Pregnancy Diet: What to Eat And What Not to Eat When Pregnant


Your pregnancy diet isn’t the same as your regular diet. Some food items are off-limits, while others you’ll want to eat more of. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about eating while you’re expecting. We’ll show you what to eat when pregnant and what not to eat when pregnant.

So what can and can’t you eat when you’re having a baby? When it comes to food that you should eat, go for lean meat, whole grains, dairy products, leafy greens, and fruits. As for the bad, avoid undercooked meat and eggs, products with unpasteurized milk, and caffeine.

And these are just a few food items. Read on to find out more and why these types of food are either good or bad for you. Additionally, we’ll show you with simple recipes or food prep ideas that’ll help you and your baby stay healthy.

There are so many good foods to choose from-- pregnancy doesn't have to limit your diet!

What to Eat When Pregnant?

First, let’s start with what to eat when pregnant. Because you’re not eating only for yourself anymore, you have to make wiser decisions when it comes to your pregnancy diet. Go for foods that will make you full and have significant nutritional value. Here are food items you’ll want to add to your grocery list.

  • Lean Meat

Lean meat is an excellent source of nutrients and minerals that your body needs. To be specific, meat contains protein and iron. Your body’s need for these nutrients increases when you’re pregnant. Lean meat provides certain forms of protein and iron that your body can quickly absorb.

Protein helps the growth of vital tissues that’ll make up your baby’s body and brain. It also helps in developing your uterine and breast tissue. Additionally, you can lower your risk of gestational diabetes by having a protein-rich diet. Moreover, iron and protein both help in increasing your blood supply.

  • Eggs

Some women develop a particular aversion to different types of meat while pregnant. Most of the time, it’s because of its smell. Eggs are a good alternative if you find yourself nauseous around lean beef. They contain a sufficient amount of protein that your body needs.

Eggs also contain the nutrient choline. Choline is essential as it helps in DNA synthesis, removes cholesterol in your liver, and maintains a healthy nervous system. Without getting too technical, it helps with your muscle movement, heartbeat, memory, and other brain functions.

Add eggs to your pregnancy diet daily. You can hard-boil eggs and store them in the fridge for a quick bite. You can also prepare scrambled eggs with homemade croutons. Toast up whole-wheat bread, cut them up, and add them right into your bowl of scrambled eggs.

  • Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are healthful for you and your sweet baby. These are rich in beta-carotene, a compound that later turns into vitamin A. They also contain fibre, which you’ll want to fill up on.

Vitamin A is essential in your baby’s development. It helps in developing cells and tissue. It also has benefits for the mom-to-be. Vitamin A helps in maintaining good visual health and helps keep your immune system robust.

And what’s great is you can prepare sweet potatoes in so many different ways. You can make a casserole with pecans and marshmallows. This delectable dish is relatively easy to make. Here are the steps you can follow:

  • Boil your sweet potatoes.
  • Next, mash them in a bowl and add butter, vanilla, salt, pepper, and cinnamon.
  • Add in the pecans and marshmallows.
  • Bake your concoction until you’ve heated the sweet potatoes and browned the marshmallows.
  • Leeks

Don’t underestimate leeks; they’re a superfood for expecting moms. Leeks contain some vitamins and minerals including vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, and even calcium.

Healthy bone growth and proper blood clot formation are benefits you get from having enough vitamin K. Regarding vitamin B6, some studies show that it helps with morning sickness. Although it doesn’t entirely prevent you from vomiting, it helps alleviate the feeling of nausea.

  • Cereal

Cereal isn’t just for kids anymore. But before we get your hopes up, we’re not talking about your colourful boxes full of sugary cereal. What to eat when pregnant? Go for fortified breakfast cereal which packs vitamins, fibre, and folic acid.

The fibre in cereal helps you reduce the chances of getting pre-eclampsia. It is a disorder where pregnant women suffer from high blood pressure. Over time, red blood cells may break down, platelet counts may sharply decline, and liver function can become impaired.

If you find your usual cereal boring, you can always brighten it up. You can add milk, fruits, honey, or nuts to help bring flavour to your plain cereal.

