Healthy Pregnancy Diet Menu Plans

  • Medical Author:
    Erica Oberg, ND, MPH

    Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

Quick GuideWhat Not to Eat When Pregnant Pictures: Alcohol, Fish, Fruit Juice, Sushi

What Not to Eat When Pregnant Pictures: Alcohol, Fish, Fruit Juice, Sushi

What about a post pregnancy diet?

  • After delivery, the best diet is one that meets the nutritional needs of breastfeeding and helps the mother gradually return to her pre-pregnancy weight.
  • Breastfeeding requires about 500 calories per day, so many women lose excess weight quickly. The nutritional needs of breast feeding require extra calcium and protein.
  • Women also should be prepared for irregular meal patterns as they may be sleeping and awake at odd hours over the first few months as the baby's needs for nursing and sleeping evolve.
  • New mothers shouldn't be focused on weight loss through calorie restriction while breastfeeding. Instead, they should continue the nutrient-dense diet recommended during pregnancy, and focus on increasing physical activity to accelerate a return to pre-pregnancy weight.

What foods, drinks, or medicatons should be avoided during pregnancy?

Pregnant women should stay away from several categories of unsafe foods:

  • ones that have a higher likelihood of being contaminated with bacteria,
  • ones that are toxic to the fetus, and
  • ones that simply add calories without adding nutrition.


Common bacteria pose a greater risk to pregnant women and their fetus, so extra precautions should be followed.

  • Listeria, salmonella and toxoplasmosis are examples of bacterial infections that should be prevented in pregnancy. These infections can increase the risk of miscarriage, damage to fetal brain development and other organs. Infections also put the mother at risk with symptoms like diarrhea, dehydration, and fever. To minimize risk, make sure meats are fully cooked and stay away from raw or undercooked meat and seafood. No sushi during pregnancy! Deli meats, meat spreads, and smoked lox are also questionable and should be heated to steaming hot in order to kill any bacteria.
  • Dairy products can also be a source of bacterial contamination. This is why pregnant women are encouraged to stay away from soft unpasteurized cheeses. The important part to remember is that pasteurizing (flash heating) foods kills bacteria; for example, pasteurized Brie would be fine.
  • Vegetables and fruit aren't immune to bacterial contamination that occurs during the harvesting or preparation process. Toxoplasma is present in the soil and can contaminate vegetables. Always wash fruits and vegetables before eating them. Washing them with a water and white vinegar mixture can be more effective then a pure water wash.


  • Alcohol, in any amount, should be avoided. There is no known safe amount of intake, and drinking alcohol puts the fetus at risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and associated developmental problems.


  • Caffeine, whether from coffee, soda, or tea, has been associated with decreased birth weight4.


  • Some fish, such as tuna, are high in mercury and should be avoided. Mercury is neurotoxic and can impede fetal brain development. Pregnant women should avoid fish that are potentially high in mercury. Some fish are known to be low in mercury (for example, salmon and sardines). In general long lived fish, high on the food chain will contain higher mercury levels. A guide to selecting safe fish can be found at Natural Resources Defense Council's Sustainable Seafood Guide.5

Other consumables to avoid during pregnancy

Man-made food additives

Some of the man-made food additives are known to cause problems and should be avoided. For example, trans fats cross the maternal/fetal barrier, and are absorbed by fetus and may cause adverse effects on cellular membrane structure.6 Although limited research is available to quantify the risks of artificial sweeteners in pregnancy, they are able to cross the placenta into the fetal circulation and are typically found in nutrient-poor, processed foods that should be limited regardless.

Drugs (illicit, OTC, and prescription)

Illicit drugs, some over-the-counter (OTC), and many prescription drugs should also be avoided. If you are having trouble stopping taking illicit drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, talk to your midwife or obstetrician to get help specifically for pregnant women right away. There is help.

Medications, either OTC or prescription, can be harmful to the fetus; double check with your health-care professional or look up the "Pregnancy Class" of the medication before taking it.

In summary, avoid these foods or products:

  • Uncooked/undercooked animal products (like sushi and rare meat), including eggs
  • Unpasteurized dairy products (like soft cheeses)
  • Tuna, lake fish, and other high mercury fish
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine (in coffee, tea, or soda)
  • Trans fats (anything labeled hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated)
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Certain drugs

1. Mennitti, LV. et al. Type of fatty acids in maternal diets during pregnancy and/or lactation and metabolic consequences of the offspring. J Nutr Biochem. 2014 Oct 12. pii: S0955-2863(14)00203-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.10.001. PubMed PMID: 25459884.

Artal R, O'Toole M. "Guidelines of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period." Br J Sports Med. 2003 Feb;37(1):6-12; discussion 12.

2. OSU Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Needs During Pregnancy and Lactation.

3. Dotterud, CK. et al. Probiotics in pregnant women to prevent allergic disease: a randomized, double-blind trial. Br J Dermatol. 2010 Sep;163(3):616-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.09889.x. Epub 2010 Jun 9.

4. Lassi, ZS, et al. Preconception care: caffeine, smoking, alcohol, drugs and other environmental chemical/radiation exposure. Reprod Health. 2014 Sep 26;11 Suppl 3:S6. doi: 10.1186/1742-4755-11-S3-S6. Epub 2014 Sep 26.

5. Natural Resources Defense Council. Sustainable Seafood Guide.

6. Atheroscler Suppl. 2006;7(2):17

7. Cogswell, M.E., et al. (February 1995). Gestational Weight Gain Among Average-Weight and Overweight Women - What Is Excessive? American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 172(2 Pt. 1): 705–12.

8. Molloy, AM. et al. Maternal vitamin B12 status and risk of neural tube defects in a population with high neural tube defect prevalence and no folic acid fortification. Pediatrics. 2009;123(3):917-923

9. Hofmeyr, GJ. et al. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders and related problems. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(8):CD001059

10. Am J Clin Nutr May 2000 vol. 71 no. 5 1280s-1284s

11. Wilcken, B. et al. Geographical and ethnic variation of the 677C>T allele of 5,10 methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR): findings from over 7000 newborns from 16 areas world wide. J Med Genet. 2003;40(8):619-625.

12. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Mar;87(3):517-33.

13. Becker, DV. et al. Iodine supplementation for pregnancy and lactation-United States and Canada: recommendations of the American Thyroid Association. Thyroid. 2006;16(10):949-951

14. Caulfield, LE. et al. Potential contribution of maternal zinc supplementation during pregnancy to maternal and child survival. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998;68(2 Suppl):499S-508S

15. Wibowo, N. et al. Vitamin B6 supplementation in pregnant women with nausea and vomiting. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2012 Mar;116(3):206-10. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2011.09.030

16. Matthews, A. et al. Interventions for nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Mar 21;3:CD007575. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007575.pub3. Review.

17. Fejzo, MS. et al. Antihistamines and other prognostic factors for adverse outcome in hyperemesis gravidarum. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2013 Sep;170(1):71-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2013.04.017. Epub 2013 Jun 7.

18. Makrides, M. et al. Magnesium supplementation in pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Apr 3;4:CD000937. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000937.pub2. Review.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/21/2016

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