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The Best Foods to Eat for a Healthy Pregnancy (Healthy Baby)

The Best Foods to Eat for a Healthy Pregnancy (Healthy Baby)

You are pregnant! How exciting!

You are currently probing one in all the foremost necessary roles in your life. You wish to know sensible nutrition and the way to nourish each your baby and you.

Nutrition for yourself will be confusing, not to mention nutrition for each baby and you. There are such a lot of things to find out and learn.

And you feel overwhelmed.

Want to have a healthy pregnancy without gaining too much weight? Be able to lose pregnancy weight easily after giving birth?

How to eat healthy for two and still be able to achieve those goals?

Eating a well-balanced diet and living a healthy lifestyle is critical to your baby’s growth and development.

 

 

In order to get the additional nutrients you need, you must eat from a variety of food groups, including fruits and vegetables, bread and grains, protein sources and dairy products [1]

Ideally, you will need to consume an extra 300 calories a day [2] for the first semester and an extra 350 – 500 calories during the second and third trimesters [3].

"Pregnant women need to consume an extra 300 calories a day for the first semester and an extra 350 – 500 calories during the second and third trimesters "Click to Tweet

A diet deficient in essential nutrients like calcium, iron, folate may negatively affect the baby’s development [456].

Poor eating habits and excess weight gain may also increase gestational diabetes risk and pregnancy or birth complications [7].

What foods to eat during pregnancy?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines and American Pregnancy Association recommend to eat a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five food groups every day:

#1. Vegetables

  • Eat plenty of different types and colours of vegetables especially broccoli and dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach.
  • Studies showed that leafy green vegetables may reduce the risk of low birth weight [89], and support the immune system and digestion [10].
  • In order to prevent neural tube defects, the American Pregnancy Association recommends consuming at least 4 mg of folic acid per day. A good source of folic acid can be found in dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Pregnant women need at least 70 mg of Vitamin C daily, which are in broccoli, tomatoes, and Brussel sprouts.
  • Vitamin A is essential for growth and healthy fetal development [11]. Pregnant women are advised to increase vitamin A intake by 10–40% [121314] and avoid very high amounts of animal-based sources of vitamin A such as liver. Vitamin A may cause toxicity when eaten in excess [15].
  • Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene. About 100–150 grams of a cooked sweet potato meets the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for vitamin A [16]. Sweet potatoes contain fiber, which may reduce blood sugar spikes and improve digestive health and mobility [1718].
  • Eat at least 5 - 7 servings of vegetables As vegetables contain high fiber content, they help to prevent constipation, which is very common among pregnant women [19].
  • A standard serve of vegetables is about 75g (100-350kJ) or:
    • ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (for example, broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)
    • ½ cup cooked, dried or canned beans, peas or lentils*
    • 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
    • ½ cup sweet corn
    • ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro or cassava)
    • 1 medium tomato

“Broccoli and green leafy vegetables contain essential nutrients for pregnant women. They also contain high fiber, which may help to prevent or treat constipation”Click to Tweet

 Standard Serve of Vegetables

Vitamin A Food Sources

 

Food mcg RAE per
serving
IU per
serving
Percent
DV*
Sweet potato, baked in skin, 1 whole 1,403 28,058 561
Beef liver, pan fried, 3 ounces 6,582 22,175 444
Spinach, frozen, boiled, ½ cup 573 11,458 229
Carrots, raw, ½ cup 459 9,189 184
Pumpkin pie, commercially prepared, 1 piece 488 3,743 249
Cantaloupe, raw, ½ cup 135 2,706 54
Peppers, sweet, red, raw, ½ cup 117 2,332 47
Mangos, raw, 1 whole 112 2,240 45
Black-eyed peas (cowpeas), boiled, 1 cup 66 1,305 26
Apricots, dried, sulfured, 10 halves 63 1,261 25
Broccoli, boiled, ½ cup 60 1,208 24
Ice cream, French vanilla, soft serve, 1 cup 278 1,014 20
Cheese, ricotta, part skim, 1 cup 263 945 19
Tomato juice, canned, ¾ cup 42 821 16
Herring, Atlantic, pickled, 3 ounces 219 731 15
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin A, ¾–1 cup (more heavily fortified cereals might provide more of the DV) 127–149 500 10
Milk, fat-free or skim, with added vitamin A and vitamin D, 1 cup 149 500 10
Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian, 1 cup 13 274 5
Egg, hard-boiled, 1 large 75 260 5
Summer squash, all varieties, boiled, ½ cup 10 191 4
Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 3 ounces 59 176 4
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 1 cup 32 116 2
Pistachio nuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce 4 73 1
Tuna, light, canned in oil, drained solids, 3 ounces 20 65 1
Chicken, breast meat and skin, roasted, ½ breast 5 18 0

