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  • Writer's pictureJessica Lagrone

Essential Nutrition During Pregnancy: How to Eat Healthy

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

During pregnancy, it becomes essential for expectant mothers to prioritize their nutrition and ensure both their own health and the proper development of their baby. It can be hard to eat well, but the benefits are undeniable! A well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet can significantly contribute to a smooth pregnancy, optimize fetal growth, and reduce the risk of complications. This article will delve into the benefits of absorbing essential nutrition through food while providing practical tips for expectant mothers on eating healthy during pregnancy.

Why Nutrition During Pregnancy is Important

Nutrition plays a vital role in your and your baby's overall health. During pregnancy, your body is working overtime and needs extra calories, vitamins, and minerals to support your baby's growth. Eating a balanced diet will help your body function well, all while providing necessary nutrients for your baby's development. Here are some ways that nutrition plays a massive role in the well-being of both the mother and developing fetus:

  • Baby relies entirely on the mother's nutritional intake for growth and development.

  • Key nutrients are critical for the development of baby's nervous system.

  • Nutrition helps baby attain a healthy birth weight throughout the pregnancy.

  • Adequate nutrition supports Mom's health and energy levels.

Now that you know why nutrition is crucial for pregnant women, let's talk about superfoods that are a good source of vitamins and minerals during pregnancy.

How to Eat Healthy During Pregnancy

Pregnancy nutrition is crucial as a woman's body goes through significant changes. It is important to ensure that you make healthy food choices to get the right nutrition to support your own health and the growth and development of your baby. As mentioned earlier, proper nutrition during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects and support a healthy pregnancy. So what are "superfoods" that pregnant women should eat?

Healthy Eating During Pregnancy: Quick Tips

A healthy pregnancy diet includes various foods from multiple food groups. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources is crucial. These foods or superfoods provide essential nutrients such as folic acid, calcium, and iron necessary for your and your baby's health. Here are some of the best foods to eat during pregnancy:

  • Leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard greens). These are rich in folate and iron and essential for fetal development and preventing anemia.

  • Berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries). Berries are packed with antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C, supporting your immune system and digestion.

  • Folate-rich foods (lentils, chickpeas, avocado, oranges). Provide folate (the natural form of folic acid) to prevent neural tube defects in the baby's spine and brain.

  • Choline-rich foods (whole eggs, beef, chicken, Shiitake mushrooms). Choline helps baby's brain development and protects against birth defects of the brain.

  • 80-100g Protein. Aim for 80-100g sources of protein daily to stabilize blood sugar and gain micronutrients and amino acids, which protect against some pregnancy conditions.

That's not all! There are even more pregnancy superfoods that do wonders for a pregnant woman and her growing baby.

Prenatal and Mineral Supplements

Of course, if you are having trouble with first-trimester pregnancy symptoms like nausea or experiencing food aversions, getting enough nutrition through foods alone can be difficult. Don't stress about it—that's where prenatal supplements come in! Prenatal vitamins contain higher amounts of folic acid, iron, calcium, and others to help meet your nutritional needs. If you're wondering what prenatal vitamins you should take, here's a brief list of vitamins that should be found in a good prenatal supplement:

  • Folic acid (folate), 600-800 micrograms per day

  • Iron

  • Calcium

  • Vitamin D

  • Iodine

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin B12

  • Zinc

  • Vitamin A

Before taking prenatal supplements and minerals, discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Pregnancy Nutrition: Foods to Avoid

You are probably aware that certain foods should be avoided during pregnancy. It may feel unnecessary, but there are good reasons for it! Some of the foods you should refrain from consuming during pregnancy include:

  • Alcohol. Alcohol can harm the baby, so you should avoid it altogether.

  • High-mercury fish. Shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish are a no-no. Salmon and trout are ok!

  • Raw or undercooked foods. Say no to sushi, undercooked eggs, and other rare or raw foods to avoid the risk of consuming harmful bacteria.

  • Unpasteurized dairy products. Unpasteurized dairy products may contain harmful bacteria.

  • Processed meats. Hot dogs, deli meats, and other processed meats may contain listeria.

Caffeine is often questioned as moms ask whether it should be completely avoided or limited. We suggest that a mother's caffeine intake be limited to 200 milligrams daily or one 12-ounce cup of coffee.

Frequently Asked Questions: Pregnancy Nutrition

What are 6 important nutrients during pregnancy?

The six important nutrients during pregnancy are folic acid, calcium, iron, protein, vitamin D, and DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid).

What should I eat during 1st trimester of pregnancy?

During the first trimester, focusing on eating a well-balanced diet that includes whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products is essential. Avoid foods high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods.

What foods should I avoid during pregnancy?

It is essential to avoid certain foods that may risk your baby's health. These include raw or undercooked seafood, unpasteurized dairy products, deli meats and hot dogs, and foods high in mercury, such as certain types of fish.

How many extra calories should I eat?

Individual calorie needs vary and may depend on weight before and during pregnancy. Typically you need an additional 300 extra calories per day, not exceeding 450 calories per day, starting in the second trimester. In the third trimester, you may require an extra 450-500 calories per day as you eat a healthy diet. Do not worry too much about caloric intake, as your health care provider will continually monitor your weight gain during pregnancy and ensure you follow the necessary dietary guidelines.


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