of nausea, food aversions, constipation and bloating during pregnancy. During those times, eating strategies may need to focus more on reducing these symptoms.

Nausea

  • Eat small, frequent meals to help keep blood sugar stable and prevent nausea from occurring.
  • Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Avoid foods with strong odors, including spicy and greasy foods.

Gas, Bloating and Constipation

  • Consume a steady intake of dietary fiber from whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
  • Stay hydrated. Aim for 8 to 12 cups of water or other caffeine-free beverages every day.
  • Maintain a low-impact exercise routine, unless your physician advises against it.

Heartburn and Indigestion

  • Focus on small meals throughout the day instead of large ones, to reduce the amount of volume at one time.
  • Limit trigger foods, such as spicy, greasy or highly acidic foods.
  • Maintain good posture and avoid laying down for three hours after eating.

Proper nutrition can be a game changer during pregnancy, offering a break from some of the most unpleasant symptoms while giving your baby a healthy head start. If you're unsure whether your food choices are meeting yours and your baby's nutritional needs, consider meeting with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

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