Congratulations, you’re pregnant, and you’re providing nutrients for someone else! Kind of changes your perspective on food, right? There are a million pieces of advice out there on what you can and cannot eat, and it can definitely be overwhelming! So, to get some clarity on what you need to know about pregnancy nutrition, we consulted with our friend Frances Largeman-Roth, national best-selling author, chef, and recognized health expert. She is the author of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom’s Healthy Eating Guide and her latest cookbook Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family
“First off, mazel tov! Pregnancy is such an amazing, wonderful time in your life. But as thrilled as you are about that new life inside you, you’re probably also a little freaked out about what exactly you should and shouldn’t do when it comes to your health.
Pregnancy increases your need for several nutrients. Eating a diet that’s rich in whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean meats will help make sure you’re covered. Here are the biggies you need and where to find them. And check out the list of what to avoid—a few may surprise you.
1. Folic acid-rich foods, such as fortified cereal, lentils, edamame, spinach, asparagus, and citrus fruits.
2. Iron-packed foods, such as beef, bison, chicken, eggs, salmon, Swiss chard, kale, dried apricots, and tofu.
3. Protein, which can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy products, and quinoa
4. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are plentiful in salmon, tuna, enriched eggs, walnuts, and flax seeds.
5. Choline, a nutrient important for baby’s brain health, which you’ll get in eggs, soy foods, pork chops, cauliflower, and liver.
6. Calcium to build strong bones and teeth, found in milk, yogurt, cheese, spinach, almonds and broccoli.
7. Vitamin B12, a vitamin found in cooked clams, beef liver, fortified cereal, trout, salmon, and beef.
8. Vitamin D, a critical vitamin that’s abundant in eggs, salmon, sardines, fortified milk, and good old sunshine.
9. Vitamin C, which you’ll get in strawberries, red bell peppers, mango and citrus fruits.
10. Zinc, a mineral that you can get in fortified cereal, beef, pork, chicken, yogurt, beans, and cashews.
Bonus Do: Keep Moving!
If you were exercising before you were pregnant, you can keep it up with your doctor’s OK. If you weren’t exercising and don’t have any complications, you can start a walking program. Exercise during pregnancy has a ton of benefits:
Staying physically active now will help you feel better and manage your stress and anxiety levels
Reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes
Lower your risk of mild to moderate depression, which can creep up during pregnancy
Keeps you regular (constipation can be a real issue during pregnancy)
Can help you have an easier and shorter labor, with fewer complications
It’ll help you get back in shape faster post pregnancy!
1. Booze. Drinking alcohol while pregnant can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. No amount of alcohol has been shown to be safe during pregnancy.
2. Tobacco and all other drugs. Smoking while pregnant doubles your risk of having a low-birth weight baby because it slows fetal growth. It also increases the risk of preterm delivery and can cause problems with the placenta.
3. Caffeine; It’s tough—I know! Just when you’re most tired, you need to cut back on your morning Joe. Limit it as much as possible. If you can’t go totally caffeine-free, ask the barista for half caff. And don’t forget that caffeine is found in energy drinks that contain natural forms of caffeine, like guarana, yerba mate, or ginseng.
4. Unpasteurized (raw) milk, juice, and other beverages. These products may contain listeria and other bacteria, which pose a serious risk to your baby.
5. Unpasteurized soft cheeses, such as Brie, Camembert, blue cheese, feta, and queso fresco.
6. Processed meats, such as lunch meat, hot dogs (unless they’re steaming hot), lox, meat spreads, and pâté. These foods can carry listeria, which can cause miscarriage in early pregnancy.
7. Raw foods, including meat, fish (sushi), shellfish, eggs
(that includes raw cookie dough too), and sprouts (including alfalfa, mung, clover, and radish).
8. Fish that are high in mercury (cooked or uncooked), such as swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark.
9. Herbal supplements. These aren’t tested for safety in pregnant women, so steer clear.
10. Artificial sweeteners (unless you’re diabetic). While many artificial sweeteners are deemed safe to use by the FDA, my opinion is that you should avoid them as much as possible. Why add more chemicals to your system? Of course, it’s important to keep the real sweets in check too.
Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, is a nationally recognized health expert and has helped thousands of women across America lose weight and feel incredible with her healthy recipes and smart diet and nutrition advice. She is the author of Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom’s Healthy Eating Guide and co-author of the bestselling The CarbLovers Diet. Her latest cookbook is Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family. Frances lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three kids. Get her healthy recipes and nutrition advice at www.franceslargemanroth.com and on Twitter/Instagram @FrancesLRothRD.