Pregnancy Eating Tips

What's Covered

During pregnancy, eating habits can be a big problem. As your body adjusts to pregnancy, you would experience a craving for food or aversion to a specific food. These are more likely due to a changing of sense taste during the first trimester of pregnancy. Even though you have gotten cravings for different food items during this period, the best advice is to eat healthily. Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet leads to the better growth and development of the baby. [1]

What to eat during the pregnancy period?

During your pregnancy, you have to eat healthier foods when compared to while you are not. You should advise to consume plenty of iron-rich foods during pregnancy and, in some cases, supplementary vitamins like folic acid. Eating nutritious foods and a well-balanced diet can ensure the healthy development of your baby during pregnancy.[2]

The foods you should eat during pregnancy.

  1. Yogurt contains calcium that responsible for the bone development of your baby. It is also rich in protein and folic acid that has a large role in cell growth and tissue formation for infant growth and development.
  2. Legumes contain high B vitamins and a good source of folate. They are responsible for the growth and development of the baby inside your womb.
  3. Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A which a vital role in healthy fetal development. It also a great source of fiber that helps improve digestive health and reduce blood sugar spikes during pregnancy.
  4. Salmon is the best oily fish to eat during pregnancy because it belongs to low mercury fish. You will get Omega-3 from this fish that would help for the neurodevelopment and growth of the fetus. But, you must consult your physician first about the recommended requirement of fatty acid you will intake for the safety of both you and the baby.[3]
  5. Eggs contain high choline that is good for healthy brain development and function in the infant. You can also obtain fatty acids from eggs that are good for the birth weight of the baby. A pregnant woman that consumes two large eggs can acquire enough nutrients for the mother and the baby.[4]
  6. Leafy green vegetables are pack with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you and your baby need. Eating green veggies can help you reduce the risk of brain development problems for your baby. Constipation is common during pregnancy, so intake foods rich in fiber helps improve your digestive system. Vegetables rich in fiber and vitamins are beetroots, bell peppers, broccoli, green peas, and dark leafy greens.
  7. Lean beef, pork, and chicken loaded with complete protein, rich in iron, and a good source of vitamin B12. You need sufficient iron for you to have extra blood (hemoglobin) and your baby during pregnancy. 
  8. Whole grains provide carbohydrates that are an essential source of energy. You must have sufficient strength to ensure the full-term delivery to a healthy infant with adequate size and appropriate body composition. 
  9. Fruits can provide pregnant women with plenty of healthy vitamins and minerals. These can be beneficial for your health and the development of the baby.
  • Apples contain high fiber, which can help your digestion regulates well and prevent hemorrhoids.
  • Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges contain vitamin C that can improve your digestion and deter morning sickness during pregnancy. Vitamin C is responsible for your baby bone development and boosts your immune system as well.
  • Bananas are a great source of potassium. Potassium helps lower blood pressure in your body and prevent leg cramps or pain during the later stages of pregnancy.
  • Kiwis contain folic acid that helps to develop the growth of the baby. Eating kiwis help pregnant women absorb iron more efficiently, ensuring that your blood carries enough oxygen to your baby.
  • Watermelon contains high levels of vitamins A, C, and B6, potassium for cramps, and magnesium that help relax the muscle. Also, watermelon can fight morning sickness, reduce heartburn, and prevent dehydration.
  • Berries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries are rich in antioxidants that can help prevent diseases for both you and your baby.

Tip: Ask your physician more about what foods can be beneficial for you during your pregnancy and the recommended serving suggestions.

Prenatal vitamins for pregnant women.

Consuming real foods is not sufficient enough to support your daily nutrients requirement for you and the baby. You need to take prenatal supplemental vitamins to fill the required daily nutrients. Before taking these vitamins, you should consult your doctor first if these are right for you.

