Maintaining a healthy diet is very essential when you are pregnant. You are not only taking care of your health, but also of a life blooming inside your stomach. Generally, women go all sensitive during that period of life. During this time, your body needs additional nutrients, vitamins and minerals. In fact, you may need 350–500 extra calories each day during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. A diet that lacks key nutrients may negatively affect the baby’s development. It is very essential to understand your body while pregnancy.
Poor eating habits and excess weight gain may also increase the risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy or birth complications. Put simply, choosing healthy, nutritious foods will help ensure the health of you and your baby. It will also make it a lot easier to lose the pregnancy weight after you’ve given birth.
Instead of lurching from saintly food habits to a chocolate binge, tailor your diet to each stage of your nine months. Say hello to your new eating rules. Research suggests half of British women are confused by the food advice given during pregnancy. We’re supposed to eat healthily, but what and when? The latest approach is to tailor your diet to support your baby’s development at each stage of pregnancy. And, as it’s what your body needs, it suits your cravings, too. Bring it on.
Best Foods to Eat At Every Stage of Pregnancy
The Stage 1: The Early Weeks of pregnancy
Before you conceive and during the first month of pregnancy, you’re laying down nutritional reserves to benefit your baby. So, what should you stockpile? Greens are a great place to start, particularly broccoli and spinach, as these are rich in folic acid. ‘This provides the building blocks needed to construct every cell in your baby’s body,’ says nutritionist Saidee Bailey. Folic acid also helps that crucial early spinal development. And that’s not all. Greens could help ease early morning sickness, thanks to their high magnesium content. ‘A recent survey found up to 90% of women with severe morning sickness were deficient in the mineral,’ says Saidee.
Stage 2: Weeks Four To 12 of pregnancy
Your baby’s developing fast. At around week six, his heart starts to beat and his red blood cells are forming, so boost your own iron intake. There are two types – heme iron (found in meat) and non-heme iron (in leafy greens). They’re equally beneficial, but heme is utilised more easily than its vegetarian cousin. If you don’t eat meat, drink orange juice with your meals to help with absorption. Greens could help ease early morning sickness, thanks to their high magnesium content
By week 12, your baby’s brain is developing faster than any other part of his body, so load up on the ‘good’ fat DHA. The richest source is oily fish – think sardines and mackerel. Pregnant women should stick to two portions of oily fish per week, so you might want to top up your levels.
Stage 3: Weeks 13 To 28 of pregnancy
As you move towards week 15, start including carrots and other orange foods, such as sweet potato, into your diet as they are rich in betacarotene. ‘Your baby’s eyes are starting to develop their functional components now, and betacarotene benefits eye health,’ says Saidee. If you’re craving dairy, go for it, as this is a perfect time to boost your calcium reserves to strengthen your baby’s bones. You can get it from milk, yoghurt and hard cheeses, as well as tofu and sardines with the bones in.
Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium but, if a dose of sunshine is wishful thinking right now, fill up on mushrooms as they contain a decent dose. Zinc is another must-have at this stage. ‘It’s needed for the production, repair and functioning of DNA, so is essential in pregnancy – a time of rapid cell growth,’ says Saidee. It also helps ward off colds, a bonus at a time when your immune system is lowered and you’re more vulnerable to picking up every bug going. And keep taking your DHA. ‘A study found that children of women who took DHA supplements during week 18 did better in cognitive tests at the age of four,’ says Saidee.
Stage 4: Weeks 29 To 40 of pregnancy
‘As you hit 30 weeks, add a side serving of kale, spinach or Swiss chard to meals, as they’re full of vitamin K,’ says Saidee. ‘This will help your baby’s blood to clot.’ Drink lots of milk, as your baby is storing up his reserves of calcium and magnesium.
By week 38, your baby is fully formed and only his lungs are still developing. Eat Brazil nuts to up your selenium levels, a mineral associated with healthy lung capacity. It’s also time to think about you. ‘You wouldn’t run a marathon without making sure you’re on form – the same goes for preparing for birth,’ says midwife Clemmie Hooper. ‘Plus, the stronger your immune system, the more immunity you pass to your baby.’ So, get stuck into whole grains, fish and antioxidants – tomatoes, cranberries and artichokes are all good sources.
Stage 5: Post-Birth
You did it and your baby is here. Now it’s time to get your strength back after labor and gear up for regular breastfeeding. Post-childbirth, your body will benefit from copper. This mineral helps reduce inflammation, soreness and aches after labor. The richest source is sesame seeds, so sprinkle them on everything for the next few weeks.
