What Must Pregnant Women Eat? 12 Nutritious Foods

Medically Reviewed on 5/9/2022
What Must Pregnant Women Eat
Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet during pregnancy is essential for keeping you and your baby healthy. Learn about 12 top foods to eat when pregnant

Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet during pregnancy is essential for keeping you and your baby healthy. According to recommendations from the CDC, pregnant women within an average weight range should gain approximately 25-35 lbs (11.5-16 kg) during pregnancy.

In order to promote the healthy growth of the baby, pregnant women should eat a diet rich in the following nutrients:

12 super nutritious foods to eat when pregnant

1. Legumes

Legumes are good plant-based sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Folate is one of the most essential B vitamins (B9) for pregnant women, especially before conceiving and during the first trimester. Examples of legumes include kidney beans, lima beans, chickpeas, soybeans, peanuts, and peas.

2. Dairy

When you are pregnant, you need more protein and calcium in your diet to meet the needs of your growing baby. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt contain two types of high-quality protein—casein and whey. Dairy products are also the best dietary sources of calcium and provide a high amount of phosphorus, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. Moreover, probiotic bacteria found in some of the varieties of Greek yogurt support digestive health, which is important during pregnancy.

3. Leafy greens

Broccoli, brussels sprouts, and other green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach are packed with vital nutrients such as fiber; vitamins C, K and A; calcium; iron; folate; and potassium. This helps prevent and relieve constipation and may also reduce the risk of low birth weight.

4. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body and essential for fetal development. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of fiber, which improves digestive health and keeps you feeling full for longer.

5. Fatty fish

Fatty fish such as salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help build the brain and eyes of your baby. Salmon is also a great source of vitamin D, which plays a role in immune function and bone health. However, avoid fish that are high in mercury, such as king mackerel, swordfish, marlin, and bigeye tuna.

6. Eggs

Eggs are packed with high-quality protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. One egg contains 147 mg of choline, a vital nutrient that plays a role in fetal brain development and helps prevent developmental abnormalities of the brain and spine.

7. Lean proteins

Chicken, lean beef, and lean pork are excellent sources of high-quality proteins, iron, choline, and other B vitamins. Iron is an essential mineral that your body uses to form hemoglobin and meet the increasing demand for blood volume during pregnancy. Low levels of iron during pregnancy can cause iron deficiency anemia, which increases the risk of low birth weight and other complications.

8. Whole grains

Whole grains such as brown rice, barley, and whole wheat bread are packed with fiber, vitamins, and other phytochemicals (plant compounds) that are beneficial for pregnancy health.

9. Berries

Berries are rich in water, healthy carbs, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Since they have a relatively low glycemic index value, they do not cause high spikes in blood sugar. They are also low in calories and make good snacks. Good examples of berries to include in your diet during pregnancy include blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, strawberries, and acai berries.

10. Avocados

Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and high in fiber and B vitamins, especially folate, vitamin K, potassium, copper, vitamins E, and C. Healthy fats such as monounsaturated fatty acids help prevent neural tube defects and developmental abnormalities of the brain and spine.

11. Fish liver oil

Cod liver oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are essential for fetal brain and eye development.

12. Water

Staying hydrated is essential when you are pregnant in order to support your growing baby, relieve constipation, and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections. The recommended water intake for pregnant women is approximately 80 ounces (2.3 liters) a day.

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Medically Reviewed on 5/9/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

Katherine Kam. 6 Must-Eat Foods for Pregnancy. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/baby/features/must-eat-foods-pregnancy

What to eat when pregnant .UNICEF: https://www.unicef.org/parenting/what-to-eat-when-pregnant

How to eat well in pregnancy. Tommy’s: https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/im-pregnant/nutrition-in-pregnancy/balanced-diet-pregnancy