What To Eat During Pregnancy


Originally published in desirehartstock.com


When you’re pregnant, you’re not just eating to optimize your own health, you’re taking in nutrients crucial for supporting your baby’s growth and development.  Focus on nourishing yourself and your baby with a balanced, nutrient-rich, whole foods diet, and ditch foods that are artificial, processed, or loaded with sugar.  


There are many nutrients essential for growth and development of a healthy baby, and one of those key nutrients is folate. Getting enough folate is critical not only for cell formation and growth of a baby, but also to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Pregnant women need 600 mcg of folate daily during pregnancy, and they should take in a sufficient amount several months prior to conceiving as well. Great food sources of folate include dark leafy greens, lentils, asparagus, avocados, black-eyed peas and kidney beans.


Both calcium and vitamin D are important for healthy teeth and bone development in your baby.  Pregnant women aged 19 and older need 1000 mg of calcium per day, which can be met by many different dairy and non-dairy sources. Yogurt or kefir are good calcium sources for those without dairy sensitivities, while almonds, spinach, sesame seeds, canned salmon with bones, and navy beans are all good non-dairy sources of calcium.  Vitamin D can be a harder nutrient to obtain from food than calcium. Salmon and egg yolks contain vitamin D, but you may still need to supplement to meet the 600 IU daily minimum for vitamin D.  And, while your body can make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, many people don’t live in a place with year-round sunshine.  Moreover, if you are deficient in vitamin D, which many people are, you may need more than 600 IU daily of vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about whether vitamin D supplementation makes sense for you.


Eggs can be a great addition to your pregnancy diet, but make sure to eat the whole egg, including the yolks. Not only do egg yolks contain vitamin D, they are loaded with choline, a key nutrient important for healthy brain growth and cell formation in a baby. The intake of choline deemed adequate for pregnant women is 450 mg per day, and, according to the USDA Nutrient Database, one large, hard boiled egg has nearly 147 mg of choline.  Eggs are also a good source of protein, which is necessary for tissue formation in your baby. Pregnant women need approximately 71 grams of protein daily, and one large egg contains about 6.3 grams.  


Make sure you talk to your doctor about all of the herbs and herbal supplements you are taking because some seemingly harmless herbs may be unsafe during pregnancy. 


Although you might have to give up some of your favorite foods while you are pregnant, remember that it isn’t forever.  You want to do everything you can to lower your risk of getting a foodborne illness, because it can potentially result in serious harm to a growing baby.  Avoid eating: 

  • smoked, raw or undercooked meat, fish or seafood; 
  • shellfish; 
  • unpasteurized foods including cheeses, dairy products or juices; 
  • undercooked or raw eggs (including any foods that might contain raw eggs); 
  • deli salads such as tuna or chicken salad; 
  • processed deli meats or cold cuts; and
  • raw sprouts.

Also, steer clear of eating fish and seafood with moderate or high mercury content, and limit your consumption of low mercury fish to 12 oz. per week.  Here is a good resource to help you determine which fish are low in mercury: https://www.nrdc.org/stories/smart-seafood-buying-guide

And, while you should definitely eat vegetables and fruits while you are pregnant, make sure you wash the surface before consuming them, even if you are taking the peel off.

For more pregnancy nutrition tips, check out Jennie's expert tips in Well + Good NYC's Pregnancy Nutrition Guide