While you’re pregnant, you’ll want to eat extra protein, calcium, iron, and essential vitamins. You can get these by eating a wide variety of lean meat, seafood, whole grains, and plant-based foods.
When building your healthy eating plan, you’ll want to focus on whole foods that give you higher amounts of the good stuff you’d need when not pregnant, such as:
- vitamins and minerals
- healthy types of fat
- complex carbohydrates
- fiber and fluids
Here are 13 nutritious foods to eat when you’re pregnant to help make sure you’re eating healthily.
During pregnancy, you’ll need extra protein and calcium to meet your baby’s needs. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are good choices.
Dairy products contain two types of high-quality protein: casein and whey. Dairy is the
Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, may be especially beneficial. Some varieties also contain probiotic bacteria, which support digestive health.
If you’re lactose intolerant, you may also be able to
These include lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts.
Legumes are great plant-based sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate, and calcium — all of which your body needs more of during pregnancy.
Folate is one of the most essential B vitamins (B9). It’s very important for you and your baby, especially during the first trimester, and even before.
You’ll need at least
Legumes tend to be high in fiber, and some are also high in iron, magnesium, and potassium. Consider adding legumes to your diet with meals like hummus on whole grain toast, black beans in a taco salad, or a lentil curry.
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, a plant compound that your body converts to vitamin A.
Vitamin A is essential for a baby’s development. However, too much vitamin A, from animal products — such as organ meats —
Sweet potatoes are a good plant-based source of beta-carotene and fiber. Fiber keeps you full longer, reduces blood sugar spikes, and improves digestive health, which can help reduce the risk of pregnancy constipation.
Try sweet potatoes at breakfast time as a base for your morning avocado toast.
Smoked on a whole wheat bagel, teriyaki grilled, or served with pesto, salmon is a welcome addition to this list. Salmon is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids, which have a host of benefits.
Omega-3s are present in seafood. They help build the brain and eyes of your baby and may help increase gestational length.
While it’s best to avoid some seafoods during pregnancy, due to mercury and other contaminants, salmon, sardines, and anchovies are
However, it’s worth checking where it was fished from, especially if it was locally caught. It’s also best to opt for fresh salmon, as smoked seafood can carry a risk of listeria.
Here are the high mercury fish to
- king mackerel
- bigeye tuna
- tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
Eggs are a healthy food, as they contain a little of almost every nutrient you need. A large egg contains about
Eggs are a great source of choline, a vital nutrient during pregnancy. It’s important in a baby’s brain development and helps prevent developmental abnormalities of the brain and spine.
A single whole egg contains roughly
Here are some of the healthiest ways to cook eggs. Try them in spinach feta wraps or a chickpea scramble.
Broccoli and dark, green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, have many of the nutrients you’ll need. If you don’t like the flavors, you can disguise them by adding them to soups, pasta sauces, and more.
Benefits include fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate, and potassium. Their fiber content can also help prevent constipation.
Vegetables have also been linked to a
Try this kale eggs Florentine recipe or blend some spinach into a green smoothie, and you won’t even know it’s in there.
Lean beef, pork, and chicken are excellent sources of high-quality protein. Beef and pork are also rich in iron, choline, and other B vitamins — all of which you’ll need in higher amounts during pregnancy.
Iron is an essential mineral used by red blood cells as a part of hemoglobin. You’ll need more iron since your blood volume is increasing, and especially during your third trimester.
Low levels of iron during early and mid-pregnancy may cause iron deficiency anemia, which increases the
It can be hard to cover your iron needs with meals alone, especially if you develop an aversion to meat or follow a plant-based diet. However, for those who can, lean red meat may help increase the amount of iron you’re getting from food.
Pro tip: Pairing foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as oranges or bell peppers, along with iron-rich foods may also help increase iron absorption.
Toss some vitamin C-rich tomato slices on that turkey burger or whip up this steak and mango salad.
Berries provide water, healthy carbs, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. They also have a relatively low glycemic index value, so they should not cause significant spikes in blood sugar.
Berries are a great snack, as they contain both water and fiber. They provide a lot of flavor and nutrition but with relatively few calories.
Some of the best berries to eat while pregnant are blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, strawberries, and acai berries. Check out this blueberry smoothie for some inspiration.
Unlike their refined counterparts, whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins, and plant compounds. Think oats, quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries, and barley instead of white bread, pasta, and white rice.
Some whole grains, like oats and quinoa, also contain a fair amount of protein, as well as B vitamins, fiber, and magnesium.
There are many ways to add whole grains to any meal. Why not try this quinoa and roasted sweet potato bowl?
Avocados contain monounsaturated fatty acids. This makes them taste buttery and rich — perfect for adding depth and creaminess to a dish.
Because of their high content of healthy fats, folate, and potassium, avocados are a great choice during pregnancy.
Healthy fats help build the skin, brain, and tissues of your little one, and folate may help prevent neural tube defects and developmental abnormalities of the brain and spine, such as spina bifida.