  • Oatmeal

Here’s another breakfast staple that you should keep as part of your pregnancy diet. Oatmeal is another excellent source of fibre. Fibre also keeps your blood sugar level within a healthy range.

Oats are also a complex carbohydrate. It means that a bowlful will keep you feeling satisfied for longer. It saves you from overeating, and it gives you a healthy boost of energy at the start of the day.

When shopping for oatmeal, skip choices that are flavoured as these are full of sugar. Instead, reach for plain oats. You can add flavour to your bowl by adding fruits or using healthier sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

  • Whole-Grain Bread

When expecting, trade your usual white bread for whole-grain instead. It helps you get enough fibre in your diet as well as iron and zinc.

Aside from the benefits mentioned earlier, fibre also helps with constipation. You’ll discover—if you haven’t already—that this symptom of pregnancy is a real inconvenience. Getting enough fibre will help keep your digestive system happy and stay on schedule.

  • Dairy Products

Calcium deficiency is a common problem that affects many people of every age and gender. However, it has become a more common issue for pregnant women. Your baby is going to need a considerable amount of calcium. When you don’t get enough from your pregnancy diet, your bones will lose calcium to meet that need. It can lead to bone problems in the future such as osteoporosis.

Dairy products provide you with the calcium that you need. Go for products such as milk, Greek yogurt, and certain cheeses. Soft cheeses should be part of what not to eat when pregnant. However, other types such as mozzarella and cheddar are a smart choice. Aside from calcium, these also include much-needed protein.

  • Artichokes

Believe it or not but artichokes are almost like a natural multivitamin. This vegetable contains iron, fibre, vitamins C and K, and folate. It’s also low in cholesterol and saturated fat.

What more could you ask for?

Because of all the nutrients that artichokes have, this makes it a great pick-me-up. The iron gives you energy, and the folate helps you metabolise proteins. Consider them as what to eat when pregnant. Enjoy them by stir-frying them into pasta or cooking the buds for a crunch.

  • Basil

Who knew that such a small herb could pack so many nutrients? Basil packs calcium; vitamins A, C, and K; iron; folate; and potassium. Calcium helps keep your teeth and bones sturdy. Folate helps in the growth of fetal cells. Potassium keeps your blood pressure in check as well as enhances metabolism.

How do you add basil to your list of what to eat when pregnant? You can make basil pesto right at home. Blend in basil, pine nuts or walnuts, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. After you’ve made your pesto, you can use it on pasta or even on homemade pizza.

  • Salmon

Many women are scared to go near fish and seafood when they’re pregnant. However, salmon is a safe choice and contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Because of their aversion to fish, many women don’t get enough of this in their diet.

Omega-3 helps maintain good cardiovascular health. If you don’t get enough of this, you put yourself at risk of developing hypertension or getting a heart attack. Salmon is a safe source of this healthy fat as it’s also low in mercury. As long as you don’t go past 12 ounces of salmon per week, you should be safe.

  • Leafy Greens

There’s a reason why Popeye favoured the spinach. Darker-coloured leafy greens such as spinach and kale have high levels of iron, calcium, and folate.

Folate is important in infant development. It helps in preventing congenital disabilities, especially in the brain and spinal cord. As for moms-to-be, it helps in lowering the risk of heart disease and even helps in maintaining a positive mood.

  • Oranges

When pregnant, women are often put off by many scents because of their heightened sense of smell. A typical solution is for women to dig their nails into orange peels because it’s a pleasant smell. However, oranges should also be on your list of what to eat when pregnant.

Oranges are the poster fruit for vitamin C, which also helps prevent pre-eclampsia. They’re mostly made up of water, helping you meet your fluid intake needs. Additionally, oranges are a good source of folic acid and can help you lower your blood pressure.

  • Red Bell Peppers

Oranges might be the foremost thing you think of when you hear “vitamin C.” However, several other food items pack more than the brightly-coloured fruit. One red bell pepper has almost three times more vitamin C than an orange.

Another benefit of vitamin C is keeping your immune system robust which is essential to avoid getting infections and other diseases while pregnant. Vitamin C also helps your body take in more iron from your meals.

