A pregnant woman’s recommended caloric intake increases during pregnancy. Your diet must provide enough nutrients for you to deal with the changes that are occurring in your body. Additionally, healthy food and calories ensure your baby grows and develops optimally. A healthy pregnancy diet is a balanced one that contains a proper mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and vegetables and fruits. When pregnant blood volume increases, increased iron intake is essential to guaranting that mom and baby have adequate oxygen supply. A daily pregnancy multivitamin should cover this properly.

When do you start craving food in pregnancy?

Food cravings usually start toward the end of the first trimester of your pregnancy. These cravings appear to intensify during the second trimester and then eventually begin to subside. During this time, as much as women crave certain foods, they may also feel repulsed at the very thought of other foods that they previously enjoyed. Rest assured, this is normal.

1. A balanced diet

You need a balanced, varied, and nutritious diet during pregnancy in addition to a daily pregnancy multivitamin.

2. Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstones of any healthy and nutritious diet, which makes their consumption even more essential during pregnancy. Aim for an intake of five portions of fruits and vegetables per day. You can take them in any form, such as juice, canned, dried, frozen, or fresh. Consumption of fruits and vegetables that are fresh or frozen (soon after picking) produce higher levels of vitamins and nutrients.

Research says that eating fruit is better than drinking their juice because juices have higher natural sugar levels. Juices of vegetables like carrots and wheatgrass can be consumed for dense nutrition. 

3. Carbohydrates

Carbs or Carbohydrates and other starchy foods include potatoes, pasta, rice, and bread. Carbohydrates have high energy levels and are an essential part of a nutritious pregnancy diet.

4. Proteins

Nutritious, animal-sourced proteins include fish, chicken, lean meat, and eggs. According to research, pregnant women who eat seafood show lower levels of anxiety compared to women who don’t (Source). Pregnant women who never consumed any seafood had 53% more risk of suffering from anxiety.

Pregnant women, especially vegans, should consider intake of the following foods for protein consumption:

  • Tofu and soy products
  • Quinoa; which is also known as a complete protein and contains all the essential amino acids
  • Beans, lentils, nuts, legumes, nut butter, and seeds contain high levels of proteins and iron

5. Fats

Fatty foods should only make up 30% of a pregnant woman’s diet. Research says that a high intake of fats leads to overproduction of glucose in your baby, which can be a cause of future diabetes (Source). There are many other risks involved in consuming an overly high-fat diet, so your balanced diet should contain monounsaturated and omega-3s, also known as healthy fats. 

Foods that have high monounsaturated fats include olive oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, sesame oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. 

6. Fiber

Eating fiber minimizes the risk of developing constipation, which is common among pregnant women. Fiber consumption also reduces the risk of hemorrhoids, which is more likely to occur with the growth of the fetus. 

Foods that are rich in fiber include whole-grain foods, such as whole-meal bread, wild rice, whole-grain pasta, fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils.

7. Calcium

Intaking calcium is essential during pregnancy. Dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and milk are rich in calcium. If you are vegan, you should consider calcium-rich foods, like calcium-fortified soymilk and other plant’s milk and juices, calcium-set tofu, broccoli, bok choy, soybeans, collards, okra, Chinese cabbage, mustard greens, kale, soy nuts, and beans.

8. Zinc

The element Zinc plays a vital part in healthy growth and development, cellular integrity, and several biological functions like nucleic acid metabolism and synthesis. Zinc is essential for the development of the fetus. Foods that are rich in zinc include turkey, ham, chicken, shrimp, oysters, crab, fish, beans, meat, dairy products, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, nuts, onions, barn, ginger, wheat germ, pasta, cereals, rice, eggs, tofu, and lentils. 

9. Iron

Hemoglobin consists mainly of iron. Hemoglobin is the main protein in the red blood cells and is the oxygen-carrying pigment that provides oxygen to the entire body. During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases by almost 50%, and your body needs iron to produce more hemoglobin for that blood. If your body is low in iron before pregnancy and fails to meet the increasing demand for iron by the body after the third or fourth month, then it makes you prone to anemia and other risks like:

  • Preterm delivery
  • Stillbirth
  • Low-weight baby
  • Newborn death
  • Depression, irritability, tiredness during pregnancy

If you are anemic during pregnancy, there is a high risk of blood loss during childbirth.

Foods that are rich in iron include dried beans, egg yolk, dried fruits like apricots, iron-fortified wholegrain cereals, lean meat, poultry, salmon, tuna, lamb, pork, shellfish, legumes like lima beans, kidney beans, peas, seeds like almonds and brazil nuts, wholegrains like oats, brown rice, wheat and millet, dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, kale, and collards.

Non-animal sources of iron take more time to get absorbed by the body. Eating them with fish, lean meat, or poultry can help your body absorb them faster.