Potassium may help relieve leg cramps, which can affect some people. In fact, avocados contain
Try them as guacamole, in salads, in smoothies, and on whole wheat toast, but also as a substitute for mayo or sour cream.
Dried fruit is generally high in calories, fiber, and various vitamins and minerals. One piece of dried fruit contains the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit, just without all the water and in a much smaller form.
One serving of dried fruit can boost your intake of many vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron, and potassium.
Prunes are rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamin K. They’re natural laxatives and may be very helpful in relieving constipation. Dates are high in fiber, potassium, iron, and plant compounds.
However, dried fruit also contains high amounts of natural sugar, and the candied varieties contain added sugar.
Try adding a small portion to a trail mix with nuts and seeds for an on-the-go protein- and fiber-filled snack.
Fish liver oil is made from the oily liver of fish, usually from cod. It’s
Supplementing with fish oil may help protect against preterm delivery and may benefit fetal eye development.
Fish liver oil is also very high in vitamin D, which many people lack. It may be beneficial if you don’t regularly eat seafood or if you don’t already supplement with omega-3 or vitamin D.
A tablespoon (4.5 grams) of fish liver oil provides
Speak with a doctor before using fish liver oil or other omega-3 supplements, as too much vitamin A or D can be dangerous. High levels of omega-3 may also have blood-thinning effects.
Low-mercury fish like salmon, sardines, canned light tuna, or pollock can also help boost omega-3 levels.
Hydration is essential for everyone, but especially during pregnancy. During pregnancy, blood volume increases by about
You need plenty of water to stop both you and your baby becoming dehydrated.
Symptoms of mild dehydration include headaches, anxiety, tiredness, bad mood, and reduced memory.
Increasing your water intake may also help relieve constipation and reduce your risk of urinary tract infections, which are common during pregnancy.
The American College of Gynecologists recommends drinking 8–12 cups (64–96 ounces) of water per day during pregnancy. But the amount you really need varies. Ask your doctor for a recommendation based on your specific needs.
Keep in mind that you also get water from other foods and beverages, such as fruit, vegetables, coffee, and tea.
Pro tip: Try keeping a reusable water bottle on hand so that you can quench your thirst throughout the day.
What to eat during pregnancy if you:
What foods should you eat daily during pregnancy?
You’ll need a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables, such as kale. Make sure you get enough lean proteins, including oily fish and low-fat yogurt. If you’re on a plant-based diet, opt for tofu, lentils, nuts, and other plant-based protein-rich foods. Plus, don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
What foods should you avoid during pregnancy?
Foods to avoid during pregnancy are those that may contain bacteria, such as listeria, E. coli or Salmonella.
- meat, fish, or eggs that are raw or not thoroughly cooked
- fish that may contain mercury or other metals, such as king mackerel or swordfish
- raw alfalfa, mung bean, and other sprouts
- raw or unpasteurized milk, juice, or cider
- soft cheeses and pates
- reheated hot dogs and luncheon meat
- raw dough
- untreated water
It’s also best to opt for fresh and varied foods without added sugar and unhealthy fats and to limit your intake of processed foods. The
What can vegetarians and vegans eat during pregnancy?
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you need to make sure you’re getting the right amounts of nutrients commonly found in animal products. These include:
- vitamin B12
- vitamin D
Foods that can provide these include tofu, legumes, dark green vegetables, fortified foods, seeds, whole grains, dried fruit, unsweetened soy drinks, and yeast flakes.
During pregnancy, you and your growing baby need nutrient-dense foods from a well-rounded eating plan of whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Ask your healthcare team for recommendations and keep them informed of your eating choices. Let them guide you on a plan with any necessary supplements.
This list should be a good start towards a healthy, well-nourished pregnancy.
Quick tips for foods to eat when pregnant
- Dairy products, especially yogurt, can help you meet increased protein and calcium needs.
- Legumes provide folate, fiber, and many other nutrients. Folate is a very important nutrient during pregnancy.
- Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta carotene, which your body transforms into vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for the growth and differentiation of cells in your growing baby.
- Salmon contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are important for brain and eye development in your growing baby. It’s also a natural source of vitamin D.
- Whole eggs are nutritious and a great way to increase your overall nutrient intake. They also contain choline, an essential nutrient for brain health and development.
- Broccoli and leafy greens contain most of the nutrients that you’ll need. They’re also rich in fiber, which may help prevent or treat constipation.
- Lean meat is a good source of high-quality protein. Beef and pork are also rich in iron, choline, and B vitamins, all of which are important nutrients during pregnancy.
- Berries contain water, carbs, vitamin C, fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and plant compounds. They may help you increase your nutrient and water intake.
- Whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins, and plant compounds. They’re also rich in B vitamins, fiber, and magnesium.
- Avocados contain high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids, fiber, folate, and potassium. They may help relieve leg cramps, too.
- Dried fruits are nutrient-dense, but limit your portions and avoid candied varieties to prevent excess sugar intake.
- Drinking water is important as your blood volume increases during pregnancy. Adequate hydration may also help prevent constipation and urinary tract infections.