  • Avocado

Great news for millennials: you won’t have to give up your avocado obsession when you’re pregnant. Avocados can even be healthful for you. The fruit is rich in monosaturated fat, folate, potassium, fibre, and B vitamins. So keep this on your list of what to eat when pregnant.

Avocados are unusual because of their fat content. Don’t worry; this is a healthy type of fat that’s good for your body and brain. This fruit also contains more potassium than bananas. It helps in alleviating stress and anxiety, something that many women suffer from during pregnancy.

You can enjoy your avocados in several ways: as guacamole, with baked egg, as a salad, or roasted. Avocado toast is also a favourite. Mash or slice the fruit and place it on bread. Opt for whole-grain bread for additional nutritional value.

  • Broccoli

Here are tiny trees for you and your teeny but growing baby. You can also consider broccoli as a superfood. It’s packed with fibre, antioxidants, folate, vitamin C, and calcium. Broccoli also helps your body absorb iron from food such as pasta and brown rice.

  • Berries

Don’t underestimate the difference berries can bring to your pregnancy diet. Berries may be tiny, but they pack quite the punch. They’re full of healthy carbohydrates, vitamins, water, and antioxidants. And although sweet, they have a low glycemic index value. It means they won’t negatively affect your blood sugar.

Pregnancy makes you crave all kinds of stuff-- some of them strange or not part of your usual diet. In the midst of this mishmash of hormones, it's important to be informed of what food is harmful to you and your baby!

What Not To Eat When Pregnant?

  • Undercooked Meat

It might be time to rethink your steak preference. Avoid rare and undercooked meat when you’re expecting because of the possible risk of toxoplasmosis, salmonella, and coliform bacteria.

Toxoplasmosis causes muscle pain, fever, headache, and swollen glands. Some of these symptoms are identical to those you experience from pregnancy, making the detection of toxoplasmosis tricky. Thus, it is dangerous as you could have the disease and not know it. As for your baby, toxoplasmosis can lead to hearing loss, blindness, and even a mental disorder.

  • Tuna

As we said earlier, many women tend to treat fish and other seafood as what not to eat when pregnant. One such type of fish you don’t want to overeat is tuna. Tuna often contain high levels of mercury.

Mercury can poison you, leading to damage to your nervous system, liver, kidneys, and lungs. Mercury can also cross the placenta, which means your baby will also be negatively affected. It can impair your child’s developing nervous system and brain.

  • Sushi

Those who love sushi will have to be careful when they’re expecting. Raw fish is risky because of the parasites and bacteria that might be in it. One such problem is Listeria. It often is less of a problem when you cook the fish, but is a concern with raw fish.

However, not all sushi is on your list of what not to eat when pregnant. Cooked items such as tempura are safe for you to consume. California maki is also something that makes the list of what to eat when pregnant.

  • Undercooked/Raw Egg Products

While eggs are healthy for you, undercooked and raw eggs aren’t. Although most eggs come pasteurised nowadays, you can’t always guarantee that they are. The reason why doctors warn you against raw eggs is due to the risk of salmonella.

Salmonella can cause food poisoning. It means you’ll be experiencing fever, diarrhea, cramps, and nausea. In some cases, it can also cause intrauterine sepsis.

Make sure that you don’t include this in your pregnancy diet. You’ll have to be wary of products such as homemade cookie dough, mayonnaise, and salad dressing.

  • Some Soft Cheese

Earlier, we included dairy products on the list of what to eat when pregnant. We mentioned that some types of cheese are safe while others are off limits. Brie, gorgonzola, Roquefort, and camembert are some types that you need to avoid. Mould-ripened soft cheeses and blue-veined cheese may contain Listeria.

The bacteria Listeria can cause you to be severely ill. Symptoms are similar to that of the flu, as well as diarrhea and nausea. Infection can spread to your nervous system, causing convulsions. Because of this, it can even lead to a miscarriage.

  • Unpasteurized Milk

It’s true that milk is essential when you’re pregnant. But unpasteurized milk can do more harm than good. Listeria is the main issue why you have to steer clear of unpasteurized milk. It means raw milk, including cow, goat, and sheep’s milk, and soft-serve ice cream is what not to eat when pregnant. If you only have access to raw milk, boil it first.