 

"A standard serve of vegetables is about 75g (100-350kJ): ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables, ½ cup cooked, dried or canned beans, peas or lentils, 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables, ½ cup sweet corn, ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables, 1 medium tomato" - Click to Tweet

#2. Fruits

  • Fruits contain many important nutrients for pregnancy especially Vitamin C.
  • Pregnant women need at least 70 mg of Vitamin C daily, which are in oranges, grapefruits, berries, and honeydew.
  • Eat at least 2-4 servings of fruit a day.
  • A standard serve of fruit is about 150g (350kJ):
    • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
    • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
    • 1 cup diced or canned fruit (with no added sugar)

Or only occasionally:

  • 125ml (½ cup) fruit juice (with no added sugar)
  • 30g dried fruit (for example 4 dried apricot halves, 1½ tablespoons of sultanas)
  • One serving of dried fruit can provide a large percentage of the recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals including folate, iron, and potassium.
  • Prunes are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin K and sorbitol. They’re natural laxatives and may be very helpful in relieving constipation.
  • Dates are high in fiber, potassium, iron and plant compounds. Eating dates regularly during the third trimester may help to facilitate cervical dilation and to reduce the need to induce labor [2021].
  • Dried fruits also contain high amounts of natural sugar hence it is not recommended to consume more than one serving at a time.

"A standard serve of fruit is about 150g (350kJ): 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear, 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums, 1 cup diced or canned fruit (with no added sugar)" - Click to Tweet

Standard Serve of Fruits

#3. Bread and Grains: 

  • The body’s main source of energy for pregnancy comes from the essential carbohydrates found in bread and grains. Whole grains provide important nutrients such as iron, B Vitamins, fiber, and protein.
  • Pregnant women need to consume between 6-11 servings (6-11 oz) of bread and grains (mostly whole grain or wholemeal) daily. Avoid having white rice, white bread or noodles made from white flour.
  • A standard serve for bread and grain (500kJ) is:
    • 1 slice (40g) bread
    • ½ medium (40g) roll or flatbread
    • ½ cup (75–120g) cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, bulgur or quinoa
    • ½ cup (120g) cooked porridge
    • ²/³ cup (30g) wheat cereal flakes
    • ¼ cup (30g) muesli
    • 3 (35g) crispbreads
    • 1 (60g) crumpet
    • 1 small (35g) English muffin or scone

"A standard serve for bread and grain is: 1 slice of bread ½ medium roll or flatbread, ½ cup (75–120g) cooked rice, pasta, noodles, ½ cup (120g) cooked porridge, ²/³ cup (30g) wheat cereal flakes, ¼ cup (30g) muesli, 3 (35g) crispbreads, 1 crumpet, 1 small English muffin or scone" - Click to Tweet

Standard Serve of  Bread and Grains

#4. Protein

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and legumes are good sources of protein, B vitamins and iron, which are needed in pregnancy. Your growing baby needs a lot of protein, especially in the second and third trimesters [24].

You should consume at least 3 servings of protein daily.

