Maintaining a good diet in pregnancy can sometimes be a struggle. From common symptoms like nausea and heartburn dampening your appetite to certain foods being off-limits, some women feel that a pregnancy diet is limited. However, there are lots of ways that you can enjoy a healthy pregnancy and get the important nutrients you need for yourself and your baby. Here are some of the foods you should embrace and avoid in pregnancy.
Pregnancy Diet Advice for a Healthy Pregnancy
When you are pregnant, your body needs more of certain nutrients than it does at other times. This is because, during pregnancy, the vitamins and nutrients in your body are directly responsible for nourishing your baby. What’s more, if you are deficient in nutrients, such as iron or zinc, your body will begin to break down your muscles and bones to provide for the baby.
Although this only happens in extreme cases, it is important to make sure that you are getting adequate amounts of nutrients such as folate, iron, and protein throughout your pregnancy. While you can get these compounds from food, pregnant women should also take folic acid supplements to increase their folate intake. In fact, if you’re wondering how to prepare for a pregnancy diet, you can actually start taking folic acid while you are trying to conceive. This can increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy. Folate is important for fetal development and helps support the neurological health of your baby’s brain.
What Foods Should You Eat (And What Should You Avoid) in Pregnancy?
There is a lot of discussion around foods you should cut out while you’re pregnant. These can range from substances like caffeine to whole foods like fish and certain types of meat. So, what are healthy pregnancy diet foods? Let’s break some common ones down.
Vegetables are an important part of any healthy diet. However, when it comes to a pregnancy diet vegetables can be difficult for some women to stomach. During the first trimester, when digestion is slowed due to hormonal shifts, pregnant women can find it hard to stomach the amount of fiber in vegetables. Similarly, during the third trimester, highly acidic vegetables like tomatoes or bell peppers can cause indigestion.
One of the best ways to ensure you get enough vegetables throughout your pregnancy is to eat plenty of greens. Greens are high in iron, zinc, and calcium, which all aid fetal development. In fact, greens like kale and spinach are some of the best foods high in zinc for pregnancy.
Greens are also light and easy to digest. You can even blend them to make juice or add them to smoothies to squeeze in some extra nutrients. Just be sure to wash greens extremely carefully if you are consuming them raw, or stick to cooked greens, to avoid bacteria in pregnancy.
Shellfish is one of those foods that it’s best to avoid during pregnancy. As many types of shellfish are consumed raw, or only cooked very lightly, they may contain bacteria that is harmful to your baby. Although you yourself may be able to fend off bacterial threats from food, fetuses lack the developed immune system to do this. Some shellfish also contain certain toxins that can be damaging to your baby. Safe to say, it’s better to keep shellfish off the menu until after you’ve given birth and you’re scouting out the best top mom must haves for your new baby!
Just like vegetables, fruit is always great to eat! However, being high in fiber, the fruit may cause similar problems for pregnant women. Soft fruits like berries and low acid fruits like bananas are great options for early pregnancy and can even help fend off morning sickness.
Fruit is also a great thing to snack on during pregnancy when your appetite increases. Although it is normal to gain some weight while pregnant, you generally shouldn’t gain more than 35lbs, depending on your starting weight. If you are overweight and trying to maintain a pregnancy diet for weight loss, fruit is a fantastic way to curb your hunger.
Most pregnancy diet books used to tell us that pregnant women should avoid coffee entirely. Caffeine can sometimes be associated with elevated blood pressure and this was believed to have negative effects in pregnancy when the blood pressure is naturally slightly higher. However, this recommendation has since been considerably revised.
Most experts now believe that up to 200mg of caffeine per day is fine for pregnant women to consume. This means that, if you want to be on the safe side, you’ll stick to around one cup of coffee per day. However, most doctors also agree that 1-2 cups should be perfectly safe as part of a pregnancy diet for healthy baby development.
When you’re preparing for your pregnancy diet eggs are a great thing to include. Eggs are high in protein and zinc and are high in healthy fats. Eggs also contain large amounts of vitamin D.
Eggs are also easy to eat and digest. If you’re struggling with nausea, scrambled eggs can be excellent comfort foods. However, it is advisable to avoid soft-boiled eggs during pregnancy because of possible bacteria in the uncooked yolk. Hard-boiled eggs, or other methods of preparation that involve cooking eggs through are safe to eat, however.
Whitefish, such as haddock, cod, or halibut, can be a great addition to your pregnancy diet. Fish is rich in omega 3s and vitamin D and is a good source of protein. Oily fish, like tuna and salmon, are also packed with healthy fats but pregnant women should limit their intake of these because of potentially high mercury levels. The high-fat content can also be hard on digestion.
But what about when it comes to raw fish options, like sushi, or fish that has been smoked raw? Again, when it comes to pregnancy, it’s better safe than sorry. Raw fish should be avoided until your baby is born.
Diary can be an important source of protein and vitamin B12, especially if you’re looking into a pregnancy diet for vegetarians. B12 supports healthy brain function for both mother and baby. So, if you’re wondering what foods to eat for a healthy pregnancy, you can include dairy among them.
However, dairy is also very high in fat and, because it is an animal product, it is high in cholesterol. Therefore, you shouldn’t consume dairy excessively, even in pregnancy. Pregnant women should also avoid unpasteurized dairy sources as unpasteurized products have not been treated for harmful bacteria the same way that pasteurized sources have. Unpasteurized cheeses usually refer to soft cheese, like brie or camembert, but can also refer to products like cottage cheese.
Knowing what foods to eat for a healthy pregnancy can make all the difference. It’s important to ensure that you are eating enough calories during pregnancy. Sometimes, the question of what diet is best for pregnancy simply comes down to what you yourself like to eat. You don’t have to eat perfectly but making sure that you are consuming good sources of essential nutrients and vitamins is a great start!
What foods did you enjoy during pregnancy? Did any foods help with your pregnancy symptoms? Share your tips in the comments!
Author’s Bio: Rachel Hudson is a nutritionist, blogger, and mom of two. She loves to experiment with healthy meals to feed her kids and enjoys helping clients develop weight loss and healthy eating plans that will make them feel great!
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