Pregnancy Diet and Nutrition

Make simple, consistent improvements to your diet and nutrition to optimize your baby's development and experience a safe, healthy pregnancy.

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You came to the right place!  Our nutritionists for pregnancy can be the perfect partner to your primary care doctor and OB to help you throughout your pregnancy. Our evidence-based process helps you implement proven strategies to give birth to a happy, healthy, baby, and keep you sane during the process!

Pregnancy-Diet-Nutrition-learn the keys to a healthy pregnancy, both for you and for baby
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Build a thoughtful nutrition plan to help you develop a healthy baby and keep you feeling great during your pregnancy.  

We teach you the keys of pregnancy nutrition: what to eat, how much to eat, and how to deal with quirks like food cravings and morning sickness - all with a meal plan customized to your individual needs.

Although everyone's pregnancy is unique to them, we help you pair traditional medicine with the recommendations from our Registered Dietitians to help you optimize your nutrition and give your developing baby all of the nutrients he/she needs to flourish.

Our Registered Dietitians help you determine:

 


The Basics: Food to Eat and Foods to Avoid when Pregnant

We encourage our clients to stick to the basics.  In addition to the food you eat, there are many helpful tips for preparing for your pregnancy.  Our pregnancy dietitians help you simplify your eating patterns and focus on foods that you enjoy eating and support a health pregnancy.

We focus on incorporating:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Complex Carbohydrates
  • Lean Proteins
  • Healthy Fats
  • Micronutrients (Iron, Folate)
  • Proper Hydration

Our dietitians also guide you through what to avoid while you are pregnant.  This includes:

  • Eating seafood that tends to be high in mercury and other contaminants
  • Certain food preparation techniques  
  • Cheeses and dairy that may pose risks during pregnancy
  • Large amounts of caffeine
  • Alcohol

Our summary of what to eat and what to avoid is below.  You can also find more information here:

  Healthy Foods for Pregnancy Foods to Avoid

Fruits and Vegetables
rich in calcium, folate, iron, fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants

Unwashed produce can contain toxins and pollutants that are especially harmful when you are pregnant.  Pay special attention to raw sprouts such as:

  • Alfalfa
  • Clover
  • Radish
  • Mung Bean

Complex Carbohydrates
packed with fiber, Vitamin A, protein, calcium, folate and iron

  • Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, oats
  • Whole wheat bread and pasta
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans and lentils
  • Simple sugars
  • Processed foods
  • Fried foods

Lean Proteins
rich in choline, iron, and vitamin D

  • Lean meats: meats which are 90-95% lean
  • Poultry: chicken, turkey
  • Eggs: cooked until both yolks and whites are firm in order to protect against potential salmonella exposure
  • Undercooked meats, poultry, and eggs, as they increase the risk of foodborne illness.
  • If you choose to consume deli meats, cook them until they are steaming to prevent Listeria, a rare, but serious foodborne illness.

Healthy Fats

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Fatty fish: low mercury options such as salmon
  • Saturated fats should be consumed in moderation

 


Take the first step to a healthy pregnancy — today!

Take your reading on the go and download the PDF, included with your downloadable guide is a 7-day meal plan complete with easy-to-follow recipes.

Download the Guide

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Are there specific Superfoods I should eat during my pregnancy?

What you eat, your baby eats, so optimizing nutrition during pregnancy is vital for both moms-to-be and their babies. While there isn’t a magic formula for perfect pregnancy nutrition, including key foods and beneficial nutrients will nourish you and your baby through this important time in both of your lives.

Certain foods pack an especially strong nutrient punch and can help you achieve your nutritional goals during pregnancy. We consider these to be pregnancy superfoods.


Food Type Examples

Complex Carbohydrates

  • Sweet potatoes are packed with fiber and vitamin A. They also contain vitamin C and folate.
  • Brown rice, quinoa, oats, as well as whole wheat bread and pasta, are good fiber sources.
  • These grains also contain various B vitamins.
  • Beans and legumes provide your body with fiber, protein, calcium, folate, and iron. They are also great foods to include if you are experiencing aversions to animal proteins, which is common during pregnancy.

Protein

  • Salmon and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids for your baby’s brain development.
  • Fatty fish are also good protein, calcium, and vitamin D sources.
  • Lean meats and poultry are dense sources of protein, choline, and iron sources.
  • While all meats are high in iron, red meats contain more iron than poultry and may help you meet your increased iron needs throughout pregnancy.
  • Eggs are one of the densest choline sources.  Regularly eating eggs helps ensure you get enough choline, as well as protein and vitamin D.

Veggies

  • Asparagus contains folate necessary for your baby’s nervous system. It is also high in iron.
  • Leafy greens, including spinach, kale, and broccoli, are great for pregnancy. These vegetables contain calcium, folate, iron, fiber, plus vitamins A and C

Dairy

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • These dairy products provide your body with protein, calcium, and vitamin D
  • Full-fat dairy provides your body with the fat needed to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K

Fat

  • Pumpkin seeds are a great fiber, protein, and iron source. They also provide the body with magnesium, which has many functions in your and your baby’s body. Adding pumpkin seeds to salads with dark leafy greens or trail mix boosts your meals and snacks.

 

What are Real Foods and why are they important?

Consuming real, nutrient-dense, whole foods gives your body the nourishment it needs to grow a healthy baby.

Here are a few ways to evaluate how “real” your diet is.