As your baby’s eyes continue to develop for up to six months after birth, keep tucking into the squash and pumpkin, as the beta-carotene will come through in your milk. Throw in some red bell peppers, too. They contain bioflavonoids, which can reduce the risk of infection around your baby’s umbilical cord. And make sure you’re eating enough. Women need around 300 extra calories a day in the first few months of breastfeeding. While you shouldn’t eat biscuits all day, you can treat yourself.
10 Super foods To Eat During Pregnancy
1. Dairy products should be taken during pregnancy
During pregnancy, you need to consume extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of the growing fetus. These products contain two types of high quality protein: casein and whey. Dairy is the best dietary source of calcium, and provides high amounts of phosphorus, various B-vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is particularly beneficial for pregnant women. It contains more calcium than any other dairy product. Some varieties also contain probiotic bacteria, which support digestive health. People who are lactose intolerant may also be able to tolerate yogurt, especially probiotic yogurt. Taking probiotic supplements during pregnancy may reduce the risk of complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, vaginal infections and allergies.
2. Folic acid is required during pregnancy
Folic acid, also known as folate are the nutrients found in foods. It is a B vitamin that is crucial in helping to prevent birth defects in the baby’s brain and spinal cord, known as neural tube defects. It may be hard to get the recommended amount of folic acid from diet alone. For that reason the March of Dimes, an organization dedicated to preventing birth defects, recommends that women who are trying to have a baby take a daily vitamin supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid per day for at least one month before becoming pregnant. During pregnancy, they advise women to increase the amount of folic acid to 600 micrograms a day, an amount commonly found in a daily prenatal vitamin.
Food sources: leafy green vegetables, fortified or enriched cereals, breads and pastas, beans, citrus fruits.
3. Eggs enhances protein during pregnancy
Eggs are a great source of protein, a crucial part of your pregnancy diet. The amino acids that make up protein are the building blocks of the cells in your body – and your baby’s. Eggs also contain more than a dozen vitamins and minerals, including choline. Choline helps your baby’s brain and spinal cord develop properly, and helps prevent neural tube defects. Combine eggs with whatever veggies and cheese you have on hand and you’ll have the makings of a frittata. Leftovers – if there are any! – are perfect for breakfast the next day.
4. Orange juice essential during pregnancy
Not only is this juice high in vitamin C and folic acid, it’s also a good source of potassium, which has been shown to help lower high blood pressure, a particular danger during pregnancy.
5. Yogurt during pregnancy
A good source of protein, yogurt has more calcium than milk and also contains active cultures that reduce the risk of yeast infections, which are more common while you’re expecting. Also, some people who are lactose intolerant can tolerate yogurt.
6. Eggs are good to consume during pregnancy
Whether you like them fried, scrambled, hard-boiled or served as an omelet, eggs are the gold standard for prenatal protein. They also happen to be a great source of folate, iron and choline. Not only are eggs a relatively cheap, versatile and convenient source of protein, but they contain choline too. Never heard of that last one? Choline is critical to fetal brain development and reduces the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. But to reap the benefits, you’ll have to eat the whole thing, since choline is contained in the yolk (so forget the egg-whites-only order). Bonus: Give baby a brain boost by buying eggs fortified with omega-3s.
7. Legumes are good for babies
This group of food includes lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans and peanuts. Legumes are excellent plant-based sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate (B9) and calcium, all of which the body needs more of during pregnancy. Folate is one of the B-vitamins (B9). It is very important for the health of the mother and fetus, especially during the first trimester. However, most pregnant women are not consuming nearly enough folate. This has been linked with an increased risk of neural tube defects and low birth weight. Insufficient folate intake may also cause the child to be more prone to infections and disease later in life. Legumes contain high amounts of folate. One cup of lentils, chickpeas or black beans may provide from 65–90% of the RDA. Furthermore, legumes are generally very high in fiber. Some varieties are also high in iron, magnesium and potassium.
8. Iron content is essential during pregnancy
Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron a day, which is double the amount needed by women who are not expecting, according to ACOG. Additional amounts of the mineral are needed to make more blood to supply the baby with oxygen. Getting too little iron during pregnancy can lead to anemia, a condition resulting in fatigue and an increased risk of infections. To increase the absorption of iron, include a good source of vitamin C at the same meal when eating iron-rich foods, ACOG recommends. For example, have a glass of orange juice at breakfast with an iron-fortified cereal.
Food sources: meat, poultry, fish, dried beans and peas, iron-fortified cereal.
9. Whole grains are good for pregnant ladies
Whole grains are high in fiber and nutrients, including the antioxidant vitamin E and the mineral selenium. They also contain phytonutrients – plant compounds that protect cells. Sample different kinds, from barley and buckwheat to oats and spelt.
