Pregnancy Diet 101

What diet should I follow while pregnant? There are many different diets to choose from, but there’s one that stands out head and shoulders above the others: The Pregnancy Diet. Created by Dr. Karen Lee Andrynski, this diet is based on her years of expertise in prenatal care. Expertly balanced for women who want to prepare their bodies specifically during pregnancy and have healthy babies afterward, this is a must-read guide if you’re expecting or just looking for ideas on what to eat now.

Although the significance of food and lifestyle choices during pregnancy is widely understood, did you know that the danger of insufficient nutrient consumption is great even in most developed nations?

Only 1.9 percent of 485 pregnant women reached the recommended fruit and vegetable intake during pregnancy, according to 2013 research published in the Journal of Family and Reproductive Health. Pregnant women seem to understand that nutrition is vital for their baby’s growth, but many are unsure of what should be included in a pregnancy diet. There are also myths regarding how many additional calories should be ingested each day, what foods should be avoided during pregnancy, and what lifestyle behaviors would benefit both the mother and the baby.

Researchers believe that the first 1,000 days of life, from conception to two years of age, are critical for preventing disorders in adulthood. That’s why sticking to a pregnant diet that contains a variety of high-quality protein sources, healthy fats, and complex carbs will help you give your kid the best start possible. Furthermore, to prevent developmental defects and pregnancy difficulties, pregnant women need higher levels of essential nutrients.

You’ll discover that sticking to this pregnant diet helps you feel more energy, less uncomfortable, and more secure in your ability to care for your kid before he enters the world.

Eating Differently While Pregnant

According to research, what you consume when pregnant continues to impact your baby’s health. This is because your kid gets his calories, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water from the meals you consume.

So, why do you eat differently while you’re pregnant? Because your nutrition has an impact on many elements of your baby’s health, including:

  • It’s incredible to consider that what you eat influences the development of your baby’s heart, brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines, and nervous system. Vitamin D and calcium are essential for the correct development of all of these organs and others.
  • Brain development: Your baby’s brain will continue to grow throughout your pregnancy, particularly in the fourth trimester. This needs sufficient protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and other essential nutrients.
  • Low birth weight may be caused by calorie and nutrient limitations, which might impact your baby’s health after delivery. On the other side, consuming too many empty calories might cause your baby to grow too large, complicating delivery and increasing the likelihood of a Cesarean section. In addition, excessive weight gain in women during pregnancy (defined as gaining more than 35 pounds) has been linked to higher baby birth weights, according to research.
  • Mental health: Studies demonstrate that maternal diet and postnatal nutrition might influence the kid’s mental health. According to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, higher intakes of unhealthy foods during pregnancy were linked to emotional and behavioral difficulties in children.
  • According to a study published in The Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, food choices during pregnancy may set the foundation for an infant’s acceptance of solid meals after birth. Before birth, a baby’s earliest taste and smell encounter with flavor comes from the amniotic fluid. However, when babies first start eating solid meals, studies reveal that they prefer the foods they were exposed to in the womb.
  • Long-term health: According to research published in The Journal of Perinatal Education, insufficient maternal nutrients during a mother’s first trimester of pregnancy, when the embryo and placenta undergo a rapid cell differentiation and division process, may predispose the infant to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and coronary heart disease in adulthood.

Furthermore, how you consume throughout pregnancy impacts your health and well-being. For example, a bad diet may cause digestive problems, exhaustion, heartburn, edema, and leg cramps during pregnancy. In addition, many studies have shown that vitamin shortages during pregnancy may lead to serious health problems, including anemia caused by an iron deficiency that produces low red blood cell counts and preeclampsia, which is caused by high blood pressure and can cause pregnancy difficulties.

A healthy pregnancy diet can also help you avoid gestational diabetes and premature labor and make it easier for you to recuperate after the delivery. However, in reality, evidence reveals that certain micronutrient deficiencies, particularly low levels of vitamin D, zinc, and selenium, might contribute to the development of postpartum depression.

The Pregnancy Diet

Dietary Guidelines for Pregnancy

If you currently consume a healthy and well-balanced diet, eating for two does not necessarily mean eating differently. Your meal quantities may fluctuate a little, and bringing in some foods that are particularly rich in the nutrients you need will be helpful to both you and your developing baby, but the same general recommendations remain.