  1. For pregnant women who are very sensitive to taste during their first trimester, this gummy multivitamin is right for you. This multivitamin contains folate, Vitamin C, D3, and Zinc for immunity, Omega 3 (DHA/EPA) for brain development. These vitamins are essentials for the development of the fetus.
  1. The multivitamins for pregnant women that contains a prenatal formula with 25+ organic vitamins. All ingredients are 100% natural. This prenatal vitamin helps you to boost your daily nutritional requirement. As a whole, it supports the healthy development of your baby, especially the brain and eye development.
Actif Organic Prenatal Vitamin
The formulation of this prenatal vitamin is to support the healthy development of your baby.
  1. This prenatal vitamin is vegetarian and gluten-free. It contains plant-sourced enzymes to help balance your digestion. It also contains folate, calcium, choline, and iron, which vital for healthy baby development.
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Rainbow Light Prenatal One Vitamins
This vitamin will help your baby’s brain development into a smart, clever, and attentive kid. Your baby will perform better than others at school and in the future in his or her life. You will enjoy seeing your kids having a fruitful and satisfying life.

What nutrients needed for a healthy fetus development?

All nutrients are essentials. But, these six play a critical role in the growth and development of your baby during pregnancy.

  1. DHA – DHA helps develop the brain and eyes of your baby. It is good that you eat seafood that lows in mercury. These are salmon, anchovies, catfish, shrimp, and tilapia. Other DHA sources are orange juice, milk, and eggs. If you could not eat this food, you may need a prenatal vitamin that focuses on DHA content.
  1. Iron – Iron is responsible for making hemoglobin in your body. You need to produce more blood to bring more oxygen to your baby. Your baby needs it to build blood of his own. Lean meat, poultry, beans, nuts, raisin, and leafy green vegetables are good sources. Prenatal vitamins that rich in iron are necessary if you could not meet the daily requirement.
  1. Calcium – Calcium is good for the bone, teeth, heart, muscles, and nerve of your baby. Milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, and kale are a good source of calcium. You may take the prenatal vitamins mentioned above if you do not get enough calcium.
  2. Vitamin D – It helps boost your immune system so that you can protect your baby from infection. It also helps your body absorb calcium. Milk, a cereal that contains vitamin D, fatty fish like salmon, prenatal vitamins are the sources of this vitamin D.
  3. Iodine – It helps the nervous system of your baby develop. The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerve, which help your baby think, feel, and move. Fish, milk, cheese, yogurt, and iodized salt are a good source of iodine. Ask your physician if you need more iodine to sustain the required daily nutrients.
  4. Folic acid – Folic acid belongs to B-group vitamins. It is responsible for the healthy development of your baby. Taking enough of this folic acid will help prevent your baby from neural tube defects (also called NTDs). NTDs are health birth problems of the brain and spinal cord. You can get folic acid by eating citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, beans, cereals, bread, rice, and paste. If you could not fill enough folic acid in your daily requirement, you may take a prenatal vitamin that contains folic acid.

Reminder: The prenatal vitamins listed above are only recommendations for you and the development of your baby. Before taking this vitamin, you should consult your doctor beforehand if they are compatible with your daily nutrients requirements.

The foods you should not eat during your pregnancy.

Pregnant women should pay particular attention to certain foods during pregnancy. You should avoid foods that contain high retinol and fish that contain high mercury, raw foods, and unpasteurized dairy products. All of these mentioned foods can harm the developing fetus.[5]

Here are the foods you must avoid during the pregnancy period.

