Nutrition Tips for Pregnancy

I have come upon the next stage of life when nutrition is not only important for me but also for the baby that I’m carrying. I’m currently 34 1/2 weeks pregnant with my first child and being a dietitian nutrition has been very important to me during this pregnancy. You may think this means I never indulge but that’s not true. Those who know me know my favorite thing to preach is “everything is okay in moderation.” So, yes I have cravings and while some have been healthy, celery, clementines and any other type of cold fresh fruit like pineapple and berries, some have been less healthy like my constant desire for desserts – and not the usually little dish of ice cream I want a cookie, cake or brownie.  It can be tough to manage the healthy and non healthy cravings and still make sure you get all the extra nutrients you need while you’re expecting. The extra pressure to have good nutrition for you and your little one shouldn’t cause added stress. Here are a few tips that I found helpful to guarantee a healthy diet during pregnancy.

Be familiar with what your body needs

It’s true women need more calories during pregnancy but they are not “eating for two.” Your calorie requirements increase by ~300 calories per day during your second and third trimester (notice that it doesn’t start right away). Not only do you need more calories but your body also needs more protein, folic acid, calcium, iron and Vitamin C. While it’s important to get nutrients from our diet it is also recommended to take a Prenatal Multivitamin everyday if you are trying to get pregnant, pregnant or plan to try soon.

  • Sources of Protein: Meat, fish, beans, tofu, nuts, dairy products (Try to consume 75-100 grams of protein per day)
  • Sources of Folic Acid: Green leafy vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains
  • Sources of Calcium: Milk, pasteurized cheese, yogurt, tofu, almonds, salmon, eggs
  • Sources of Iron: Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beef, seafood and poultry
  • Sources of Vitamin C: Citrus fruit, mangoes, tomatoes, potatoes and peppers

Know the foods to avoid during pregnancy

The reasons to avoid these foods are because of the risk of food borne illness which in some cases can be fatal to a fetus.

  • Avoid unpasteurized eggs and dairy (milk and cheeses), raw shellfish or sushi with raw fish in it
  • Also, it is advised to avoid shark, swordfish, mackerel and tile fish as these are fish that tend to be very high in mercury. See my post on Mercury in Fish for more details on the amount of mercury in specific fish you enjoy.
  • Most practitioners also encourage avoiding cold lunch meats, hot dogs, soft cheeses, refrigerated meat spreads and smoked seafood (unless they are reheated to 160 degrees). This is because they can carry a bacteria called Listeria that women are more susceptible to get sick from when pregnant. Listeria puts your baby at risk of a premature birth, miscarriage or death
  • Lastly, pregnant women should avoid alcoholic beverages

Focus on the delicious foods that are great for you and the baby

I have been happily surprised to find that my taste buds are heightened pregnant so food has an even more appealing taste. I can see why pregnant women enjoy eating so much! One of the foods that has an increased appeal has been fruit.

  • Try to aim for what your body needs: 2 cups of fruit per day and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables. I have found fresh berries and sliced pineapple delicious. I can’t stop myself from eating a whole bowl if they are cut up. I also add dried cherries to my oatmeal and salad. At first vegetables didn’t sound as appealing but once I approached the second trimester my love for them returned and with the warmer weather we have been grilling peppers, mushrooms, onions and zucchini for dinner constantly.
  • Consume Omega 3’s rich foods such as walnuts, flax seed or salmon. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA) “Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery, lower the risk of pre-eclampsia and may increase birth weight and gestational weight.” Good food sources of these fatty acids are salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies. The APA also says that quality fish oil is safe to take during pregnancy. Ask your gynecologist about taking a fish oil supplement and how much they recommend.

Indulge but not at every meal

I’ve never been a juice drinker but since I’ve become pregnant I’ve craved Simply Grapefruit Juice. It’s 100% grapefruit with no additives. This doesn’t mean I sit down with a huge cup though. I pour myself a 4 ounce glass with breakfast when it’s on hand (4 ounces of 100% juice = 1 serving of fruit). I figure the craving was my body’s way of telling me I need more Vitamin C and it’s a very healthy way to get it. I also mentioned dessert. Yes, I eat a lot more dessert now but I’ve made sure my weight gain has stayed in the recommended range for my pregnancy and I try to limit it to once a day and not all day.

Continue with light exercise

This will be good for you and your baby and according to my practitioner will help during childbirth. Discuss what you can do with your doctor. I’ve enjoyed walking and prenatal yoga throughout my pregnancy thus far. It feels good to move and stretch as my body is growing. Another great exercise would be to spend some time in a pool if you have access to one at a gym.

Getting ready for your glucose tolerance test and unsure what to eat?

You can still eat a meal in the morning before the test but try to have something rich in protein and not too high in carbohydrates. Here are a few options:

  • 1 piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a glass of milk
  • 1 or 2 eggs with 1-2 pieces of whole grain toast

Have another question regarding nutrition and pregnancy? If so, post a comment and I’ll address it (or attempt to).


2 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Great post. Out of curiosity, are these the same foods you’d recommend to someone who is trying to get pregnant? Any foods that help increase fertility?

    • Sina
      Sina says:

      I’ve been asked this a few times as a lot of my girlfriends are working on getting pregnant. From the research I’ve done for them I haven’t found any conclusive information that has been studied to show an affect of increased fertility. If you google it you will find a lot of things but I didn’t see any credible websites. I even looked up some random herbal supplement once for a friend (can’t think of it now) that she was told would help and there were no proven studies for it. I think what is important is to have a balanced, healthy diet. It is a great time to make diet improvements or health goals if you feel you have room for improvement. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake, eat whole grains, lean proteins including fish and limit sweets and junk food. I think fertility touches on so many parts of our life. Diet, health, stress, fitness, etc… Make sure you are relaxing, taking time for you, not getting stressed and not over exercising or being a couch potato and most of all GOOD LUCK 🙂


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