Meats & Poultry

  • It is important for pregnant women to eat iron-rich foods such as lean beef, lamb and veal to avoid fatigue, weakness, irritability, and depression. If not, an iron supplement is required.
  • Avoid all types of pate including vegetable pates as they can contain listeria.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked meat, including meat joints and steaks cooked rare, because of the potential risk of toxoplasmosis.
  • Cook all meat and poultry thoroughly so it's steaming hot and there's no trace of pink or blood – especially with poultry, pork, sausages and minced meat, including burgers.  
  • Avoid eating cured and fermented deli meats (e.g. salami, dried pepperoni, ham or prosciutto) unless they are well-cooked.
  • A standard serve (500-600kJ) is:
    • 65g cooked (90–100g raw) lean meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat or kangaroo. Maximum weekly red meat consumption is 455 g [22]
    • 80g cooked (100g raw) lean poultry such as chicken or turkey

Seafood

  • Fish and some other seafood can be a good nutritional choice for pregnancy. Ensure to eat seafood within the guidelines.
  • Eat at least 2 servings of low-mercury fish a week (e.g. salmon, herring, ocean trout, mackerel and sardine 1 to 2 times per week) [23]
  • Avoid fish contains high mercury such as tuna, kingfish, shark, swordfish or marlin.
  • If you want to eat tuna, limit the amount of tuna to:
  • No more than 2 tuna steaks (140 g cooked or 170 g raw) a week, or
  • 4 medium-sized cans of tuna (140 g when drained) a week
  • Tuna contains more mercury than other fish. The amount of mercury we get from food isn’t harmful to most people, but it could affect your baby’s developing nervous system when you are pregnant.[25]
  • Avoid eating raw fish or shellfish as they can contain harmful bacteria and viruses that can cause food poisoning.
  • Always eat cooked seafood including mussels, lobster, crab, prawns, scallops, and clams when you are pregnant. Cold pre-cooked prawns and smoked fish are OK.
  • Avoid eating sushi with raw fish or raw shellfish.
  • The safest way to enjoy sushi is to choose vegetarian or cooked-seafood sushi (e.g. California roll, unagi, shrimp nigiri, fully cooked egg)
  • A standard serve (500-600kJ) is:
    • 100g cooked (115g raw) fish fillet
    • A small can of fish
  • British and Brazilian researchers reported in the journal PLoS ONE that pregnant women who ate seafood had lower levels of anxiety compared with those who did not. Pregnant mothers who never consumed seafood had a 53 percent greater risk of suffering from high levels of anxiety [29]
Eggs
  • Avoid eating raw or partially cooked eggs as they may contain salmonella
  • Cook eggs thoroughly until the white and yolk are solid to prevent the risk of salmonella food poisoning.
  • Only eat prepared products made with pasteurized eggs (e.g. cookie-dough ice cream, or mayonnaise)
  • A standard serve (500-600kJ) is: 2 large (120g) eggs
Legumes, Nuts & Seeds
  • A standard serve (500-600kJ) is:
    • 1 cup (150g) cooked or canned legumes/beans such as lentils, chickpeas or split peas (preferably with no added salt)
    • 170g tofu
    • 30g nuts, seeds, peanut or almond butter or tahini or other nut or seed paste (no added salt)

 Standard Serve of Protein

#5. Dairy & Alternatives

  • Drink pasteurized or ultra-heat treated (UHT) milk.
  • Avoid drinking unpasteurized milk or eating soft goats’ cheese [28]
  • All types of yogurt and ice-cream including soft serve are fine. Avoid if the yogurt or ice-cream is made from unpasteurized milk.
  • Eat pasteurized hard cheeses (e.g. cheddar, Swiss, Parmesan, Colby)
  • Processed soft and semi-soft cheeses (e.g. cream cheese, cottage cheese, mozzarella) are OK to eat.
  • A standard serve of dairy and alternatives (500-600kJ) are:
    • 1 cup (250ml) fresh, UHT long life, reconstituted powdered milk or buttermilk
    • ½ cup (120ml) evaporated milk
    • 2 slices (40g) or 4 x 3 x 2cm cube (40g) of hard cheese, such as cheddar
    • ¾ cup (200g) yogurt
    • 1 cup (250ml) soy, rice or other cereal drinks with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml

Standard Serve of Dairy and Alternatives

For pregnant women who are taller or more active, but not overweight, eat additional serves from the unsaturated spreads and oils (14 - 20g per day) to meet the extra energy requirements.[26]

Fats should not make up more than 30 percent of a pregnant woman's diet. Researchers from the University of Illinois reported in the Journal of Physiology that a high-fat diet may genetically program the baby for future diabetes.