  • You should limit consuming liver products because it contains high retinol, which may cause birth development problems and may harm the developing fetus.
  • Pregnant women should limit consuming alcohol, or much better not to. Alcohol may cause problems for the developing baby throughout pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women should limit their intake of caffeine to 300 mg per day. If you are a coffee lover, you may need to cut down on your consumption as it may increase the risk of low birth weight or miscarriage.
  • Avoid eating fish like sharks, marlin, and swordfish because they contain high mercury. It can affect the developing nervous system growth of the fetus.
  • Avoid consuming peanut if your family have a strong background of peanut allergy. There is no enough evidence of the cause of peanut allergy to the infant. But, it is better to be careful about the health of the baby.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products like raw milk or unpasteurized milk. They carry harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, and others that can cause food poisoning that may harm you and your baby. Before you buy milk, cheese, or other dairy products, you must read the label first if the product was pasteurized or not
  • Avoid eating raw meat or uncooked foods as they carry bacteria such as salmonella that harmful to your developing baby. Before you eat raw fruits and vegetables, you must wash them thoroughly to getting rid of any harmful bacteria. When you are pregnant, your immune system may weaken, so you must protect yourself and your baby. You must eat well-cooked foods to ensure the safety and health of your developing baby.

Tip: Ask your physician more about what foods you should avoid during your pregnancy and the recommended serving suggestions.

Books for Pregnancy Eating Tips

Prenatal food is very confusing, especially if it is your first time getting pregnant. You do not have sufficient and reliable information about what to eat during pregnancy. One might help you to gain more knowledge about prenatal nutrition is by reading more books. By doing this, you will acquire information that will help you to choose smartly about what to eat or not during pregnancy. 

  1. Pregnant women may have many questions about what food to eat during pregnancy. This book will guide you to be confident about what food and lifestyle should support your smooth, healthy pregnancy.
  1. What you will love about this book is the recipe section. Each recipe tells you the nutrients it provides for you and the baby. At the end of some recipes, there are cooking, time-saving, storage-saving, and diabetic tips. It is full of healthy, simple recipes, and the ingredients are easily found in the supermarket or at home.
  1. A pregnant vegetarian would love this book because the recipes mostly fruits and vegetables. If you find that your body is craving lighter, healthier meals with little to no meat, this book would be great for you. It tells what nutrients are most important each week according to fetal development. It provides easy charts and lists, so you will know what foods to eat during your pregnancy.
  1. This book will guide you to be more confident in your ability to nourish your developing baby through a food approach. You will find interest in everything from smoothies, soups, and snacks in the recipes.
  1. This book will help you identify gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, or low carb foods. The recipes are organized by months to cover the development and the nutritional needs of the mother and baby. The recipes are easy to follow with regular ingredients.

The food you must eat in the first trimester.

In early pregnancy, some pregnant women lose their appetite, even the foods they used to love. About 50% of women have nausea and vomiting, and 25% have nausea alone during the first trimester. During this pregnancy stage, morning sickness is the most challenging for most pregnant women that need to overcome. [6]

Tips on how to reduce the symptom of nausea

  1. You should advise avoiding exposure to disgusting odors, foods, or supplements that may trigger your nausea.
  2. Avoid eating fatty or spicy foods because they can cause heartburn or stomach discomfort.
  3. Fill up your stomach with a small amount of food every few hours instead of three big meals a day.
  4. Drink fluids between meals, and try to eat bland, dry, and high-protein foods.
  5. Avoid an empty stomach. Always keep crackers beside you as an emergency snack when you feel hungry.

What are the nutrients you need during your first trimester?

  1. Folic Acid – Folate is responsible for healthy fetal growth. The foods that contain folate are well-cooked dried beans, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, and breakfast cereal. Low folate dietary intake may increase risks of pre-term delivery, infant low birth weight, and fetal growth retardation.[7]
  2. Protein – It improves fetal growth and may reduce the risk of fetal defects. A good source of protein includes eggs, yogurt, and chicken.
  3. Calcium – Calcium is essential for bone formation, muscle contraction, enzymes, and hormone functioning to the developing baby. Low consumption of calcium can cause muscle cramping, tetanus, delayed fetal growth, and low birth weight. The great sources of this nutrient are milk, cheese, yogurt, and dark leafy greens. [8]
  4. Iron – Iron requirement is increasingly essential as your red blood cells mass expands for the growing fetus and placental structures. The great sources of iron are beef, chicken, eggs, tofu, and spinach. Make sure to have sufficient iron to reduce the risk of pregnancy anemia.
  5. Vitamin C – Adequate intake of C-rich foods will help promote bone and tissue development in your growing baby. Oranges, broccoli, and strawberries are a great source of vitamin C.
  6. Potassium – Potassium is responsible for maintaining fluid balance in the body and keeping normal blood pressure. Bananas, apricots, and avocados are good sources of potassium.
  7. DHA – DHA can be found in low-mercury fish such as wild salmon, anchovies, and canned light tuna. Seafood is also a good source, but you may be too nauseated for seafood these days. You may consult your physician about your situation so that she can prescribe you the right prenatal vitamins.