10. Lean meat good for pregnant ladies
Sure, you know it’s a great source of protein, but lean beef and pork are also packed with iron and B vitamin. Your body needs a lot more protein now (about 25 extra grams a day) to help baby grow and to ensure that her muscles develop properly. Same goes for iron: Not getting enough of this mineral can impair baby’s growth and increase the risk for preterm delivery and low birth weight. Iron is important for mom, too—it’s necessary for red blood cell formation (to prevent anemia). During pregnancy, your blood volume increases, so you’ll need to up your iron intake (to around 27 milligrams a day). Bonus: Meat supplies a hefty dose of vitamins B6, which helps baby’s tissue and brain growth while easing mom’s morning sickness, and B12, which helps maintain healthy nerves and red blood cells.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy
1. Raw, under cooked or contaminated seafood and fish
Don’t worry; you don’t have to give up on your favorite seafood entirely. You just need to ensure that you steer clear of certain type of seafood.
- Raw fish in your diet is definitely a big NO. This means that if you’re a lover of sushi, you will have to hold back for those few months
- Certain fishes, like mackerel, sharks, swordfish, and tilefish contain high levels of mercury in them, and mercury consumption during pregnancy could lead to delayed development and brain damage to your child. Opt instead for fish like chunk light tuna which has low levels of mercury and can be consumed in moderate amounts. It is best to avoid refrigerated and smoked seafood as it may be contaminated with Listeria, a harmful bacterium. Being exposed to Listeria during pregnancy can put you at an increased risk of preterm birth, or infection spreading to the newborn
- A few kinds of fish may have been cultivated in contaminated water bodies, like bluefish, salmon, walleye, trout, and striped bass. These fishes are exposed to high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), which is extremely unhealthy for both mother and child. Exposure to PCB while pregnant can also have a negative impact on your baby’s immune system
- Raw and undercooked shellfish like clams, mussels, and oysters, carry a majority of the seaborne illnesses. While cooking them can prevent some diseases, they won’t affect the algae-borne diseases. This is why it is a good idea to avoid shellfish entirely during pregnancy
Fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which should be a part of your diet as it helps in the baby’s brain development. During pregnancy, you only have to be more cautious when consuming fish. A good idea is to try sticking to fresh water seafood during your pregnancy. This includes salmon, shrimp, trout and sardines. Also, instead of raw fish, try having fish that is cooked at 145 ℉. Cooking helps destroy many potential infections and toxins present in seafood, thus protecting you and your baby from harm.
2. Raw or soft boiled egg is bad for pregnant ladies
Eggs can be almost irresistible when they’re cooked perfectly. Many of us enjoy eating soft boiled or undercooked eggs. However, during pregnancy, they’re definitely a big no-no as they may be contaminated with salmonella, which is a bacterium that causes diarrhoea and vomiting. You should also avoid other foods and desserts which are made from raw eggs, including custards and mousse.
The best way to have an egg during pregnancy is by cooking it until the yolk is firm. Otherwise, head for eggless salad dressings, mayonnaise, and other things that have an egg-less counterpart. You can also use pasteurized eggs to eliminate the risk of getting diseases.
3. Raw meat is unhealthy during pregnancy
It is vital for a non-vegetarian mother to include meat in her diet, but this should also be done with some care and restrictions. Research suggests that raw meat contains Listeria bacteria and must be avoided during pregnancy. There may also be some other parasites in uncooked meat like Toxoplasma gondii, which can cause vomiting, foetal damages, and also miscarriages in expecting women.
Make sure that whenever you eat meat, it is properly cooked. It is also advisable that you cook your own meat at home with the use of a thermometer. Wash the meat properly with salt and water to ensure all the bacteria have been removed.
4. Unpasteurized dairy products bad for pregnant ladies
It is extremely important that you consume milk on a daily and regular basis for the proper development of your child. It provides you and your baby with important nutrients like minerals, calcium, and proteins. But make sure that you consume only pasteurised milk. Unpasteurized milk may contain pathogens that can cause severe food poisoning. It is advisable that you avoid all kinds of dairy products which are not pasteurised.
Make sure that you always consume fresh milk which has been boiled. Always make a couple of simple quality checks so that you can avoid unnecessary diseases and enjoy a happy pregnancy.
5. Unwashed fruits and vegetables during pregnancy
There is no doubt that fruits and vegetables are extremely healthy for you and your child during pregnancy. But you may be surprised to hear that almost 78% of the people around the world consume unwashed fruits and vegetables. Not only can the skins of unwashed fruits and vegetables contain harmful pesticides and herbicides, but they may also be home to deadly pathogens like Toxoplasma gondii and Listeria. Unwashed raw vegetables like sprouts, lettuce and cabbage should be especially avoided during these times.
