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Eating Healthy for Pregnancy
Eating Healthy for Pregnancy

Eating healthy during pregnancy is very important both in maintaining the mother’s health and ensuring the baby grows and develops without any problems. On average, you should be eating about 300 more calories per day than you did before you became pregnant. This means that most women can expect to gain between 1 and 5 pounds in the first trimester, and about 1 pound per week for the remainder of the pregnancy.


There are a number of nutrients that pregnant women will need to pay special attention to in order to make sure they are getting enough of them in their diet. These include folic acid, iron and Vitamin C, calcium and Vitamin D, and omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

  • Folic acid helps prevent defects in the development of the baby’s neural tube such as spinal bifida. Legumes and dark green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of folic acid.
  • Making sure you get enough iron helps prevent anemia and supports a healthy placenta, and because iron deficiency during pregnancy is associated with low birth weights and premature birth. Lean meats, beans, spinach, and breakfast cereals are all good sources of iron.
  • Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, and it’s also key to proper brain development of the baby. Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit, as well as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes, greens, kale, and strawberries are all good sources of Vitamin C.
  • Calcium is vital to the developing baby’s ability to grow healthy bones and teeth as well as to develop a normal heart rhythm. Milk and other dairy products, and vegetables like collard greens, kale, turnip greens, and garlic are all good sources of calcium.
  • Vitamin D helps your body maintain levels of calcium and phosphorus. A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to skeletal deformities and growth problems in the baby. While very few sources of Vitamin D exist in nature, fatty fish such as tuna, and salmon, and fish liver oils are good sources of it.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids are vitally important to the healthy development of the baby, particularly for producing the building blocks of the developing brain and retinas. Fish and fish oils are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids. Be sure to avoid fish that are known to have high levels of mercury, however, such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.
  • Omega 6 fatty acids are important to a woman’s ability to produce enough milk as well as maintaining brain function. A balanced diet typically provides enough omega 6 fatty acids, and pregnant women should avoid omega 6 supplements, as they can potentially induce early labor.

Beware of hidden sugars!

Most people are consuming more sugar than they think. While sweets and sodas are well-known sources of sugar, packaged foods are notoriously high in hidden sugars, and if you’re not careful about what is in the food you’re buying, you could be overloading on sugar without knowing it. Because a balanced diet is so important during pregnancy, be sure you are avoiding these sources of hidden sugar:

  • Fruity yogurt is so sweet because it’s often fortified with up to 19 grams of sugar
  • Takeout food – particularly Chinese takeout – is often sweetened with up to 20 grams of sugar per dish
  • Pasta sauce can have as much as 12 grams of sugar per serving, and on top of that, the pasta it’s being served on is also a source of refined flour
  • Granola bars and other convenient snack foods can pack more than 10 grams of sugar in each serving

The best way to make sure you are getting a balanced diet – whether it’s in sugar or nutrient intake – is to read the label. Food manufacturers are great at packaging foods to appeal to us, and they’re not above using certain buzzwords that can mask the truth about what’s in the package. Words like all-natural, healthy and free range are not regulated by the FDA, and food manufacturers are happy to use them to convince us to buy their products. The truth is that you have to take a much closer look at the Nutrition Facts and ingredients list to really know whether a food product is right for you.

Food Safety

While it’s always important to practice good food safety, it becomes downright vital when you are carrying a baby to term. That’s because everything you consume, your baby also consumes – and while your immune system may be strong enough to deal with cross-contamination, your baby’s isn’t. It’s critical to make sure you are properly handling and storing your food to ensure your risk of contamination is minimal. Additionally, you should always:

  • Check expiry dates on all food products before you eat them
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables to remove harmful pesticides and potential bacteria
  • Avoid any food if you’re uncertain of its safety – for example, don’t eat ready-made salads
  • Always store food at the right temperature
  • Wash and dry your hands with antibacterial soap before and after handling food
  • Never reheat food more than once
  • ALWAYS wear gloves when handling cat litter or gardening, and wash hands with antibacterial soap after

Foods to avoid during pregnancy

Certain foods should be avoided altogether during pregnancy – in some cases because it’s better to err on the side of caution and in other cases because they contain compounds that could harm the developing baby. Avoid the following while pregnant:

  • Lightly cooked eggs
  • Unpasteurized milk and dairy products
  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry or fish
  • Deli meats
  • Fish high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish and marlin
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Herbal teas

So, let me ask you: Are you taking Prenatal Vitamins?
Learn more about prenatal vitamins here:


Kramer, Michael S. “Maternal nutrition, pregnancy outcome and public health policy.” CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal 159.6 (1998): 663.

Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle. “Pregnancy diet: Focus on these essential nutrients.” Doi:

Mayo Clinic Healthy Lifestyle. “Pregnancy nutrition: Healthy-eating basics.” Doi:

Worthington, Bonnie S., Joyce Vermeersch, and Sue Rodwell Williams.Nutrition in pregnancy and lactation. The CV Mosby Co., 1977.


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