Here are some simple but crucial pregnancy dietary recommendations:

  • Consume a well-balanced meal that includes a variety of high-quality proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs. Protein is extremely crucial during pregnancy since it keeps the mother’s tissues and fetal development healthy, especially in the second and third trimesters. Likewise, healthy fats, particularly DHA, are essential for prenatal and newborn development. I don’t advocate following any exclusion diets during pregnancy unless you have to because of food allergies. According to research, excluding whole food groups from your diet raises your risk of micronutrient shortages.
  • Don’t overeat: Pregnancy only necessitates a small increase in calorie intake, and eating too many calories during pregnancy can be just as harmful as a calorie or nutrient deficiency, increasing your risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia, as well as your baby’s risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity in adulthood. Most studies recommend eating an extra 70 calories in the first trimester, 260 calories in the second trimester, and about 300–400 calories in the third trimester. However, if you aren’t particularly active, you will need even fewer calories throughout your pregnancy. Again, these figures are for moderately active women, walking roughly 2–3 kilometers each day.
  • Keep empty calories to a minimum: Of course, you have the right to a treat now and again when you’re pregnant. After all, you do deserve to splurge every now and again. However, keep empty calorie items to a minimum since not all calories are created equal. You want your calories, which are the energy that fuels you and your baby, to be nutrient-dense. So enjoy an ice cream cone once a week, but don’t make it a regular part of your diet. Instead, choose for actual meals like fresh fruit as a sweet treat.
  • Taste the rainbow: Skittles’ marketing slogan “taste the rainbow” made an excellent point. However, rather than filling up on empty calories, eat various colorful fruits and veggies throughout the day. This will guarantee that your diet contains various essential vitamins and minerals. If you notice a lot of whites and browns on your plate, you know the meal isn’t supplying all you need for a fully healthy pregnancy.
  • Make it simple: I understand that thinking about providing enough nourishment for you and your baby may be daunting, so making it as simple as possible is critical. For example, prepare a sweet and creamy smoothie instead of a plate of greens if you can’t bear the idea of eating a plate of greens (particularly if you’re experiencing morning sickness and food aversions). Make a big pot of soup with organic chicken and veggies for a week’s worth of lunches and dinners. Whatever you can do to make keeping healthy more manageable will help you remain on track in the long run.
  • Continue to drink water: Water is required to develop your baby’s body cells and circulatory system. To supply nutrients to your baby and eliminate waste, you need to drink enough water during pregnancy. Drink 1–2 glasses of water with each meal and snack, and have a refillable water bottle handy throughout the day.

Superfoods & Best Foods

1. Fresh Vegetables (especially leafy greens)

Because vegetables are nutrient-dense, rich in fiber, and low in carbs and calories, they are an essential element of a pregnant woman’s diet. Green leafy vegetables are particularly healthy for pregnant women since they are high in iron, calcium, and vitamin K, all of which are essential minerals. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, arugula, romaine, bok choy, collards, mustard greens, and turnip greens should be included in your diet.

Broccoli, which is high in fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and magnesium, is another healthy vegetable. Brussels sprouts, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, cabbage, squash, and bell peppers are also high in antioxidants.

2. Fruit in its natural state

Fresh fruit will provide you with nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, and fiber throughout your pregnancy. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, mango, papaya, peaches, grapefruit, apples, pears, tangerines, and pineapple are among the fruits to eat. Fresh fruit may be consumed as a snack or mixed with yogurt or oats for the morning, blended into a fruit and vegetable smoothie for lunch or dinner, or added to salads for lunch and supper.

3. Free-Range Organic Eggs 

Egg yolks, in particular, are a wonderful source of choline, which is critical for prenatal growth. According to research, women who consume diets low in choline have a considerably higher chance of delivering a baby with a neural tube abnormality than those who eat diets rich in choline.

Healthy fats, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and iodine are also found in organic eggs. Iodine has a crucial role in newborns’ healthy growth and brain development; thus, eating iodine-rich foods during pregnancy is also highly important.