The fruits not to eat during pregnancy include papayas, pineapples and grapes. In fact, in some cultures, papayas are in the list of natural foods to avoid pregnancy, and are believed to cause miscarriages. Unripe papaya can be especially dangerous as it has certain compounds that trigger uterine contractions.It goes almost without saying that you should wash each of your fruits and vegetable thoroughly before consuming them. You can also peel the skin off and keep them in separate utensils. Avoid leaving the vegetables and fruits in the refrigerator for long and then consuming them. Try cooking all of your vegetables, and make sure that the leafy ones are cooked well.
6. Raw sprouts and nuts which cause allergy should be avoided during pregnancy
Raw sprouts are an amazing source of protein and minerals, but they are still in the list of food not to eat when pregnant. This is because they may contain harmful viruses and bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Make sure that every time you have sprouts, you either shallow fry them or better even, cook them. They can still taste nice with proper seasoning.
You may enjoy various kinds of nuts during pregnancy, such as peanuts and cashews. Nuts are a rich source of vitamins and minerals which are beneficial for foetal development. But there are some nuts that can cause allergies and rashes on your body. Even if you weren’t initially allergic to them, you could develop allergies over time with extended exposure. Make sure that you consult with your doctor on what nuts to include in your diet and what to avoid entirely during pregnancy.
7. Restaurant foods or stored products are bad for pregnant ladies
It is advisable to be extra cautious when ordering food for pregnant women at a restaurant, as one can never be sure of the ingredients that go into making it. It is best to avoid having salads that are available in restaurants or even in the store. The fruits and vegetables used in the salad may not have been washed properly, or they may have been cut a long time ago.
You can always make your own salad at home. Make sure that you clean the fruits and vegetables properly and cook your meat properly. And you also have the liberty of preparing your salad however you want at home, just as you like it.
8. Excessive caffeine is unhealthy for babies
You might be a fan of coffee. But including caffeine in your diet is not a good idea during pregnancy. It is a diuretic, which can lead to excessive urination, causing you to dehydrate faster. Caffeine has also been linked to low birth-weight. Excessive consumption of caffeine can lead to higher risks of foetal deaths, stillbirths, and also abortions.
Make sure that you don’t consume more than 200 ml or 2 cups of coffee in a day. Also, enlist your doctor’s or pharmacist’s help in eliminating hidden caffeine in other products like energy drinks and medicines.
9. Herbal supplements or herbal tea is not good for babies
Many people may suggest that you start taking herbal tonics and teas when pregnant, but these may cause more harm to you than good. Some herbs can even increase your risk of preterm labour or miscarriage, when taken in large amounts. There are also chances that you may end up buying unsafe or spurious herbs because there isn’t a way you can check their quality.
Avoid herbs like Wormwood, Saw Palmetto and Senna as they aren’t tested thoroughly like other medicines, and opinion is still divided on the advisability of consuming them during pregnancy. If you feel a lack of energy or fatigue, do ask your doctor to prescribe a multivitamin and continue with your regular tea instead of experimenting with herbal concoctions.
10. Excessive fatty foods should be avoided during pregnancy
Are you looking forward to eating as much fatty food as you want to during pregnancy because you’re going to gain weight anyway? Resist the temptation as too much fatty food can increase your blood cholesterol levels, making you vulnerable to obesity and heart disease. Make sure that you eat fatty food in moderation. Consume food containing omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids as these are beneficial for your baby’s development. Some such foods include avocados, nuts, olives and pumpkin seeds. However, never binge-eat on these foods and always exercise moderation.
Impact of Alcohol on pregnancy
Lastly, It goes without saying that alcohol consumption is bad for your health, not only when you’re pregnant, but at any time in your life. But in case you think that occasional drinking is okay when you’re pregnant, you’re terribly wrong.Alcohol is another thing that isn’t filtered by the placenta and can reach your baby through the umbilical cord. This can not only cause miscarriage and stillbirth but also a range of lifelong physical and intellectual disabilities to your child through a condition called Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). There is no known safe time or safe amount of alcohol consumption during your pregnancy. It is best that you avoid consumption of alcohol entirely during pregnancy.
With this, you have the top 10 types of foods to eat and that of what not to eat, in pregnancy. It is advisable that you consult with your doctor before you decide to avoid any of the above-mentioned food in your diet. Consulting a nutritionist about the best diet for pregnancy will help you put together a balanced meal. Needless to say, you may indulge your pregnancy cravings as long you do so in moderation and stick to safe dietary choices.