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What to Eat During Pregnancy

Updated on September 07, 2016
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Marissa is the writer of ThePracticalMommy and the blog Mommy Knows What's Best. She is a stay-at-home mom to four and was a teacher.

Best Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

Fruits, veggies, greens.... Eat well during pregnancy!
Fruits, veggies, greens.... Eat well during pregnancy! | Source

What to Eat During Pregnancy

Eating during pregnancy often becomes an issue for mothers-to-be, mostly because there is weight gain involved and cravings, plus a healthy balance that needs to be maintained. How can a pregnant woman eat healthy when there are so many cravings to fulfill?

All can be done well, especially in moderation. Remember, not only are you eating for you, you are eating to support your growing baby. Everything you consume does affect your baby, so it's important to eat the right foods, at least most of the time.

As a rule of thumb, pregnant women are told to eat an extra 300 calories a day. If you normally ate around 1200-1300 calories a day, that would mean your caloric intake would increase to 1500-1600 a day. Why so little extra calories? Think about the baby for a second; do you think he or she needs more than that, being so small? Nope. At that size, the baby only needs you to eat 300 extra calories, and those calories should be healthy calories.

Here you will find what kinds of foods you should consume daily, along with some tips about how to fulfill those cravings without going overboard.

Eating While Pregnant


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Healthy Pregnancy Diet

Having a healthy, balanced diet during pregnancy is something that every pregnant woman should aim for. Not only does it benefit the baby, but it benefits the mom as well, keeping her healthy and strong even when the baby arrives.

Many women eat fairly well and then take prenatal vitamins to fill in the gaps. While that's okay, it would be even better to to be very aware of what you are putting in your body.

To keep your diet balanced and to get the most from your diet, it's important to include foods with the following:

  • B Vitamins--help convert foods into much needed energy, help form red blood cells, help the immune system function well
  • Calcium--promotes healthy heart, muscle, nerve and bone growth
  • Fiber--prevents constipation, keeps you feeling full longer
  • Folic Acid--(a B vitamin) prevents neural tubal birth defects
  • Iron--keeps the blood supply healthy, helps to prevent anemia
  • Protein--helps build new cells, helps repair body tissue, helps muscle growth
  • Vitamin A--boosts the immune system, helps with skin cell growth, helps with vision, supports healthy white blood cell growth
  • Vitamin C--supports the immune system, protects against cardiovascular disease
  • Vitamin D--helps build strong bones, helps with brain function and development

Can you see how all of these vitamins and essential minerals are so awesome for your body and your baby? Notice that sugar and salt are not included in the list. While yes, trace amounts of each are important, too much of each can be detrimental to your health and that of your baby. Yet, many, many pregnant women (including me in my first pregnancy) eat foods with high amounts of both salt and sugar.

Eating in moderation can go a long way. No matter what you choose to eat, make sure you are eating the right amounts that will be healthy for you and your baby. Eating too much of anything can cause excess weight gain, which is not needed during pregnancy beyond the recommended 15-25lbs weight gain. With excess weight gain, you feel uncomfortable with yourself both during and after the pregnancy.

To get a good idea of what your plate should look like during meals, view the video below that demonstrates the use of MyPlate, an initiative to help people portion their meals properly.


What to Eat When You're Expecting

What to Expect: Eating Well When You're Expecting
What to Expect: Eating Well When You're Expecting

If you need a healthy eating plan for pregnancy, try the Eating Well When You're Expecting Book for meal plans, recipes, and more!

 

Healthy Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

List of Good Food to Eat During Pregnancy

Calcium
Folic Acid
Fiber
Iron
Protein
Vitamin A
Vitamin Bs
Vitamin C
milk
fortified breads
pears
meats
poultry
sweet potatoes
whole grains
tomatoes
cottage cheese
fortified cereals
apples
potatoes with skin
cheese
carrots
breads
kale
cheese
fortified pasta
oatmeal
cooked legumes
yogurt
butternut squash
meat
peppers
yogurt
leafy veggies
air popped popcorn
collard greens
eggs
cantaloupe
fish
oranges
calcium fortified oj
citrus fruits
sunflower kernels
pumpkin
tuna
spinach
poultry
cantaloupe
broccoli
whole grains
almonds
egg yolks
meat
dark leafy greens
oats
grapefruit
almonds
beans
peas
artichokes
tofu
fortified cereals
tomatoes
strawberries
A list of foods with essential vitamins and minerals.

What did you crave for when you were pregnant?

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Pregnancy Cravings

Many pregnant women experience cravings during pregnancy. It's almost an insatiable urge to eat anything you can find; often, it's a targeted taste, one that has to be fulfilled immediately.

How do you tame such a feeling while staying healthy?

By understanding how cravings work, you can fulfill yours without going overboard. Some people believe that cravings are the body's way of telling us what we are missing from our diet, while science supports a simpler explanation: fulfilling cravings makes us feel good. In other words, the foods we crave make us feel better due to certain chemicals released in the brain. If we associate good feelings with a certain food (for me, chocolate), we are more likely to crave it.

There are two ways to tame your cravings during pregnancy in a healthy way:

  • Fulfill the craving in moderation. If you crave something sweet, like ice cream or chocolate, have some! The key is to have a small serving of it and to eat it slowly. During my first pregnancy, I craved Peppermint Patties. I kept a bag of them in the house and at work, and each time I had a craving, I would indulge in one. I ate it in small bites so it lasted a bit longer.
  • Find a substitute for the craving. Craving carbs and reach for the cookies often? Try a different carb filled snack! Instead of cookies, try popcorn (easy on the butter) or pretzels. Or if you'd like a little more variety, try whole grain or multigrain crackers with peanut butter or guacamole.