Best fruits during pregnancy

Following are the best fruits for pregnant women that you can include in your healthy pregnancy diet:

  • Apricots

      • Iron, calcium, vitamin A, C, and E, potassium, phosphorus, beta carotene, silicon
      • These nutrients help with the baby’s development. Iron minimizes the risk of anemia and calcium makes bones and teeth strong.
  • Oranges

      • Folate, vitamin C, water
      • Oranges keep you hydrated. Vitamin C helps prevent cell damage and supports in absorbing iron. 
      • Folate helps prevent neural tube defects, which can lead to brain and spinal cord abnormalities in your baby. Neural tube defects can cause conditions like spina bifida and anencephaly.
  • Mangoes

      • Vitamin A and C
      • Babies born with vitamin A deficiency are immune to the risks of postnatal complications like respiratory infections.
  • Pears

        • Fiber, folate, potassium
        • Fiber intake minimizes the risk of constipation during pregnancy.
        • Potassium intake is healthy for the heart and stimulates cell regeneration.
  • Pomegranates

      • Vitamin K, iron, folate, calcium, fiber, protein
      • Pomegranates help in preventing iron-deficiency.
      • Vitamin K helps to keep the bones healthy.
      • Drinking pomegranate juice reduces the risk of injury to the placenta
  • Avocados

      • Copper, potassium, fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, B vitamins, vitamin C, E, and K
      • Avocados contain healthy fats that help prevent neural tube defects. They also boost the cells that help in building the skin and brain tissue of the developing baby.
      • The potassium helps recover from leg cramps, which is common during the third trimester. 
  • Guava

      • Polyphenols, carotenoids, folate, isoflavonoids, vitamin C and E
      • Eating guava helps in relaxing muscles, improves digestion, and reduces constipation during pregnancy.
  • Banana

      • Vitamin C, fiber, potassium, vitamin B-6
      • The fiber in bananas helps prevent constipation during pregnancy.
      • Vitamin B-6 gives relief from nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy.
  • Grapes

      • Folate, fiber, pectin, organic acids, vitamin C and K, antioxidants
      • Grapes contain immune-boosting antioxidants, such as flavonol, tannin, linalool, anthocyanins, and geraniol, which help in preventing infections.
  • Berries

      • Vitamin C, fiber, healthy carbohydrates, antioxidants
      • Berries are an excellent source of hydration. 
      • Vitamin C helps with iron absorption and improves the body’s immune system.
  • Apples

      • Vitamin A and C, fiber, potassium
      • Eating apples during pregnancy may reduce the risk of your baby developing asthma and allergies in the future.
  • Dried fruit

      • Energy, fiber, vitamins, and minerals
      • Dried fruits contain as many nutrients as fresh fruits. One small serving of dried fruit will give you the same RDA of vitamins and minerals as fresh fruit. Dried fruit doesn’t contain water, which means it takes more time in digestion. It is recommended to eat dried fruits in moderation and avoid candied fruits altogether.
      • It’s a good idea to eat dried fruits with fresh fruits, rather than instead of them.

Food’s you need to avoid

Following is the list of foods you need to avoid during pregnancy:

1. Raw eggs

Avoid food that contains raw or partially cooked eggs. Eggs must be cooked thoroughly to prevent salmonella infection.

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2. Mercury in fish

Avoid eating fish that contains mercury, such as shark, swordfish, and marlin. 

3. Uncooked or partially cooked meat

Avoid eating uncooked or partially cooked meat. Uncooked or partially cooked meat increases the risk of bacterial and viral contamination, which can lead to food poisoning, and some viruses and bacteria can also cross the placenta and harm the baby. 

4. Ready-prepared meal

It is recommended to cook a ready-prepared meal until they are piping hot. Eating uncooked ready-prepared meal increases the risk of listeriosis and infection from other pathogens.

5. Pate

Avoid all types of pate, be it vegetable or meat-based. It increases the risk of listeria infection.

6. Soft mold-ripened cheese

Avoid eating soft mold-ripened cheese such as blue-veined cheese, brie, or camembert. Consumption of these foods also increases the risk of listeria infection.

7. Empty calorie foods

Reduce the intake of foods like cakes, biscuits, chips, cookies, and candies. They are high in sugar and fat and have almost no nutritional value and will only undermine your efforts of staying healthy during pregnancy.

8. Fast food

Eating fast food during pregnancy isn’t healthy at all. Fast foods contain a high level of fat and can lead to too much weight gain and gestational diabetes, which can be harmful to both you and your baby.

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Healthy pregnancy breakfast

Here are five healthy pregnancy breakfast ideas:

1. Oatmeal with fruit

Sprinkle sliced fresh fruit or berries on your oatmeal or add a handful of dried fruits for a delightful taste. You can also have fruit on the side, and oatmeal is also wonderful with nuts and even a spoonful of your favorite nut butter.

2. Wholemeal toast or bagel

Have your wholemeal toast with jam, honey or nut butter. Add a glass of milk as a healthy drink.

3. Shredded Wheat

Have your shredded wheat with milk and any fruit. Make sure that the shredded-wheat is sugar-free.

4. Scrambled eggs

You can have scrambled eggs in your breakfast as long as they are thoroughly cooked. Try them with a whole-wheat bagel and just about any sauteed vegetable. The combos are endless here.

5. Yogurt

Try yogurt with any fresh fruit and granola with toast on the side for a wholesome breakfast.

A proper nutritious diet will keep you healthy, make it easier for your body to navigate the changes occurring during pregnancy, and help with the proper growth and development of your baby. Be wise and choose your diet carefully.

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