What are the healthy eating tips for the first trimester?

The first trimester of pregnancy is the crucial part of the whole trimester. You may struggle with nausea and morning sickness. Do not even try to worry much if you are not eating well, as it may cause stress and depression.

Some tips that could help you to be healthy in the first trimester.

  1. Stay hydrated – You must drink plenty of water, at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day. You start doing it in the morning, drink a glass of water. Take a few sips before bedtime. If you think the plain water does not sound appetizing, you can add some slice of lemon or cucumber to the water.
  2. Snack well – Always have crackers or biscuits beside you. In case you feel hungry, fill right away up your stomach. Do not even try to skip your hunger, as it could be harmful to your body. But, be mindful to keep your blood sugar level by eating healthy snacks.
  3. Take your prenatal vitamins – You must take your vitamins on time because you are not eating well in a day.

Foodborne Infections during Pregnancy

Foodborne illness is an infection that can occur when you eat or drink foods contaminated by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Pregnant women are vulnerable to foodborne illness. So, proper handling of food preparation is a must.[9]

Prevention of foodborne disease during pregnancy

You can protect yourself and your baby from foodborne infections by administering proper food hygiene. The things you must do to avoid foodborne illness are the following:

  1. Wash your hand with soap before preparing your food. Wash your hand as often as necessary if you handle raw meat or chicken during the food preparation. Also, wash your hand after using toilet facilities, changing diapers, or handling pets.
  2. Buy raw foods from a reliable and clean source. You should ensure the food has not contaminated by bacteria.
  3. Store the foods at proper temperatures in a refrigerator or freezer to prevent microbial growth.
  4. Cook your food well to destroy the microorganisms.
  5. Do not allow foods to remain refrigerated for a long time because most bacteria can multiply at temperatures between 40 and 1408F. If you think the foods are spoiled, you should discard them.
  6. If you doubt the freshness of the food, it is wise to discard them to ensure you will not eat spoiled foods.

Things you must do when buying foods.

  1. Examine the condition of the food thoroughly.
  2. Frozen foods should be thoroughly chilled.
  3. Can goods should not be dented, cracked, or bulging.
  4. Meat should be fresh and do not have a foul smell.
  5. Vegetables and fruits should be fresh, not bruised or wilted.
  6. Do not buy cracked or dirty eggs.
  7. Check the expiration date, and also do not purchase products that are near to expire.
  8. Do not take unpasteurized dairy products, especially raw milk. Always check the label of the product whether the food is unpasteurized or not.
  9. Should not leave your groceries in a hot area as they may get spoiled. When shopping, always grocery will be the last trip to ensure the foods are in good condition. When arriving at home, wash the foods right away and place them in the refrigerator or freezer.

Things you must do when storing foods.

  1. Always check the refrigerator and freezer if they are at the proper temperature. Keep it as cold as possible without freezing milk or produce.
  2. Raw red meats, poultry, or seafood should place in a separate container during refrigeration to prevent dripping onto other foods, raw vegetables, or fruits inside the refrigerator. Juices from raw meats contain bacteria that can contaminate other foods.
  3. You should refrigerate eggs and dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, etc.

Things you must do when preparing foods.