It's okay to have a giant sundae every once in a blue moon, but it's not good for your health or your baby's health to have one every day. Make good choices when it comes to your cravings!

Replacement Suggestions

Want this?
Have this!
Benefits
nachos and cheese
baked potato with skin, cheese
iron, calcium, and protein
ice cream
Greek yogurt with granola
calcium, fiber, protein
cookies
popcorn
fiber
french fries
baked sweet potato fries
Vitamin A
milk shake
strawberry fruit smoothie
Vitamin C
Make healthy choices, even for your pregnancy cravings!

Taking Prenatal Vitamins

To make sure you're getting every essential vitamin and mineral necessary for healthy growth of your baby, you should take a prenatal vitamin. Prenatal vitamins are formulated specifically for pregnant women to ensure that the women aren't receiving too much or too little of a vitamin or mineral, plus they include folic acid which is vital for preventing neural tubal defects in the baby and iron which is needed for your increasing blood supply.

Try to take your vitamin every day. If you cannot stomach the prenatal vitamins prescribed to you by your doctor, ask to try a different kind or if you can take a daily vitamin with a folic acid supplement instead.

Eating with Morning Sickness

Many pregnant women are plagued with morning sickness, which most often makes them not want to eat. It is, however, important that you continue to eat healthy foods even though you may not want to so that you and your baby get proper nutrition.

Morning sickness isn't always a morning thing; it can be a day long feeling, or a feeling that strikes when you are hungry. To combat this feeling, try to eat a few small filling meals throughout the day to keep your stomach full and to help prevent the nausea. That may mean you may have to eat more fiber, which can be found in apples, almonds, sunflower seeds, baked potatoes, whole wheat pasta, and other yummy foods.

Try to find the healthy foods that won't make you ill because of smells. If something smells too strong, chances are it will make you sick. Stick to foods with easy to handle smells or sweet smells that won't bother you as much.

When I had morning sickness, I found that eating bland yet filling foods kept me from feeling ill. One of my favorite meals was simple baby rice cereal mixed with milk, cinnamon and a touch of sugar. One bowl kept me full for a while and didn't make me sick since it had almost no smell except for the cinnamon.


Foods to Eat for Morning Sickness

  • Saltine Crackers
  • Multigrain Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Clear Broth
  • Carrots
  • Baked Potato with Skin
  • Ginger Root
  • Baby Rice Cereal with Cinnamon

Benefits of Drinking Water

Along with having a healthy diet, it is beneficial to stay hydrated. The best drink to have when you are pregnant is water. Water is good for you because:

  • It helps support a healthy digestive system.
  • It gives you the feeling of being full.
  • It doesn't contain any sugar or extra calories.
  • It helps to reduce swelling and fluid retention.
  • It helps to keep your energy levels up.
  • It helps to fight pregnancy fatigue.

Pregnant women should drink about 64 oz. of water daily, which is about 8 eight ounce glasses. If you can't drink all of that in one or two sittings, drink it throughout the day.

Try to be as healthy-minded as possible when choosing foods to eat during pregnancy. Remember to choose foods full of essential vitamins and minerals and to eat in moderation. Avoid empty calories, like common craving foods, and aim to take your prenatal vitamin every day. It's all beneficial for your health and the health of your growing baby.

┬ęThePracticalMommy

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    • ThePracticalMommy profile image
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      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      visionandfocus, thank you very much for reading and commenting! I'm glad you found my tips useful and helpful, and I appreciate that you'll be linking to my hub from yours . :)

    • visionandfocus profile image

      visionandfocus 4 years ago from North York, Canada

      Great hub on a very important topic. It's so crucial to start off your baby-to-be on a healthy diet. Your "eat this, not that" approach is excellent, giving people do-able, healthy options. I'd add avocados for good fat, and there are many who need non-dairy alternatives, but that's about it. This hub is so helpful I'm going to link to it from my "What to eat for strong bones and teeth" hub, as moms-to-be need more calcium and Vit D than usual, and you've included some great sources for those.

      Great hub! Voted up!

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image
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      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      teaches12345, thank you very much for your feedback! :D

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Very well done! I think that all moms-to-be should read this. It is information that guide them to having a healthy baby. Love your chart on the alternative foods to have when you crave sweets, etc. Voted up.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image
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      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      tillsontitan, I agree: the more you know, the more prepared you'll be! I'm glad you found this useful for every pregnant woman. :)

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image
      Author

      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      LikaMarie, spicy foods were a no-no for me too. Strawberries, though? Yum!

      Thanks for reading!

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image
      Author

      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      randomcreative, thank you very much for your comment! :D

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      What great information for every pregnant lady! Pregnancy not only messes with your eating habits but your hormones and emotions. The more you know going in the better prepared you will be.

      Your outlines and explanations are certainly helpful, easy to read, and nutritional.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • profile image

      LikaMarie 4 years ago

      I didn't get much morning sickness. Though eating foods that were over spiced was a no-no. It didn't mean I couldn't eat hot-spicy, just not over spiced, as in herbs included.

      Though I couldn't eat enough strawberries...

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      This is a great overview for anyone who is pregnant or planning to become pregnant! I love all of the nutritional information and simple suggestions.

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image
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      Marissa 4 years ago from United States

      chrissieklinger, aren't cravings strange? With my daughter, I craved orange juice. :D Thanks for reading!

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I loved your charts! When I was pregnant with my daughter I craved ice cream and that isn't even something I normally liked to eat. After she was born, I rarely ate it....cravings are so strange:)

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