Pregnancy is often a time for surprises when it comes to food. You may find yourself repulsed by foods you used to love. Or you may be craving foods you haven’t had in years. Whatever the case may be, you might be wondering what foods to eat during pregnancy that are healthy and appealing to your changing tastes.
Some pregnant women experience a trifecta of symptoms including nausea, food aversions, and food cravings. This can make it hard to eat healthy foods and get the nutrients you need. In this article, we provide some tips and tricks to help you figure out what to eat during pregnancy.
What To Eat During Pregnancy
Expectant moms need to eat a variety of foods every day. A healthy pregnancy diet includes:
- Fruits: Apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, and melons are nutrient-dense choices (rich in vitamins and nutrients and low in calories).
- Vegetables: Eat a variety of vegetables every day. Leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, squash, and mushrooms are excellent choices.
- Whole grains: Whole grain bread, brown rice, and other whole grains such as barley, oats, and quinoa are good choices.
- Lean protein from both plant-based and animal-based sources: Include nuts, seeds, milk, tofu, beans, and lean meats such as chicken without skin, turkey and lean pork. Eating up to 12 ounces each week of low-mercury fish and shellfish (salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, and catfish) is healthy during pregnancy.
- Healthful fats: Olive oil, walnuts, almonds, and avocados are good choices
- Drinks: Water, seltzer, decaffeinated tea, and low-fat milk. Be sure to drink at least 8 cups of water daily while you’re pregnant to supply enough for the needs of your baby and for amniotic fluid.
Pregnancy Food Cravings
Eating too many sugars or fats during pregnancy can lead to unhealthy weight gain and may also crowd out more nutritious foods. It is fine to give in to your cravings occasionally, but try to limit foods like soda, sweets, and fried foods such as chips and French fries.
See the recipe below for a healthy, sweet and salty treat that boosts your nutrient intake and can satisfy your cravings.
Meat, eggs, and milk are some of the most common food aversions during pregnancy. Aversions, like cravings, are thought to be linked to changing hormone levels. Eliminating healthful foods can lead to deficiencies of important nutrients in your pregnancy diet. It’s important to be sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, and if you are not able to tolerate many foods, consider these strategies:
- If you cannot stomach the thought of any protein-rich foods such as meat or fish, choose tofu, Greek yogurt, nuts and nut butters, string cheese, and quinoa.
- Maybe the salad you have for lunch every day makes you gag. Forget salads and try fresh vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast them. The flavor is completely different than fresh lettuce and you may be able to tolerate some of the same foods but prepared differently.
- Make an appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you make a plan to meet your nutrient needs.
It can be hard to follow a healthful eating plan when you’re nauseous. Here are some ideas for managing an upset stomach.
- Avoid having an empty stomach, which can contribute to nausea. Try having 4-6 small bland meals every day, and in between meals, snack on nuts. Try not to get too full at any meal.
- Foods such as nut butter, hot cereal, and soup can be easy to tolerate and help you get some nutrients that you need.
- If your prenatal supplement seems to be contributing to nausea, health experts recommend taking your supplement with food at night.
Take a High-Quality Prenatal Supplement
A healthful diet is important, but it isn’t possible to get all of the nutrients you require for a healthy pregnancy from food alone. This is especially difficult when you have nausea. A high-quality prenatal supplement can help you to get the extra nutrients that you and your baby need.
Make sure your prenatal vitamins contain at least the following nutrients:
- Folate (folic acid): for many of the body’s normal processes and for proper formation of the neural tube in the earliest weeks of pregnancy
- Vitamin D: to help develop your baby’s bone structure and to help prevent certain pregnancy complications
- DHA: for the development of your baby’s brain and eyes
- Choline: for your baby’s brain development and to prevent neural tube defects
- Iodine: for your baby’s neurological and psychological development and overall growth and development
- Iron: to support your growing placenta and your baby’s needs
There are some foods that you should avoid and safe food handling practices to keep in mind during pregnancy. Sally Kuzemchak, RD, Real Mom Nutrition, has a helpful food-guide for what to eat and what to avoid during pregnancy.
- Wash hands for at least 20 seconds in warm water with soap before food preparation and after handling raw meat. Clean and sanitize preparation surfaces before and after use.
- Wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before preparation or eating.
- Keep cold foods cold, at 40 degrees F or colder and hot foods hot, at least 140 degrees F. Hot or cold foods can only be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours.
- Use the following guide for cooking meat, and use a food thermometer:
- 145 degrees F for roasts, steaks, and chops of beef, veal, pork, and lamb, followed by 3 minutes of rest time after the meat is removed from the heat source
- 160 degrees F for ground beef, veal, pork, and lamb
- 165 degrees F for poultry
These strategies can help you prepare food safely and while focusing on the foods that supply what you and your baby need.
Almond Butter Chocolate Bites
Per serving, this healthy snack has 3 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and salty flavors that can help satisfy your pregnancy cravings.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus 2 hours freezing time
Cooking Time: none
- 2 tablespoons raisins
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon almond butter
- a pinch of ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ tablespoons mini semisweet chocolate chips
- ¼ cup pretzel sticks or rounds, break into small pieces
- Coat a baking sheet with wax paper.
- Stir all ingredients together until combined.
- Roll mixture into 1-inch balls, place on wax paper and freeze for two hours.
- Remove from baking sheet and store in the freezer in an airtight container.
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