  • Deli Meats

Deli meat is tempting, we agree. It’s so easy to prepare when you’ve got other things to worry about. But meat from the deli may also contain Listeria. If you absolutely must have it, make sure you recook it or heat it until it’s smoking hot. Otherwise, put it on your list of what not to eat when pregnant.

  • Coffee

We’ve got bad news for coffee lovers. Because of its caffeine content, it’s best that you limit your coffee intake while you’re pregnant. It doesn’t mean that you have to avoid it altogether. You can opt for decaffeinated coffee.

If you find that you can’t stay away, you have to be mindful of what and how much you drink. Limit your caffeine consumption to 300 milligrams per day. For reference, a cup of instant coffee contains about 80 milligrams while filter coffee has approximately 120 milligrams.

  • Alcohol

Well, this one’s pretty obvious. Taking in liquor during pregnancy can be very harmful to you and your baby. It seems that people can’t agree about whether or not expecting moms should avoid alcohol altogether. Some say some amount of wine is acceptable.

However, the consensus is that it’s best to steer clear of alcohol entirely. Alcohol can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome. With that on the line, it’s best not to risk it. Alcohol should thus be the #1 on your list of what not to eat when pregnant.

  • Energy Drinks

Although tempting when you’re feeling sluggish, energy drinks should also not be part of your pregnancy diet mostly because of its caffeine content and the amount of sugar they contain.

Too much caffeine intake when you’re pregnant can lead to premature birth. Your baby can also get hooked on it and experience withdrawal symptoms later on.

  • Liver/Pâté

Those who aren’t fans of eating liver are probably relieved not to include this in their pregnancy diet. The reason behind this is that the liver contains high levels of vitamin A. Although vitamin A is healthful for you, too much can be harmful. It can bring you headaches, dizziness, and even congenital disabilities.

  • Unpasteurized Juices/Cider

Always check labels. Fruit juices that are unpasteurized may contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella. Cider is one type of unpasteurized juice. Additionally, if you’re making your fruit juice, make sure to wash your produce thoroughly first.

  • Raw Shellfish

When raw, shellfish such as oysters and mussels can be harmful to you. The same goes for undercooked shellfish due to them possibly containing bacteria and toxins. Such would lead to food poisoning that harms both you and your baby.

  • Raw Sprouts

Uncooked sprouts such as alfalfa, sunflower, soybean, radish, and mung bean can be harmful. They may contain bacteria, including Listeria and E.coli. For you to still get nutrients from these sprouts, make sure you only consume them after you properly cook them.

  • Salads

Before you react, we’re not telling you not to eat your greens. What you should avoid are salads that others may have prepared without you seeing because you can’t be sure that they have adequately and thoroughly cleaned the vegetables. Remaining soil or dirt on your food contains harmful bacteria and microbes. Additionally, the dressing may also include raw eggs.

Additional Questions

Can I still eat fish? Yes, you don’t have to ban fish from your list of what to eat when pregnant. Just make sure you’re choosing low-mercury fish that’s cooked well. Salmon, anchovy, and tilapia are safe. Avoid shark, marlin, and tuna.

What happens if I eat something I should avoid? So you’ve eaten something on the list of what not to eat when pregnant. The first thing to do is don’t panic. Small amounts of these food items won’t do much harm. However, if you’ve consumed large quantities of these foods, contact your health care professional or see a doctor immediately.

How can I protect myself from Listeria? Listeria is a common issue when it comes to most of what not to eat when pregnant. To lower your risk of getting ill, avoid food that may be easily contaminated. Always wash your food properly before you eat or cook it. With both meat and vegetables, it always pays off to cook your food thoroughly to kill the bacteria.

Summary on Your Pregnancy Diet

To sum things up, there are many changes you’ll have to make when you’re expecting. Things what to eat when pregnant include dark leafy greens, dairy products, fruits, lean meat, and whole-grain food. Those what not to eat when pregnant include undercooked eggs and meat, unpasteurized dairy, high-mercury fish, and produce lacking thorough cleaning.

If you’re ever unsure about your pregnancy diet, it’s always a smart choice to ask your doctor or nutritionist for advice. That way, you get the best meals for yourself and your growing bundle of joy.

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