4. Salmon caught in the wild

DHA and EPA, two omega-3 fatty acids, are critical for a baby’s correct neurological and physical development. These essential omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, iodine, choline, B vitamins, selenium, and protein are all found in salmon nutrition.

5. Organic Meat 

Protein’s amino acids are critical for your baby’s growth; therefore, consuming sufficient high-quality, organic protein is critical. Aim for at least three servings each day, or 75 grams of protein. Organic chicken breast, organic turkey, and grass-fed beef are some of the finest choices. These foods include l-glutamine, which has several pregnancy advantages.

6. Nuts and seeds

Almonds, for example, are high in protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Brazil nuts include selenium, phosphorus, and vitamin E, whereas walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and copper. During pregnancy, eating various nuts may help you get more nutrients.

Seeds are also high in protein and fiber, both of which are beneficial to your colon and digestive system during pregnancy. In addition, flax seeds and chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which aren’t found in fish. These omega-3 meals will improve your skin, hair, and nails during pregnancy.

7. Kefir or Greek yogurt

Probiotics, protein, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin K2 are all found in Greek yogurt. It’s also a good source of iodine, which is necessary for preventing birth abnormalities and neurological issues during pregnancy. Kefir is another cultured dairy product that provides beneficial microorganisms for digestion and general health.

8. Beans

Iodine-rich lima beans, folate-rich garbanzo, kidney, pinto beans, iron, zinc, copper, vitamin K-rich fava beans, Cannellini beans, adzuki beans, and black and anasazi beans are some additional healthy beans. Beans are satisfying and nutrient-dense, so eating various them during pregnancy might be advantageous.

9. Lentils

Lentils are a good source of folate, which is important for fetal development. Consumption of high-folate meals during pregnancy has been shown to minimize the incidence of cardiovascular and urinary tract malformations, neural tube deformities, and cleft lips in the baby.

10. Cereals

Whole grains, such as gluten-free oats, quinoa, brown rice, and barley, offer complex carbohydrates essential throughout pregnancy. Grains also include B vitamins and minerals like zinc, selenium, and chromium, which are essential for your baby’s growth.

Supplements that Work

Most prenatal vitamins provide the whole range of vitamins and minerals required during pregnancy. If you’re looking for a prenatal vitamin, look for one that has the essential nutrients:

Iron: Iron supplementation is often prescribed during pregnancy to enhance the quality of the baby’s delivery. Iron is required to deliver oxygen to tissues, and pregnant women are at greater risk of iron shortage owing to the increased need for iron. All pregnant women should take 27 milligrams of iron each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After 20 weeks of pregnancy, see your doctor about taking iron supplements in addition to your prenatal vitamin since your body needs even more of the mineral.

Folate (Folic Acid) is required to prevent neural tube defects and significant brain and spinal cord abnormalities during pregnancy. Folic acid is a synthetic version of folate that may be found naturally in foods that are rich in folate. Folate supplementation should begin three months before pregnancy and should normally comprise 0.8 to 1 mg of folic acid in prenatal supplements.

Calcium is necessary for fetal growth and the formation of your baby’s bones. Preterm labor, low birth weight, bone loss, and high blood pressure are all reduced by getting adequate calcium throughout pregnancy. Calcium insufficiency is harmful to both the mother and the kid since it aids in the appropriate functioning of the circulatory, neurological, and muscular systems. Look for a calcium-rich prenatal vitamin that includes 1,000 milligrams each day.

Vitamin D insufficiency is frequent among pregnant women and has been linked to an increased risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. In addition, low vitamin D levels in the early years of life may lead to low birth weight, delayed bone development, respiratory infections, and allergy illnesses. Therefore, vitamin D is usually included in a prenatal multivitamin since its production needs UV light, which is not always accessible to pregnant women. The indicated safe amount of vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy, according to studies, is between 2,000–4,000 IUs per day.

Choline: Prenatal vitamin pills include choline but in insufficient levels. That’s why choline-rich foods like eggs, chickpeas, wild salmon, grass-fed beef, and turkey breast are essential for pregnant women. Choline is an important vitamin for fetal growth. Since a woman distributes substantial quantities of choline to her baby via the placenta, she must ensure that she gets enough choline through a mix of food and supplementation. According to research, poor choline consumption in pregnant women has been shown to alter maternal and fetal stress responses, increase the likelihood of delivering a baby with neural tube abnormalities and a cleft lip, and have a detrimental impact on fetal brain development.

