Pregnancy Nutrition: Essential Foods To Include In Your Diet For The Health Of You And Your Baby

by | Aug 1, 2023

Pregnant woman eating a pastry

Nutrition plays a huge role in a healthy pregnancy. Not only can your diet impact how you feel during pregnancy, but it also impacts the development of your baby. Put together a pregnancy nutrition checklist to ensure you’re getting the vitamins you and your baby need. 

If you’re planning to get pregnant or you’re currently pregnant, keep reading! We’ve put together a pregnancy food guide for every trimester, as well as what not to eat. Plus, find out if there are any pregnancy superfoods to include in your pregnancy meal prep, and whether or not you can drink coffee. 

Get more of your pregnancy questions answered here

Woman washing lettuce

Foods To Avoid In Pregnancy 

Avoid foods that may give you an infection, such as undercooked or raw fish. Healthline explains, “Raw fish, especially shellfish, have a high risk of containing bacteria or parasites such as norovirus, Vibrio, Salmonella, and Listeria. Raw fish can become infected during handling, storing, and processing, including smoking or drying.”

This warning also extends to undercooked and raw meat and eggs. 

Deli meat is also something you may want to take out of your diet while pregnant as there is a small risk of Listeria infection. “Approximately 2,500 individuals will become infected with Listeria annually. This means it is extremely rare. However, the problem for pregnant women is they are more susceptible to get it and their developing babies are more vulnerable to serious complications and even death,” says the American Pregnancy Association

It’s not just animal products that bacteria can thrive on. Vegetables and fruits can also cause infections if they’re unwashed. Get into the habit of washing your fresh produce thoroughly with clean water; you could also peel and cook them before eating. 

It’s important to focus on whole foods when pregnant and avoid overly processed foods as much as possible. Processed foods are often lower in nutrients and higher in sugar and added fats. 

Pregnancy woman holding a glass of milk

What Nutrients Do Pregnant Women Need? 

Vitamins B, C, and D; protein; folate; iron; omega-3 fatty acids; calcium; and magnesium are some of the most essential nutrients to include in your pregnancy diet. It doesn’t have to be difficult though! Eating a balanced diet that includes meat (or vegetarian sources of protein), carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a variety of fruits and vegetables can help you get most of your nutritional requirements.  

What To Drink When Pregnant? 

Hydration is absolutely key to ensuring a healthy pregnancy! So, you’ve got to be conscious of your water intake. “Both your body and your baby’s body are made up mostly of fluid. You need more liquids to support your expanding blood volume, as well as to produce enough amniotic fluid and support healthy fetal circulation,” explains What To Expect

The best way to increase your hydration is simple: Drink more water! Start getting into the habit of carrying around a water bottle everywhere. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women should drink eight to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of water every day. You can also get the hydration you need by including high water-content fruits and vegetables in your diet. Think watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, and oranges. 

But, can pregnant women drink coffee? If you feel like you need caffeine to function, eliminating coffee from your diet may seem like a daunting task. Don’t worry, you can still drink caffeine, but you may need to cut back. The American Pregnancy Association says, “…that moderate levels of caffeine have not been found to have a negative effect on pregnancy. The definition of moderate can vary from 150 mg – 300 mg a day.”

Wooden board with smoothie bowls

Pregnancy Diet Plan: First Trimester 

To prepare your body for pregnancy and in the first trimester, folate is essential! “When the baby is developing early during pregnancy, folic acid helps form the neural tube. Folic acid is very important because it can help prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida),” says the CDC

Legumes, asparagus, eggs, leafy green veggies, nuts and seeds, and fortified whole grains are all good sources of folate. 

A first-trimester pregnancy meal plan needs to include protein. “Eating enough protein during pregnancy also supports your baby’s development, since amino acids are required for normal cell growth and function. Meeting your daily protein needs may also lower the risk of complications like fetal growth restriction and preterm labor,” explains What To Expect. Through many protein sources (chicken, beef, pork), you also get iron, which is essential to help your body produce the extra blood you and your baby need.  

Avo and egg toast

Pregnancy Diet Plan: Second Trimester 

All of your baby’s organs have developed, so now they’re going to continue to grow the rest of their body. They start developing their reflexes, and the brain will go through its most important period of growth from the fifth month of pregnancy. 

For these developments, protein needs to continue to feature prominently in your diet. “In the later stages of pregnancy, women should aim to eat 1.52 grams (g) per kilogram (kg) of body weight each day to help the baby’s brain and other tissue grow,” says Medical News Today

Calcium also plays a huge role in the development of your baby’s bones and assists in making sure their nerves and circulatory system are running smoothly (dairy products are also a great source of vitamin D). Calcium-rich foods include milk, eggs, tofu, kale, Greek yogurt, and sardines. 

Another fantastic reason to include sardines in your pregnancy diet is omega-3. “…omega-3 fatty acids is vitally important during pregnancy as they are critical building blocks of fetal brain and retina,” tells the National Institutes of Health

Cut open cantaloupe

Pregnancy Diet Plan: Third Trimester 

WedMD highlights the importance of vitamin A (found in foods like fish, dairy, cantaloupe, carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes) in the third trimester, “Vitamin A helps your baby’s bones grow. It also supports their skin and vision. Your baby’s eyes open and start to detect light in the third trimester.”

It’s also essential to include sources of vitamins B6 and B12 in your third-trimester diet. This is to help build red blood cells and keep the nervous system strong. You can find these vitamins in fish, beef, and organ meats to name a few.  

Get a checklist for your last month of pregnancy here

During every stage of pregnancy, it’s vital to include fruits and vegetables in your diet. They’re fantastic sources of vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, which will all support a healthy pregnancy. 

One of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby is pregnancy meal prep! By planning ahead, you can ensure you’re getting the nutrients both of you need. Pregnancy superfoods that are healthy during every trimester include salmon and other low-mercury fish, dark leafy greens, seeds and nuts, whole grains, beans, meat, dairy, and vitamin C-rich fruits like kiwis, strawberries, tomatoes, and capsicum. 

Another way to plan ahead is by taking our free mini course, Prepare For Baby. Take this course prior to giving birth to get real, practical solutions to help you rest, learn how to advocate for yourself the moment your baby is born, and establish healthy sleep habits from day one.

Meet Hillary

Hi! I’m Hillary, the Mama behind Baby Settler. These days you can find me with my four children and husband… probably outside, and helping Mama’s and families. I also have a lot of letters behind my name which translate, I’m also a Labor & Delivery nurse and Lactation Consultant.

Gauge Your Grasp On Feeding & Sleep Routines

Related Posts

6 Healthy Pregnancy Work Lunches

6 Healthy Pregnancy Work Lunches

When you’re pregnant, you’ve got to pay careful attention to your nutrition to support your body’s changes and to help your baby develop healthily. Managing your energy levels becomes even more challenging, especially when juggling the demands of work. Skipping lunch...

read more
How To Avoid Tearing When Giving Birth

How To Avoid Tearing When Giving Birth

As you near your due date, you may have quite a few things that are causing you anxiety, most notably labor and delivery. There are things that can go wrong, and you’ve probably heard some horror stories from women who experienced a lot of difficulty during labor. One...

read more
[trustindex no-registration=google]