What You Really Need To EAT When You’re Pregnant

What You Really Need To EAT When You’re Pregnant

by Vicki Elson, MA, CCE, CD   www.birth-media.com   Feel free to make copies.

Okay, eating when you’re pregnant is a full time job.  It’s a lot of work to choose foods carefully, prepare fresh vegetables, cook fresh meats, fish, brown rice and oatmeal.  But it’s WORTH IT because it will make your life easier in the long run — you’ll feel better, and your child will be healthier.  Ask your doctor/midwife about VITAMINS and about your specific nutritional needs.  If your income is low, use WIC, food stamps, and food banks.


THE BOTTOM LINE: Eat a wide variety of REAL food that has been processed as little as possible.  Almost every meal and snack should include some high-quality proteins, fruits and/or veggies, whole grains, and dairy products.  Limit sweets, white bread, fried and greasy foods.  Avoid artificial flavors and colors, soft cheeses, and undercooked/raw meat, fish, and eggs.  Moderate salt is okay.  Living on chips and soda is not.


Eat MORE than usual to help your baby grow and keep your energy up – in the second trimester, an extra sandwich and an extra glass of milk each day.  In the third trimester, two extra sandwiches, two milks!


Eat BETTER than usual to make sure your baby gets the highest possible quality of nutrients: more whole grains, more organic fruits and vegetables, free-range/organic meats, more low-mercury, high Omega-3 fish (anchovies, herring, salmon, sardines, and trout are all okay for pregnant women up to 12 ounces per week).


Eat OFTEN, like three meals and three snacks per day, to help with nausea in the first trimester and heartburn in the third trimester.  Plus, as your growing baby crowds your stomach, you’ll need to eat smaller, more frequent meals.


DRINK lots of water to prevent dehydration, prevent constipation, and keep your body’s waste-processing systems working well.  Limit caffeine.  Avoid alcohol and sodas.


PROTEIN grows your baby’s brain!  And nerves, blood, muscles, and organs.  And it gives you REAL energy, not the fake energy of sugar or caffeine.   Protein comes from meats, fish, cottage cheese, hard cheese, yogurt, nuts, beans, and seeds.  Here’s a tip: get some high-quality protein powder at the health food store and put it in the blender to make a smoothie with milk or juice and a banana, or add it to baked goods or cereal.  Vegetarians and vegans: do your homework on excellent alternatives to animal products.


WHOLE GRAINS like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, or bulgur are better than refined grains like pasta, white bread, crackers, or cookies.  More nutrients, more energy, more fiber!


VEGETABLES are full of nutrients that you and your baby need.  Go for dark greens like broccoli, spinach, and collards, plus orange veggies like carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes, and enjoy the delicious variety from asparagus to zucchini!


FRUITS like apples, bananas, oranges, berries, melons, papayas, pears, plums, mangoes, guavas, and peaches are rich in fiber, Vitamin C, folate, and potassium.


DAIRY products like milk, cheese, and yogurt contain calcium, for baby’s bones and teeth!  Calcium is also in canned fish with bones, dark green leafy veggies, beans, nuts, and seeds.


Healthy FATS are important!  GOOD fats: olive, canola, sunflower, peanut, soybean, corn, safflower, coconut, and sesame oils, avocados, nuts and seeds, tofu, soymilk.  BAD fats: high-fat cuts of beef/lamb/pork, chicken skin, cream, butter, palm oil, lard, stick margarine, French fries, fried foods, candy bars, packaged snacks (chips, crackers, microwave popcorn).  Bon appetit!


  1. Ellen

    Why the warnings against beef/lamb/pork, chicken skin, cream, butter, palm oil, and lard? Saturated-fat paranoia? There’s plenty of evidence that saturated fats have no relationship to cardiovascular disease (despite generations of claims to the contrary, based on fraudulent research in the Fifties), and in fact are necessary to your health — you can’t manufacture lung surfactants or build strong bones without them, which is certainly relevant to producing a healthy baby. (See http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/09/22/7-Reasons-to-Eat-More-Saturated-Fat.aspx for one of many summaries on the issue.)

    • Thanks for writing! You’re right — saturated fats are not “bad” as long as you avoid the junkier ones like fried foods, candy, etc. I’m changing the wording on the handout to make that clearer.

  2. T

    I really appreciate this information. This is a great reference to help pregnant moms get on a good track to a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby! I agree that ‘healthy’ fats are essential in our diet. Perhaps the warnings spoken of in the article stem from the fact that many toxins are stored in fat cells. Just another reason to be prudent in our selection of food products!

  3. Tiffany

    I would leave out corn, canola and soy. Those are often GMO and there are healthier fats like olive, coconut and avocado. You should only eat fermented soy, which rules out most tofu and soymilk, which are just processed junk foods disguised as health food. Soy has phytoestrogens, which have numerous undesired effects as well as a high level of phytic acid which can contribute to malabsorption of nutrients and allergies.

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