Best Foods to Eat and Avoid During Pregnancy

by | Nov 25, 2020

Pregnancies can be a happy time, but there are necessary precautions to take care of for the health of the mother and the child.

Food plays a very important role in the development of a fetus. It is important to understand the different kinds of food that should be eaten during pregnancy to provide the correct nutrients to the child.

A mother should consume healthy foods during pregnancy which are rich in nutrients as an additional 300 calories are needed on a daily basis to maintain a healthy pregnancy. 

It also a good idea to be aware of foods to avoid during pregnancy that can cause harm to both mom and baby. These foods could not offer the right amount of nutrients that your body needs to maintain your health throughout this journey.

Nutritionally-rich food is a vital part of pregnancy and needs to be given a great amount of attention. It is essential to understand the different kinds of food that should be eaten or avoided during pregnancy. Keep reading to learn more about pregnancy nutrition.

Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

Find the best foods to eat and avoid during pregnancy to keep mom and baby healthy and safe while pregnant, including key vitamins & minerals

A balanced diet of grains, fruits, lean meats, and vegetables can provide you with the extra calories needed during pregnancy. You should limit your intake of food items like sweets and sugary beverages. Also, a well-balanced and healthy diet high in nutrients can help to reduce pregnancy symptoms, including constipation and nausea.

The best foods for pregnancy are high in vitamins and minerals that play a key role in supporting your baby’s growth and development. These key nutrients that you should include in your diet are:

  • Folic acid. Getting at least 600 micrograms per day during pregnancy reduces the risk for neural tube defects. 
  • Iron. You need nearly twice as much iron during pregnancy, or 27 milligrams daily. The mineral is used to make more blood that carries oxygen to your baby.
  • Calcium. Aim for 1,000 milligrams daily. Calcium is key to help your baby build strong bones, teeth, muscles and nerves. 
  • Vitamin D. It helps calcium do its job and keeps your immune system strong. You should get 600 IU daily. 
  • DHA. An omega-3 fatty acid, DHA plays a role in your baby’s brain and eye development. You need 200 to 300 milligrams per day. 
  • Iodine. The mineral promotes your baby’s brain and nervous system development. You should get 290 micrograms daily.

These nutrients are typically found in the foods below, however you should take a prenatal vitamin daily to ensure that you’re getting the recommended dose of these vitamins and minerals to obtain the nutrients that cannot be easily gained from regular foods.

The following foods are beneficial to your health and fetal development during pregnancy. As such, some of the foods to eat while pregnant are:

1. Vegetables

They are known to be rich in vitamins and potassium.  Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, B and C, making them an excellent source of essential vitamins. Beetroot has high amounts of fibre and vitamins, which help in strengthening the immune system.

Green leafy vegetables are high in fibre, folate and carotenoids. Other vegetables that should be consumed include carrots, pumpkin, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, green peas, and broccoli.

2. Fruits

Pregnant women require foods rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin A and C, folic acid, and other nutrients for healthy pregnancy, and fruits can be an amazingly easy source for these nutrients. Apples are rich in fibre and can help with the digestion and prevent hemorrhoids.

Citric fruits contain vitamin C which can help the baby develop strong bones. Citrus also helps deter morning sickness. Other fruits to eat include mangoes, bananas, grapefruits, cantaloupe kiwi, watermelon, and berries.

3. Dairy Products

Find the best foods to eat and avoid during pregnancy to keep mom and baby healthy and safe while pregnant, including key vitamins & minerals

Dairy products are a good source of nutrients like Vitamin A and D, calcium etc. Milk, Yogurt and cheese are a few dairy products which work as good dietary sources.

4. Protein

Protein intake is crucial during pregnancy to ensure healthy growth of the baby and to reduce the risk of low birth weight. It is also important for maintaining good bone tissue health for the mother.

Protein works as a building block by your body to develop bones, muscles, hair and skin of the fetus. Foods that provide the right quantity of protein include poultry, eggs and meat, and the vegetarian options of protein include legumes, nuts & seeds, dairy and grains.

Find the best foods to eat and avoid during pregnancy to keep mom and baby healthy and safe while pregnant, including key vitamins & minerals

5. Prenatal Vitamin

As stated above, it’s essential to take a prenatal vitamin even if you think you’re getting all your essential nutrients from foods. Try the vitamin subscription service from Vitamin and Me to make sure that you’re never low on your prenatal vitamins..

