When you are pregnant and nurturing your child within you, it is obvious that you will require a more balanced pregnancy diet with a rich intake of nutrition to help you have a healthy pregnancy, an intelligent healthy baby, and a good lactation period.
I have given below the list of the best pregnancy foods that you must eat when pregnant and what drinks or fluids are good for you and your baby. These foods will cover your requirements month by month during the first, second, and third trimesters.
It is necessary to remember that during pregnancy you are eating not just for yourself but also for your baby. But, eating for two does not mean you have to eat double.
You just need about 300 calories more every day to cope with your pregnancy. This requirement increases to 350 to 500 additional calories every day during the second and third trimesters.
And what you eat during this time is more important than how much you eat.
You must also make sure that you are gaining weight in the proper fashion during your pregnancy.
The pregnancy foods that you eat are the only main source of nutrition for your baby. At this time of your life, it is important to know what foods you should eat and what foods you should avoid.
Start on this pregnancy diet as soon as you plan to have a baby and not just when you become pregnant. And continue doing so during your breastfeeding days too. Your physician will almost always recommend you prenatal supplements.
How Should You Eat During Pregnancy?
There are simple principles to follow when eating during pregnancy. They are:
- Have frequent small healthy snacks during the day – every four hours or so – instead of three large meals.
- Do not overeat.
- If you are of normal weight, your daily additional calorie requirement increases by 300 to 350 calories to promote your baby’s growth and keep you healthy during pregnancy.
- Eat food that is properly cooked.
Pregnancy diet foods
A pregnancy diet should make sure of proper nutrition during your pregnancy months. It should have a balanced supply of proteins, low carbohydrates (especially complex carbohydrates), good fats (fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids), minerals (especially iron and calcium), vitamins (especially folic acid), and a good amount of fluids and fiber.
Here is a carefully crafted list of the pregnancy foods to include in your diet every day from the time you planned to become pregnant until the end of your lactation period and beyond.
Whole grains are a good source of complex carbohydrates. Eat whole-grain bread, whole-grain rice, pasta, oats, and cereals as they contain fewer carbohydrates and will not let you go beyond the RDA. Whole grains including oats are also a good source of fiber and proteins.
Milk and milk products
Milk products also contain calcium, which is necessary for the proper development of the bones of the baby. Even fortified soy milk is good. Avoid soft cheese such as goat cheese and feta (white salty Greek cheese made from the milk of ewes or goats).
Fresh vegetables, nuts, and fruits
Fresh fruits and vegetables are a good source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals such as iron and fiber and will take care of your pregnancy needs.
While some fruits and vegetables are high in carbohydrates, they also contain fiber, which reduces the net carb value of the foods, helps to regulate blood sugar, and also prevents constipation, which is one of the common symptoms of pregnancy.
Vegetables that you should keep in mind are green leafy vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, potatoes, carrots, legumes, beans, peas, and lentils.
Green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and dried legumes such as chickpeas, beans, and lentils are rich sources of folate (vitamin B9) and are essential for the good health of the mother and the fetus, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Good fruits will be mango, oranges, apple, dried fruits, pears, strawberries, bananas, tomato juice, watermelon, peaches, and cherries.
Nuts are a good source of proteins. Nuts rich in proteins include peanuts, cashew nuts, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, and coconuts.
Lean meat and poultry
Meat is a good source of proteins, which has all the required amino acids. Sources include beef, lamb, chicken, duck, turkey, veal, and pork.
Choose lean meat and avoid fatty meat portions. About 3 oz of these meat servings will supply you with half your daily requirement (about 20 to 25 grams of proteins). Eat eggs but never raw or soft-boiled.
Seafood such as wild salmon, trout, shrimp, lobster meat, tilapia, crab meat, and clams are good sources of proteins and essential fatty acids.
About 3 oz will again supply you with half your daily requirement. It is important to note here that mercury is a contaminant, which is found in certain fish and this is harmful to the development of the brain and nervous system of the baby. Avoid fish such as swordfish, shark, marlin, tilefish, and king mackerel not just during pregnancy but also otherwise.
Fats and oils
You require both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fat foods during pregnancy. Safflower oil, olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oil contain monounsaturated fats, which also help to lower elevated cholesterol levels.
The benefits of polyunsaturated fats stem from their content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, both of which are crucial for the healthy development of the baby.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are found in canola oil, flaxseed oil, and some cold-water fish like salmon.
- Omega-6 fatty acids are found in corn, sunflower, cottonseed, and soya bean oils.
Fluids and water
Drink an adequate amount of water (about 10 to 12 glasses) during pregnancy to keep you well hydrated. This also flushes out toxins from the body and helps to prevent constipation, edema, and hemorrhoids. There are other enormous benefits of drinking an adequate amount of water.
Ensure that the water you drink is clean. Fruit juices and coconut water are also good to replenish your fluid requirement but they contain calories so don’t overuse them.
Tea, coffee, or cold drinks cannot be considered good fluid additives.
Having said all that, you should also know what foods to avoid during pregnancy
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women should increase their usual daily servings of foods from five basic food nutrients to include the following:
- Three to four servings of fruits and vegetables
- Nine servings of whole-grain or enriched bread, cereal, rice, or pasta for energy
- Three servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese for calcium
- Three servings of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, dried beans, and peas for protein
What is a serving?
Stanfordhelthcare has a good article on how much is each serving of various foods.
How to cope with pregnancy cravings and aversions?
If you crave a particular food, a feeling, which is common during pregnancy, you go ahead and eat it but try to stay within moderation.
At times, you may crave things that aren’t foods like ice, hair chalk, or dirt. This is called pica, an eating disorder.
Pica could indicate an underlying medical condition such as mineral or iron deficiency, or hookworm infection. Do consult your doctor.
You could have an aversion to particularly healthy food, which could supply you with some essential nutrients. As an example, you can be aversed in eating meat, which can give you a good supply of proteins.
In such cases, you could obtain your protein requirement from other foods that contain proteins such as beans and nuts.
If you have an aversion to most foods, it could cause a nutritional deficiency that could affect your baby’s growth. Consult your doctor promptly.