A Pregnant Woman’s Guide to Food: Essential Dos & Don’ts

Pregnant Women

Pregnancy is a stressful time for many women. Doctors give guidelines for what you should and shouldn’t do. Understanding how to best nourish yourself and your child can be overwhelming.It’s helpful to have guidelines for what to eat and what to avoid, so we have compiled this guide.

DoEat the Right Amount

Have you ever heard someone talk about pregnant women “eating for two”? While a pregnant woman is eating for two people, she does not need to double her caloric intake. In fact, women should eat according to their body weight during pregnancy.

  • If you are overweight, you may not need extra calories at all.
  • If you are normal weight, you may only need a few extra calories.
  • If you are underweight, you may need more calories.

The number of calories varies with body weight and which trimester you are in. As a guideline, women in their first trimester may not need to eat any extra calories, whereas a woman in her second or third trimester may need to eat 300-500 more calories per day. If you are carrying multiples, you may need even more.The extent to which you need more calories varies with how active of a lifestyle you live. To make sure you are getting the right number of calories for you and your baby, talk to your ob-gyn.

Do Eat a Balanced Diet

Proper nutrition during pregnancypositively affects your child’s development in the womb and later in life. Eating a balanced diet is the key to wellness. Make sure to include an abundance of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Also, be sure to limit your intake of processed foods.Youshould be mindful that you are consuming plenty of vitamins and minerals in your diet. Below is a list of some of the most important nutrients you need and foods you can eat to get enough of them.

  • Calcium– Alternative milk, cheese, and yogurt products (almond, soy, rice, hemp), almonds, almond butter, tahini, figs, oranges, broccoli, bok choy, collard greens, okra, and arugula
  • Folate – Oranges, orange juice, strawberries, spinach, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, pasta, beans, nuts, and fortified breakfast cereals
  • Iron – Lentils, tomato sauce, lima beans, oatmeal, molasses, dried fruit (especially apricots and raisins), and fortified breakfast cereals
  • Omega-3s–Walnuts, brussels sprouts, purslane, and chia, flax, or hemp seeds
  • Vitamin A – Carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, spinach, and kale
  • Vitamin B6 – Bread, wholegrain cereals, plant milk, potatoes, chickpeas, fortified breakfast cereals, bananas, marinara sauce, bulgur, and winter squash
  • Vitamin B12 – Fortified alternative milk and cereals, vitamin B12 supplements
  • Vitamin C – Red bell peppers, citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and kale

Do Consider Supplements

A healthy diet should provide all the nutrients your body needs, but your doctor may suggest you take some prenatal vitamins. Listen to your doctor and, together, you can feel confident you are providing your baby with everything it needs to be healthy. 

Do Stay Hydrated

Your blood volume increases by 50 ounces when you are pregnant, so you will need to consume more water than you are used to. Keeping hydrated can also ward off constipation, urinary tract infections, headaches, and tiredness.Try carrying a water bottle around with you wherever you go, whether you are driving, at work, or at home. You can also try setting a timer, so you drink water every hour.

Do Limit Caffeine

While small amounts of caffeine are fine for adults, it’s different for babies. They don’t have the enzyme to metabolize caffeineso excess can build up. Risks associated with consuming high levels of caffeine during pregnancy include low birth weight and the restriction of fetal growth.If you do drink coffee or tea, make sure you do not consume more than 200 mg per day. Since there are dangers associated with consuming too much caffeine during pregnancy, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider or avoid it altogether.

Don’t Eat These Raw or Undercooked Foods

This includes raw or undercooked meats, seafood, eggs. Eggs and rare meat can contain salmonella. Uncooked fish can contribute to viral or bacterial infections that can spread to your fetus.Some guidelines to follow are:

  • Pass up the sushi or get it vegetarian
  • Order your meats well-done
  • Make sure your eggs are thoroughly cooked
  • Don’t lick any egg-based batters (but you can lick this vegan cookie batter)

Don’t Eat Unpasteurized Foods

Pasteurization is the process by which foods are treated with mild heat to remove harmful pathogens and extend shelf life. Check the food labels of your cheese, milk, and juices to be certain they are pasteurized. You will want to avoid:

  • Cheese –Brie, goat, feta, blue, Mexican Queso fresco, and Quesoblanco
  • Juice – Unpasteurized apple cider or juice
  • Raw Milk

Don’t Drink Alcohol

This may be a no-brainer, but one in ten women admit to drinking during pregnancy. What’s worse is that one-third of those women admit to binge drinking. Studies show just one binge drinking episode while pregnant can cause the unborn child to become addicted to alcohol later in life. Drinking is very dangerous to the health of the fetusand can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, along with a host of other health complications later in life.If you take the above precautions, you will be on your way to a healthy, happy pregnancy.