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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:
- plenty of water
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.
During your second trimester, it’s especially important to take a prenatal multivitamin to ensure you’re meeting all your vitamin and mineral needs during pregnancy.
It’s particularly beneficial to eat foods containing omega-3 fats, which are vital for your baby’s brain development.
Many of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are in seafood. However, limiting your intake of seafood during pregnancy is a good idea (see below!). Learn about some great vegetarian sources of omega-3 here.
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. Choose meals that contain lean proteins, whole grains or legumes, and vegetables, and are low in sodium.
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
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
You may use artificial sweeteners, such as aspartameand sucralose, as long as you consume them in moderation. Some studies have shown that the consumption of artificial sweeteners during pregnancy
Avoid alcohol completely while you’re pregnant. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth abnormalities and other complications, including fetal alcohol syndrome.
Now that you’re more than halfway through your pregnancy, it’s particularly important to reevaluate your diet.
Here’s a sample of second-trimester daily recommended intake from the March of Dimes:
- grains: 7 ounces (1 ounce = slice of bread, 1/2 cup rice)
- vegetables: 3 cups
- fruit: 2 cups
- dairy products: 3 cups (or equivalent foods rich in calcium)
- protein: 6 ounces (1 ounce = 1 egg, 1/4 cup cooked beans)
For a more personalized daily recommendations, enter your age, height, prepregnancy weight, trimester, and daily activity level into the USDA’s MyPlate Plan. (Remember to re-enter that info once you hit your third trimester to see if recommended daily amounts change.)
You should also ensure you’re:
- eating foods with essential fats
- limiting highly processed or fast 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.
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 people often crave:
- spicy foods
- comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes and cereals
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 people 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 proteins that are important for the baby’s growth and development.
Talk with 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
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 (or renting!) 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 — and help you feel good, thanks to those endorphins! 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 or dietitian 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.