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What to Eat When Pregnant

what to eat when pregnantEating for two isn’t quite what it sounds like. Instead of eating double your normal diet when you get pregnant, it’s actually more important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. The things to eat when pregnant should be about quality over quantity.

A good pregnancy diet benefits your baby

Every pregnant mom wants a healthy baby. The good news is that eating well when you’re pregnant is the single best thing you can do to help grow a healthy baby—and it’s something you control.

Eating well when pregnant:

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  • helps your baby’s body and brain to grow healthy and strong
  • can help prevent birth defects
  • can set your child up for a healthier life and reduced risk of health problems later in life, including cancer, heart disease, obesity, mental health disorders, and learning disabilities
  • helps you produce healthy breast milk after baby is born.

A good pregnancy diet benefits you

Eating well helps you to stay strong and energized when you’re pregnant.

Eating healthy, protein-rich foods and fresh fruits can help you minimize morning sickness and some other pesky pregnancy annoyances like heartburn and constipation.

By feeding your body well, choosing whole foods and fruits and veggies over sweets and simple carbs, you help minimize your risk for pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes. Plus, you’ll have an easier time getting back to pre-pregnancy weight if you eat carefully while pregnant.

It can be hard to eat well when pregnant

Ideally, you should eat a wide variety of fresh, whole foods, but that can be challenging with morning sickness, indigestion, food cravings, fatigue, and other issues that often accompany pregnancy.

To be sure you are getting all the nutrients you and your baby need, take a good prenatal vitamin.

How much to eat when pregnant

As noted above, eating for two doesn’t mean doubling your calories. Pregnant women need to eat only about 300 extra calories a day.

Recommended daily servings for pregnant women are:

  • 6-11 servings of whole grains and breads
  • 4+ servings of vegetables
  • 2-4 servings of fruits
  • 4 servings of dairy
  • 3 servings of protein

What to eat when pregnant

Some nutrients are especially important during pregnancy. These are:

  • folic acid
  • iron
  • calcium
  • vitamin D
  • DHA omega-3 fatty acids
  • iodine

Let’s look at how to get these nutrients from your pregnancy diet.

Folic acid rich foods

Folic acid, or folate, is a type of B vitamin that is well known to help prevent birth defects. It’s also important for healthy cells—which your fetus will be making a lot of as it grows.Foods rich in folic acid include:

  • barley
  • beans and lentils
  • green vegetables such as spinach, kale, chard, broccoli, peas, and asparagus
  • orange juice

During the first three months of pregnancy, try to eat something rich in folic acid every day.

Iron rich foods

Iron is a mineral that’s vital to healthy blood. Did you know that when you’re pregnant, your body makes more blood? Pregnant women need twice as much iron. Good sources of iron are:

  • green vegetables such as spinach, kale, chard, broccoli, peas, and asparagus
  • beef, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, and seafood
  • sunflower seeds and sesame seeds
  • peanuts
  • beans, such as kidney beans and black beans
  • dried fruits such as raisins, dates and prunes
  • molasses
  • fortified breads and cereals

Calcium rich foods

foods to eat with calcium for pregnancyCalcium is another important mineral for pregnant women. If you don’t consume the amount of calcium that’s needed for your baby’s bones, teeth, muscles, heart and nerves, your body takes calcium from your bones to give it to your baby! Eat and drink the following foods to get calcium into your pregnancy diet:

  • dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir)
  • broccoli, spinach, kale
  • fortified (calcium added) orange juice

You can also take a calcium supplement for pregnancy protection for your bones and body.

Eat clean

You’ll also want to consider the quality of the food you are eating. Fertilizers and pesticides are not good for your baby, so try to eat organically whenever possible. One way to start is to be sure to always purchase the “dirty dozen” organically. These are the top 12 types of produce most susceptible to pesticides. The dirty dozen are: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.

Pregnancy and Organic FoodsWhile there are definitely some types of foods you should avoid during pregnancy (read “What NOT to Eat When Pregnant”), there are plenty of healthy, safe choices you can enjoy all nine months long. With a well-balanced, clean diet and the right prenatal supplements, you can feel great throughout your pregnancy and know that you’re doing all you can to help have a healthy baby.

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