  1. Wash your hand with soap before preparing your food. Wash your hand as often as necessary if you handle raw meat or chicken during the food preparation.
  2. When switching from other food preparation, you should wash your hands, the knives, chopping board, counter, sink, faucets, and any utensils to prevent cross-contamination. Always keep the raw meat, poultry, or seafood away from other foods.
  3. After washing the utensils used in the food preparations, you dried them with disposable paper. If nothing else, you can use cloth towels but be sure to change them frequently.
  4. Frozen foods are thawed in the refrigerator or maybe by microwaving to avoid bacteria growth. Also, marinated meat should place inside the chiller.
  5. Vegetables or fruits should wash thoroughly before eaten or before cooking to remove the bacteria.

Things you must do when cooking foods.

  1. You should cook the red meat and poultry well. You can determine if the foods are cooked by checking their color and texture. The red meat should be gray or brown inside, chicken drippings run clear, and fish flesh is tender. Raw foods are not safe for pregnant women because they contain bacteria that may cause foodborne illness.
  2. You should continuously cook the food, especially poultry and meats. Partial cooking may allow bacterial growth during the period before the cooking is resumed.
  3. Pregnant women should heat the ready-to-eat meat products such as hotdogs, luncheon meats, ham, lunchmeat, and cold cuts products.
  4. Eggs should cook well. The yolk and white must be firm, not runny.

Things you must do when serving foods.

  1. Dishes and utensils used in preparing raw foods must not use for serving foods. Wash them first with soap before using them.
  2. Hot foods should serve promptly, and cold foods should remove from the refrigerator just before serving.
  3. Picnic foods should place inside the cooler and avoid direct sunlight, as it may spoil.

Final Thoughts

Pregnant women should eat healthier foods for the healthy development of the baby and full-term delivery. Read books about pregnancy to gain more knowledge. Consume foods rich in folate, iron, calcium, fiber, vitamin C, B-group vitamins, protein, and DHA. Eat foods that high in fiber and drink plenty of water to avoid constipation. Do not consume unpasteurized dairy products, raw foods, and fish that contains high mercury. Always perform proper hygiene to prevent foodborne illness. Lastly, you should visit your physician regularly to monitor your health status and your baby.

[1] Myaruhucha, C. N. “Food cravings, aversions and pica among pregnant women in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.” Tanzania Journal of Health Research 11.1 (2009).

[2] Avena, Nicole M. What to Eat When You’re Pregnant: A Week-by-Week Guide to Support Your Health and Your Baby’s Development. Ten Speed Press, 2015.

[3] Miles, Elizabeth A., et al. “The Salmon in Pregnancy Study: study design, subject characteristics, maternal fish and marine n–3 fatty acid intake, and marine n–3 fatty acid status in maternal and umbilical cord blood.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 94.suppl_6 (2011): 1986S-1992S.

[4] Lutter, Chessa K., Lora L. Iannotti, and Christine P. Stewart. “The potential of a simple egg to improve maternal and child nutrition.” Maternal & child nutrition 14 (2018): e12678.

[5] Williamson, C. S. “Nutrition in pregnancy.” Nutrition bulletin 31.1 (2006): 28-59.

[6] Niebyl, Jennifer R. “Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.” New England Journal of Medicine 363.16 (2010): 1544-1550.

[7] Scholl, Theresa O., and William G. Johnson. “Folic acid: influence on the outcome of pregnancy.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 71.5 (2000): 1295S-1303S.

[8] World Health Organization. Guideline: Calcium supplementation in pregnant women. World Health Organization, 2013.

[9] Smith, James L. “Foodborne infections during pregnancy.” Journal of food protection 62.7 (1999): 818-829.

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Diana Lucas

Diana Lucas

Hi, Diana here. Welcome to my blog and hope you like my sharing. I am a mother of 2 boys, 3 years old and a 1 year old. I dedicate my career in child development research and I focus on parenting tips, positive parenting, educational toys for my babies. Your time here means a lot to me! Diana A. Lucas

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