If your prenatal vitamins don’t contain them, you should take the following supplements:

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid): DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is necessary for your baby’s optimal brain and eye development. DHA also helps to prevent inflammation, which is a major cause of pregnancy problems. If your prenatal vitamin doesn’t include DHA, take a supplemental DHA supplement to ensure that you’re receiving enough of these essential omega-3s.

Probiotics: Studies demonstrate that your gut microbiota is important for pregnant health and that a lack of healthy bacteria in your stomach might contribute to pregnancy issues. According to studies, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, vaginal infections, newborn and mother weight growth, and allergy illnesses have all been linked to taking a probiotic supplement during pregnancy.

What to Avoid Eating While Pregnant

There’s a smaller list of foods and beverages you should avoid while pregnant right next to the list of items you should consume on a pregnancy diet. So here’s a list of things you should avoid doing throughout your nine months of pregnancy:

  • Listeria, a bacteria that may cause miscarriage, infection, and blood poisoning, can be found in deli meat.
  • Bacteria, salmonella, and toxoplasmosis may all be found in raw or smoked shellfish, as well as rare meat.
  • Avoid high-mercury seafood such as swordfish, king mackerel, shark, and tilefish during pregnancy since too much mercury may cause developmental and cognitive disorders.
  • Salmonella may be found in raw eggs, putting your kid at risk for developmental difficulties.
  • Caffeine — research on the risks of caffeine use during pregnancy is varied. Still, studies suggest that caffeine should be avoided during the first trimester to lower the chance of spontaneous miscarriage and that 1 to 2 cups of coffee per day after that is considered safe. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it may cause dehydration.
  • Alcohol intake during pregnancy has been linked to aberrant pregnancy outcomes such as physical and neurodevelopmental issues in the kid.

It’s also critical to avoid smoking and consuming prescription or illegal medications while pregnant. If you’re on any drugs, speak to your doctor or midwife about how they’ll influence your pregnancy or interact with it.

Finally, stay away from any false, highly processed, and refined meals when pregnant. This includes grocery store shelves and freezer aisles stocked with bagged and boxed meals. These foods are high in additives, preservatives, unhealthy oils, colors, and chemicals, all of which may be harmful to your pregnancy. Instead, pick fresh, whole meals to guarantee that you’re receiving just the nutrients you need and none of the unnecessary “junk.”

Other Considerations

It’s critical that you keep your stress levels low throughout your pregnancy, concentrate on your spiritual development and well-being, nourish your body and mind, and get enough rest. Listen to your body and prioritize rest if you feel tired and run down. Take lengthy walks outside, read uplifting literature on parenting, seek support from your husband and loved ones, and think about the life you are developing inside your body to keep yourself feeling at ease during a period that may be highly stressful and induce anxiety.

It’s also critical to keep physically active throughout pregnancy to lower your risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and perinatal depression and enhance your mood, minimize discomfort, increase energy, and improve your labor. Walking, swimming, prenatal yoga, cycling, and strength training are some of the greatest pregnant exercises.

Last Thoughts

  • What you consume when pregnant continues to have an impact on your baby’s health, according to research. Your kid gets his calories, protein, vitamins, minerals, and water from the meals you consume.
  • Your baby’s organ development, brain development, birth weight, mental health, eating habits, and long-term health are all influenced by your pregnancy diet. Furthermore, a well-balanced and nutritious diet during pregnancy might benefit the mother’s health as well, making her less vulnerable to preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and depression both during and after pregnancy.
  • During pregnancy, it’s critical to consume foods rich in iron, calcium, iodine, folate, choline, vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, and selenium. Furthermore, ingesting a variety of high-protein meals, omega-3 foods, fiber, healthy fats, and complex carbs can enhance the mother’s and baby’s health.
  • Supplementing with DHA omega-3s and probiotics, in addition to taking a high-quality prenatal vitamin, has been shown to benefit expecting moms and newborns.

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