What foods should I eat during pregnancy?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
It is important to eat a balanced, varied diet when pregnant. You want to get the widest range of nutrients possible to ensure the health of your growing child. If you eat a plant based diet with plenty of whole grains, lean protein, healthy oils, and legumes, you will provide your growing child with adequate nutrients for optimal development. Ask for whole grain breads, snack foods, tortillas, and bagels. Avoid fried foods and refined snacks and baked goods.
When you are pregnant, it's smart to be aware of what your basic nutritional goals should be (though not to feel guilty if you don't hit them every day). You should strive for the following:
  1. Nine or more servings (fistfuls) of fruits and vegetable
Good choices:
  • - Leafy green vegetables
  • - Cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, arugula, cabbage, and brussels sprouts (They help detoxify your liver so it can metabolize chemicals from the outside world.)
  • - Foods that contain flavonols, like broccoli, radishes, onions, tomatoes

2. Three or more servings of whole-grain products

Good choices:

  • - Cereal grains
  • - Oats (Make easy overnight oatmeal.)
  • - Whole-grain wheat products
Bad choices:
  • - Refined bleached flour or non-100% whole grains

3. Three or more servings of lean protein

Good choices:

  • - Fish (especially salmon and trout)
  • - Lean poultry (skinned and nonfried)
  • - Lean meat (Meat that has less than 4 grams of saturated fat per serving; anything with loin in the name usually works.)
  • - Legumes/Beans (with Beano, to reduce accompanying gas cramps)
  • - Nuts (especially walnuts, which have more omega-3s than other nuts)
  • - Soy products (tofu, tempeh, edamame)
Bad choices:
  • - Bottom-feeding fish, such as shark, swordfish, tuna (higher risk of mercury)
  • - Saturated fats (from four-legged animals; palm and coconut oils)

4. Three or four servings of calcium-rich foods

Good choices:

  • - Low-fat yogurt and pasteurized cheese
  • - Organic skim milk (Watch calorie counts on alternative milks such as rice milk; you may choose to limit soymilk to one to two glasses daily because of phytoestrogens; there's concern about the feminization of the brain and other organs, including sex organs.)

5. Five or more grams of fat in the form of omega-3s (like walnuts, flax, or avocados), 5 grams of omega-9s (olive oil), and 5 grams of omega-6s (corn and nut oils)

Bad choices:

  • - Saturated fat (palm and coconut oils) and trans fat (anything "partially hydrogenated")

While it is your job to provide a good nutritional environment for your growing baby, you don't have to feel bad if you occasionally stray from our recommendations. Forty weeks is a mighty long time, and if on some days you stray from the ideal, that's perfectly normal -- and perfectly okay. The important thing is to eat well most of the time.

Take the RealAge Test!

Amy Jamieson-Petonic
Nutrition & Dietetics

I would suggest eating a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables (2-3 handfuls per day) low fat dairy products (2-3 cups per day) and lean protein (5-7 ounces per day). Whole grains are also important. There are a few foods to avoid when pregnant, such as unpasteurized cheeses, such as brie or feta, and limiting the amount of tuna or salmon to 6 ounces per week.

Moms-to-be should eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods from all of the recommended foods groups. If you are expecting, stock up on the following healthy choices. They contain the vitamins and minerals you need.
  • Fortified cereals are a source of folic acid, which helps reduce the risk of birth defects.
  • Vegetables and fruits provide vitamins, nutrients and fiber. And getting adequate fiber can help alleviate constipation, a common pregnancy complaint.
  • Low-fat dairy products contain calcium and milk products are often fortified with vitamin D. Take care to avoid raw milk products and unpasteurized cheese as they can cause food poisoning, which can be especially dangerous during pregnancy.
  • Beans are loaded with protein, fiber, iron and other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Enjoy them in salads, soups, blended as a spread or as part of a casserole.
  • Lean meats such as beef, pork or lamb are a source of iron and protein.
  • Fish such as halibut, cod, trout, salmon or sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids. Eat up to 12 ounces (typically two meal portions) a week, but avoid fish high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Since albacore tuna has higher mercury content than other canned options, it should be limited to six ounces per week.
Nutrition is a key factor for the health of both you and your baby.

Continue Learning about Food Safety & Pregnancy

What is the cause of specific food cravings during pregnancy?
Riverside Women's HealthRiverside Women's Health
Many women have strong desires for specific foods during pregnancy. The desire for "pickles and ice ...
More Answers
Can I have caffeine while pregnant?
It is generally recommended that you avoid caffeine or limit your intake during pregnancy and breast...
More Answers
What foods should I avoid while pregnant?
Brigham and Women's HospitalBrigham and Women's Hospital
Even though there's no evidence to suggest a risk to your develping baby, until more evidence is ava...
More Answers
Who should be careful eating foods that are high in fatty acids?
Stacy Wiegman, PharmDStacy Wiegman, PharmD
Children and pregnant women are advised by the United States Food and Drug Administration to avoid g...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.