Before we get into any discussions about what to eat when pregnant, let’s take a moment here: your body is your body. There’s no single special pregnancy diet that everyone must follow. To assume that would be to assume that we all have the same needs, tastes, and cultural influences—and that’s just not true.
Yep, it’s important to take care of your body (at all times, not just when you’re pregnant.) And sure, pregnancy makes demands on your body that are out of the ordinary. But no, you don’t have to listen to a single person who shames or judges you.
So, now that we have that out of the way, we can approach this topic kindly.
In this article: 📝
- What is the best food to eat during pregnancy?
- What should you avoid when pregnant?
- What should I eat during my first trimester?
What is the best food to eat during pregnancy?
The best foods to eat while pregnant are the ones that help with the whole growing-a-baby enterprise that you are currently engaging in. A variety of colors and types of food helps you get the right sort of combination of fuel for the job.
Here is a rough guideline to help you plan healthy pregnancy meals:
Foods that are high in folic acid (AKA Vitamin B9). Your body converts folic acid into folate in your body—and when you’re pregnant, this is something you want on your team. It does great work in the department of forming your baby’s brain and spinal column. Foods that are high in folic acid include:
- Leafy greens
- Brussel sprouts
- Fortified cereals
- Kidney beans
The problem is, you can eat all the brussel sprouts you like and still not get the folic acid your body is craving. For this reason, taking some sort of prenatal vitamin is a great help as it can help you tick this very demanding box.
Foods that are high in lean protein. Protein gives you and your baby the power to make the journey. Some good lean protein sources include:
- Lean meats
- Pasteurized dairy products
Foods that are high in calcium. Look, you’re in the process of building human bones and teeth—sorry to freak you out but it’s true—and that little one inside you is going to demand the calcium they need. If you don’t have enough to give them, they are literally going to suck it from your bones. (The stuff nightmares are made of.)
So, without further ado, here are some good calcium sources:
- Pasteurized dairy products
- Anything that is calcium-fortified (some juices are)
Also, Calcium has a great personal assistant in the form of:
Foods that contain vitamin D. These help the body absorb calcium. Here’s where you find them:
- Dairy products
- Dairy substitutes
- Cereals are fortified with vitamin D.
Check-in with your doctor about supplements. Most prenatal vitamins will include D.
Foods that are high in iron. Your body uses iron to create a protein in your red blood cells (called hemoglobin) that helps transport oxygen all over your body. When you’re pregnant, that oxygen needs to get to your baby. As a result, iron is majorly important.
So. When you’re pregnant, you need double the amount of iron. That’s right: double. Iron-deficiency anemia can leave you feeling super fatigued and can increase your risk of getting some infections—so yes, this is a good one to pay attention to.
Iron-rich foods include:
- Leafy vegetables (they make their way onto a few lists)
- Broccoli and brussel sprouts (also top of many of these charts)
- Iron-fortified cereal
Iron too cannot do its job alone. Enter:
Foods that contain vitamin C. These help out with the task of absorbing iron into your system. Vitamin C is found in a variety of fruits. So which fruit is good for pregnancy?
- Citrus (oranges and grapefruits are a hot fave)
- Red and green peppers
What should you avoid when pregnant?
Here are some foods to avoid when pregnant because they may make you sick.
Foods that may cause listeria. Listeria is a bacteria that can cause an infection called listeriosis which is very serious for the health of you and your baby. While this infection is super rare, it’s definitely worth taking some precautions against it. According to the FDA, these are the foods that can bring you into contact with listeria:
- Deli and luncheon meats
- Cheeses made from unpasteurized milk
- Anything else made from unpasteurized milk
- Pates and meat spreads
- Refrigerated, uncooked seafood
Foods that are raw. Raw or undercooked seafood, meat, and eggs can expose the two of you to bacteria (like listeria) and parasites that can be harmful. You’re just a little more of an open playing field right now, unfortunately. So, yes. Pausing the suchi intake for the next while may have to be the thing. Sorry.
Foods that could be high in mercury. So, the subject of mercury and pregnancy is an interesting one—and often a bit more nuanced than it’s given credit. And it’s all about seafood.
Seafood can contain high levels of mercury. Too much mercury and your baby’s brain and nervous system could suffer. And here comes the
Seafood is also a great source of protein and iron, both of which you need right now. So, here’s how we bring it all together:
- Stay away from uncooked fish
- Stay away from predatory fish (swordfish, shark, mackerel, etc.)
- Limit how much fish you consume.
Foods that may cause allergies. If allergies have been a thing in your life, avoid tree nuts and peanuts. Just in case.
Food that is actually booze. Nuff said.
(And then, because it’s a hot topic, you can have some caffeine but limit your intake. Go here for details.)
➡️ Don’t miss: 19 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy
What should I eat during my first trimester?
Nausea and vomiting during the first trimester are real so, seriously, listen to your body on this one. Bananas are often awesome to help calm things down. As is a lovely cup of ginger tea. Your body will likely give you some pretty clear signals about what it wants and what it doesn’t.
And then there’s the dreaded issue of how much to eat.
Once you get to the second trimester, think of increasing your daily intake by about 340 calories. (If you’ve never counted calories in your life and don’t want to start now, 340 calories is about a muffin, a bowl of oatmeal, or a roasted veg salad.)
If you’re having twins, add 600 calories. If you’re having triplets, add 900 calories. (All roughly speaking and according to the specific needs of your body.)