An excessive high-fat diet increases pregnancy risk and "healthy fats" should be the primary fat choices. Examples of foods high in monounsaturated fats include olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, canola oil, avocados, many nuts, and seeds.

Is it safe for pregnant women to drink coffee?

Caffeine has been linked to low birth weights, and it does cross the placenta. Health Canada recommends pregnant women consume no more than 300 mg daily.

However, it’s important to note that not all coffee is caffeinated equally. “The caffeine content varies by type of coffee and method of preparation,” says Heather Lovelace, a registered dietitian at BC Women’s Hospital and BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver [27].

Drip coffee contains the most (140 to 240 mg of caffeine per 240 mL), followed by brewed coffee, and then instant.

As a general rule, pregnant women can have two small cups of brewed coffee each day. But be aware of other sources of caffeine such as pop and chocolate, and the size of the cup—some mugs hold the equivalent of two cups of coffee. (A Starbucks grande brewed coffee, for example, which holds 473 mL, is already 330 mg of caffeine—over the daily max.).

Decaf can help satisfy those cravings after you’ve hit your daily limit.

Is it safe to eat ice cream during pregnancy?

Ice creams are generally safe, but you need to make sure they are made from pasteurized milk.

Also if you are prone to getting colds easily or if you have sinusitis, seek advice from your doctor if you can consume ice creams during pregnancy.

Does overweight or obese affect your pregnancy?

Recent NICHD research shows that gaining more weight during pregnancy than recommended increases the risk of complications.

How much a woman weighs when she gets pregnant and how much weight she gains during pregnancy can affect her health and that of her baby. Entering pregnancy with a normal body mass index (BMI) and gaining weight within the recommended levels during pregnancy are important ways to protect a mother's and a child's health [30].

How much Weight Gain during pregnancy is Normal?

The Institute of Medicine recommends the following ranges of weight gain during pregnancy for American women:

  • Pregnant women who are underweight (BMI of less than 18.5) should gain 13 - 18 kg.
  • Pregnant women at a normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) should gain 11 - 16 kg.
  • Overweight pregnant women (BMI of 25 to 29.9) should gain 7 - 11 kg.
  • Obese pregnant women (BMI greater than 30) should limit weight gain to 5 - 9 kg [30].

What are some healthy meals to eat while pregnant?

Sample Daily Menu

The following sample menu will give you some idea of what a pregnant woman should typically consume in a day for a healthy diet during pregnancy.

Three small balanced meals and three light snacks throughout the day are a good rule of thumb to ensure you and your baby’s nutritional needs are met.

Breakfast: Oatmeal cereal, banana, 1 slice whole wheat toast, 2 tsp jam, 1 cup skim milk

Snack: 1 cup of yogurt, grapes

Lunch: Turkey (if deli meat, do not eat cold – heat to steaming to avoid Listeria) and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, baked sweet potato chips, pear, and 1 cup skim milk

Snack: Raw veggies and low-calorie dip

Dinner: 115 g chicken, 1 cup wild rice, 1 cup veggies, 1 cup skim milk

Snack: fresh fruit or low-fat frozen yogurt

A Complement to Nutrition

Prenatal Vitamins: Although the main source of vitamins and nutrients needed during pregnancy should come from your diet, a daily prenatal vitamin can help fill small gaps—just in case you unintentionally do not get enough key nutrients. 

Consult your healthcare provider about which supplement is best for you.

 

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What is your biggest craving while pregnant? What is your weirdest pregnancy craving? Leave the comment below.

 

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