Everyone’s heard the phrase: “When you’re pregnant, you’re eating for two.” But, there’s something else to be said about your diet during pregnancy: Far more important than how much you eat is what you eat.
Paying attention to what you put in your body is always important — but doubly so when you are pregnant. Your baby is developing rapidly inside your uterus and, in effect, he or she is eating the same things you are! Eating healthy is one key part of giving your little one the best start to life possible.
Expectant mothers often ask, “What are the best foods to eat during pregnancy? What should I eat during pregnancy to keep my baby and me as healthy as possible?”
Fortunately, your diet doesn’t have to completely change while you are pregnant. A healthy, well-balanced diet will go a long way to helping you feel your best during this life-changing process and bringing a healthy baby into the world in nine months.
Want to learn more? Below, find a basic list of what to eat during pregnancy to keep yourself as healthy as possible.
The Best Foods to Eat During Pregnancy
In general, the ideal foods to eat during pregnancy are not that different from the foods you should be eating as part of an everyday healthy diet. There are no magic pills to take or diet trends you should follow when you are expecting; it’s all about getting the nutrients you and your developing baby need during this time.
There are, however, a few general rules to follow when it comes to things to eat during pregnancy. Make sure you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables (at least five portions per day), drink lots of water and eat balanced meals with proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Your doctor is always the best person to advise you on what to eat and not to eat during pregnancy, based on your personal situation, but there are a few foods that many medical professionals will recommend for all pregnant women:
- Dairy: Expectant mothers need to consume extra protein and calcium for their growing fetus. Probiotics, especially those found in yogurt, can reduce your risk of certain pregnancy complications, too.
- Legumes: Whether dried or cooked, legumes are a great source of fiber, protein, iron, folate (B9) and calcium. Stock up on those lentils, peas, beans, soybeans, and peanuts!
- Salmon: While certain fish is a no-no during pregnancy, salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is instrumental in developing your baby’s brains and eyes in utero.
- Eggs: Eggs are a great source of protein during your pregnancy, but make sure that they are fully cooked or pasteurized before you dig in. This means no soft-boiled, poached, over-easy or runny eggs. But, as long as your eggs are fully cooked, enjoy the great source of fat, choline (a necessity for your developing baby) and more.
- Broccoli and Dark, Leafy Greens: Broccoli, kale, spinach and other dark green vegetables are a great source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, folate and potassium. They can also help prevent the common pregnancy side effect of constipation because of their high fiber content.
- Whole Grains: Whole grains are a great source of fiber, vitamins and plant compounds for everyone, but they are especially good for helping pregnant women meet their increased calorie intakes (more on that below). In addition to whole grain products, add oats and quinoa to your diet as some of the best foods to eat during pregnancy.
- Water: The importance of water is often overlooked. The majority of modern Americans don’t drink enough water, and that applies to expectant mothers, as well. During pregnancy, your blood volume increases, which means you need more water to stay properly hydrated. You should drink about one to two liters of water a day, which can be achieved through fruits, vegetables, other beverages and good-old-fashioned H2O.
Again, this is just a small fraction of the pregnancy “foods-to-eat” list. For more guidance on what is suggested for your pregnancy diet, please talk with your obstetrician.
Why is it Important to Eat Healthy During Pregnancy?
When you become pregnant, you’ll need to make a few lifestyle changes to prepare your body for your delivery and provide the best in-utero environment for your baby. One of these things will be your diet. The average woman gains 25 to 35 pounds during their pregnancy, and it’s important that those pounds come from healthy foods — not junk food.
An expectant mother isn’t actually “eating for two”; she only really needs to increase her caloric intake by about 300 calories per day. Your doctor will always be the best person to advise how much weight you should look to gain and what your daily pregnancy diet should look like.
It may seem obvious why good foods to eat during pregnancy are healthy foods, but let’s reiterate it again: Whatever you eat as a pregnant mother will get passed through your bloodstream to your baby. Your healthy eating will be critical to your baby’s growth and development over the next nine months. Your baby will need certain vitamins and minerals to promote healthy development, and it’s up to you as an expectant mother to get those needed vitamins and minerals into your system. Eating healthy will also reduce the risks of certain complications in your baby’s development, your pregnancy and your upcoming labor and delivery process.
What About Pregnancy Cravings?
Obviously, the best kind of food to eat during pregnancy is healthy food — but what happens when nothing healthy sounds good, and your pregnancy cravings are pointing you toward something salty, sweet and generally unhealthy?
Like they would be if you weren’t pregnant, unhealthy treats are fine in moderation. If you’re really craving that candy bar or bag of popcorn, get it! Just make sure that the rest of the meals you eat during the day are well-balanced and provide the nutrients and vitamins that you need. You may also consider finding a healthy option to satisfy the taste cravings you have — for example, a craving for french fries may be satisfied with pickles, olives, or certain kinds of cheeses.
If you’re having trouble stomaching a healthy diet during certain times in your pregnancy, prenatal vitamins can help complement your list of foods to eat during pregnancy. Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor if you are concerned about how to eat healthy during pregnancy or not getting enough of the best foods to eat during pregnancy into your everyday diet.