When you’re pregnant, eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your future baby.
The food you eat is the main source of nourishment for your baby, so it’s vital to consume foods that are rich in nutrients. Proper nutrition can help promote your baby’s growth and development.
A healthy diet consists of:
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that pregnant women choose foods from what they consider to be the five essential food groups. These five food groups are:
The USDA has a MyPlate Plan for Moms that allows you to calculate how much of each food group you should eat to get the recommended levels of vitamins and minerals.
It’s also beneficial to eat foods containing omega-3 oils, which are vital for your baby’s brain development.
Foods that contain one or more of these nutrients include:
It’s helpful to prepare and cook meals at home to ensure you maintain a balanced, healthy diet. If it’s too difficult or time-consuming to cook a meal every night, consider making one or two large dishes each week and freezing portions for quick weeknight meals.
Fresh food is always the preferred option, but there are also some fairly healthy frozen dinner options that you can buy at the store. Make sure to read the labels and only choose dishes that are low in fat and sodium.
Frozen vegetables are another option. Stocking up on these can save you time when you want a quick, healthy meal.
There are a few foods that you should limit or avoid eating while you’re pregnant, including raw meat, eggs, and certain types of fish.
Avoid eating large fish, such as swordfish, shark, and king mackerel. These fish are known to contain high amounts of mercury, a chemical element that can harm your baby.
Try to limit your intake of other seafood to 8-12 ounces per week, which is considered to be two to three average meal portions per week. This includes seafood that’s relatively low in mercury, such as:
Avoid consuming any unpasteurized products during pregnancy, as these may have bacteria that can cause infections. This includes unpasteurized milk, milk products, and juices.
Certain soft cheeses are often made with unpasteurized milk and are best avoided unless the label clearly indicates that they’ve been pasteurized or made with pasteurized milk. These include:
- blue cheese
- queso fresco
It’s okay to drink coffee or other drinks with caffeine while you’re pregnant, but try to limit your consumption to one or two cups per day.
Now that you’re more than halfway through your pregnancy, it’s particularly important to reevaluate your diet.
The Cleveland Clinic recommends:
- 2 or 3 servings of lean protein per day, or at least 75 grams of per day
- 3 or more servings of whole grains per day
- 4 or 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
- 4 servings of dairy products or foods rich in calcium
You should also ensure you’re:
- eating foods with essential fats
- limiting your intake of high-fat, high-sugar, and high-sodium foods
- taking your prenatal vitamins every day
Your doctor can help you create a more specific meal plan based on your age and weight before pregnancy.
Shop for: prenatal vitamins.
Many pregnant women experience cravings for at least one type of food or aversions to particular foods. It’s unclear why women develop food cravings or aversions during pregnancy, but doctors and researchers believe hormones may play a role.
Pregnant women often crave:
It’s okay to give in to these cravings sometimes, especially if you crave foods that are a part of a healthy diet.
In other cases, pregnant women can have an aversion to certain foods. This means they never want to eat these particular foods.
This may only be problematic if women have an aversion to foods such as vegetables or dairy products that are important for the baby’s growth and development.
Talk to your doctor if you’re having adverse reactions to foods that are necessary to a healthy second trimester diet. Your doctor can suggest other foods to eat or supplements to take to compensate for the lack of certain nutrients in your diet.
Women who are of average weight should gain during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s normal to gain less weight if you start out heavier or to gain more weight if you were underweight before pregnancy.
The extra weight you gain during pregnancy provides nourishment to your baby and is also stored for breastfeeding after you have your baby.
Many women become self-conscious about their weight during pregnancy, but the number on the scale is less important than healthy eating. Try to focus on eating a variety of nutritious foods as opposed to your weight.
Dieting to lose weight or prevent weight gain during pregnancy is detrimental to both you and your baby. Try buying new clothes that flatter your figure if you feel self-conscious about the weight you’ve gained.
Exercising during pregnancy can also help you manage your weight. Swimming and walking are particularly good choices. You should avoid any extreme sports or contact sports, such as water skiing, basketball, or soccer.
If you didn’t exercise before pregnancy, start slowly and don’t overdo it. It’s also important to drink plenty of water during exercise, so that you don’t get dehydrated.
Make sure to speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
Work with your doctor to develop an eating plan that’ll keep you nourished and energized in your second trimester. Also discuss your options for keeping in shape.
Most of your baby’s organ development will occur during these weeks, so it’s important that you’re as healthy as you can be during this crucial stage.