Vitamin and Me is a brand that uses a unique matching technology to pair customers with a personalized vitamin plan based on their individual needs, including custom prenatal vitamins. They offer a range of brands and have made sure to curate the highest quality vitamins on the market, only the best for women and their babies.

Vitamin and Me offers deals on packages for those supplements when you maintain a subscription. You’ll need to take prenatal vitamins throughout the 9 months of pregnancy and into postpartum so maintaining a subscription is a great idea.

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

While some food items might not cause harm to you, they can cause harm to the baby and affect the overall development of the fetus. Thus, here are a few food items that should be avoided during pregnancy for better health of the mother and the child.

1. Certain Meat

Although some meats are a great source of protein, some meats should be avoided such as rare cuts, uncooked meats, pre-stuffed turkey or chicken, steak tartare, or any raw meats, refrigerated meats or meat spreads including canned meats. 

Cold cuts and salty deli meats, such as bacon and salami should be limited or avoided due to the high concentration of nitrates. Hot dogs should also be fully cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

2. Certain Fish

Raw fish or food items including sushi or salmon should be avoided, such as those included in sushi or sashimi. Smoked fish like smoked salmon, mackerel, and tuna are not recommended.

Also, locally-brought fish like bluefish, trout, striped bass and pike should be avoided as they may have a high mercury level. All fish high in mercury should be avoided during pregnancy including shark, swordfish, ray, and more.

3. Unpasteurized Milk and Cheese

Unpasteurized milk, and cheeses made from unpasteurized milk like feta, brie, camembert and queso and other soft cheeses should be avoided. However, look at the ingredients label to determine if the milk is pasterurized or not. Not all soft cheeses need to be avoided, but only those that are unpasteurized which is actually very uncommmon in the United States.

4. Unwashed and Raw Fruits and Vegetables

Raw-pressed juice brought from the store should be avoided. Raw sprouts, unwashed fruits and vegetables and unripe papaya should also be avoided during pregnancy because of the high chance of food-born illnesses. 

5. Caffeine

Any sort of caffeine intake should be limited to 200mgs on a daily basis during pregnancy. This is about the same as 2 mugs of instant coffee. High levels of caffeine in pregnancy can result in babies having a low birthweight, which can increase the risk of health problems in later life.

Find the best foods to eat and avoid during pregnancy to keep mom and baby healthy and safe while pregnant, including key vitamins & minerals

6. Junk Food and Street Food

While junk and processed foods don’t provide any nutrition, street foods can lead to food poisoning. Thus, it is best to steer clear from these and instead eat only freshly cooked home-made food.

7. Alcohol and Smoking

These are not good choices for a healthy lifestyle and more so during pregnancy. Alcohol and drugs can lead to birth defects in your baby and there is no specific determination of how much needs to be consumed to cause these defects, so it is best to avoid them all together.

Guidelines to Handle Food Safely

Pregnancy is a fragile period for the mother and the child. Consuming healthy food is important as they provide nutrients to the baby. However, there are a few guidelines that should be followed for safe handling of the food, some of which are mentioned below. 

  • Wash all raw produce thoroughly. Clean the vegetables under running tap water to ensure safe consumption before cutting, cooking or eating.
  • A thorough cleaning of knives, counter-tops, and cutting boards is recommended. Also, washing your hands before preparing food is absolutely necessary.
  • Perishable food items need to be refrigerated as soon as possible to ensure that they stay fresh for a longer time. 
  • Cooking of meats like beef and pork and poultry at a safe temperature is important. You can verify the correct temperature with the help of a food thermometer.

Conclusion

Consumption of healthy food during the pregnancy is vital for the growth of the child and the good health of the mother. Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet can provide both – the mother and the baby – the right nutrients and minerals.

Also, check with your doctor regularly and don’t miss out on your appointments to ensure a smooth pregnancy without any risks/complications during childbirth.

Find the best foods to eat and avoid during pregnancy to keep mom and baby healthy and safe while pregnant, including key vitamins & minerals

Hi I’m Marissa!

A mom of two little ones, here to provide some relatable experiences, tips, and tricks to the joys and challenges of pregnancy and childbirth through raising babies and toddlers.  Read more about me here.