  • Nutrient-rich foods, also referred to as nutrient-dense foods, contain many nutrients. Nutrients are broken down into two categories: macronutrients which include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals. If a food is high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and/or healthy fatty acids, it is considered nutrient-rich. On the flip side, if the food does not contain many of these components, it is considered nutrient-poor. Most real foods are nutrient-dense foods that help nourish your body.
  • Whole foods are foods that are consumed in a similar form to how they appear in nature. Most whole foods do not contain added sugars, processed carbohydrates, added colors or flavors, or other manufactured ingredients. Most whole foods are naturally nutrient-dense; real foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, dairy, meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Unprocessed foods, like whole foods, are not modified and they appear similar to how they do in nature. In our society, many foods are processed until they are barely recognizable from their original form and wouldn’t fit the real food definition.

You can use these concepts to build a healthy, well-balanced pregnancy diet. Well-balanced meals and snacks are an important part of a healthy diet for everyone, but even more important during pregnancy. Generally, combining real foods into nourishing meals and snacks is a healthy way to approach nourishing your body throughout pregnancy.

Try out these tips for incorporating real foods into your Pregnancy Diet.

  • Consume fruits and vegetables in their whole form.  Raw, cooked, frozen fruits and vegetables, and unsweetened dried fruit preserve the most nutritional value.  When you are reviewing prepared food, opt for unsweetened and no-added -sugar options.  In all circumstances, avoid added sugars.
  • Prioritize whole grains such as whole-wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, oats, and quinoa. The whole varieties contain the most nutritional value.  Refined grains have generally been stripped of their health benefits
  • Eat lean cuts of beef or pork, poultry, and seafood as your main protein sources.  Plant-based proteins such as tofu and beans are also healthy choices.
  • Eggs are great. Eggs are one of the only foods that contain choline.  Choline is essential crucial for your baby's brain development. Eating the whole egg (yolk and white) provides you with the most choline.
  • For dairy products, go for the "full-fat" options. Consuming full-fat, whole-milk dairy provides your body with the fat needed to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.
  • Incorporate healthy fats at every meal.  Nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish are all great sources of healthy fats during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Food Cravings and Food Aversions

Cravings

Pregnancy can coincide with with changes to your taste preferences, which may include both cravings and food aversions. While pregnancy often includes an increased appetite, food cravings can happen even when you are not hungry.  Whether you are experiencing cravings or aversions, listening to your body is important throughout pregnancy and beyond. Pregnancy cravings may be linked to specific:

  1. Tastes
  2. Textures
  3. Flavor combinations
  4. Feelings associated with that food; for example, comforting foods.

Experts hypothesize that food cravings are not linked to a specific food, but instead, that your body needs a nutrient found in that food.  For example, craving pickles may be linked to needing additional sodium, or craving ice cream may be linked to needing more fat in your diet.   Experiencing and indulging pregnancy cravings is normal. When you are eating a food you crave, utilize mindful eating techniques

The most common pregnancy cravings in the United Stated include:

  • Sweets and desserts
  • Dairy, specifically cheese
  • Starchy carbohydrates
  • Fast food
  • Pizza
  • Chinese food

With all the hormonal changes during pregnancy, it is common to crave foods you once disliked or be averse to foods you previously loved. Both cravings and aversions may change at any time during or after pregnancy.

Cravings may be harmful when nutrient-dense foods are crowded out of your diet by the less healthy foods you find yourself craving. If you find yourself eating large quantities of high fat, high sugar, high salt, or highly processed foods, schedule time with your doctor or dietitian to revisit your care plan and how you are planning your meals.

Aversions

During the first trimester, the hormones human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and estrogen rise. The rapid increase in hCG may cause nausea, food cravings, and food aversions. HCG levels peak and level off toward the end of the first trimester, typically at week eleven.

Every woman and every pregnancy is different, and any food may trigger an aversion at any time.  Women have have reported food aversions based upon:

  • Strong and pungent food smells
  • Specific food textures : slimy, thick, or chewy
  • Metallic tastes that make food aversions worse

Common pregnancy food aversions include:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Spicy foods
  • Greasy foods

Considering all the hormonal changes during pregnancy, you may avoid foods you once loved or crave foods you previously disliked. Aversions and cravings may change at any time during or after your pregnancy.

How To Manage Food Aversions

For the most part, avoiding foods you are averse to and eating foods you are craving is perfectly normal.

However, if your food aversions have led you to cut out key nutrients during your pregnancy, look for other ways to get important vitamins, minerals and macronutrients.  Common hacks include:

  • Try other foods with the key nutrient.  For example, if you do not want beef or pork, eat other iron-rich foods such as tofu, beans, nuts, seeds, among others.
  • Hiding foods you don't want in more desirable foods. If you have struggled to eat vegetables, try a smoothie with spinach or frozen cauliflower
  • If strong smells are ruining your appetite, consider eating cold foods and bland foods
  • Have your spouse / significant other prepare the food as to not overwhelm your sense of smell or taste.

What can I eat to get specific minerals such as Iron and Folate?

Iron

During pregnancy, your body needs to produce more blood to support both you and your growing baby. Red blood cells require iron to make hemoglobin, which is the protein that carries oxygen from your lungs to your tissues and your baby’s developing organs.  Your body cannot produce iron, so you have to obtain it through your food.  And without enough iron, your body will underproduce red blood cells, a condition called anemia.  If you develop anemia during pregnancy, your risk for premature birth, low birth weight, and postpartum depression increases.

If you experiencing the following symptoms during pregnancy, consult your doctor and dietitian to evaluate whether you have anemia:

  • Pale or yellow skin
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Cold hands and feet

As part of a well-rounded diet, focus on the following high-iron foods:

  • Lean meets such as beef, chicken, salmon
  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Beans and lentils
  • Potatoes
  • Vegetables, including spinach, kale, broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables), tomatoes, and fruits such as raspberries
  • Nuts, (specifically cashews) and seeds

Read our full write up on good iron food sources for more details on each of these foods.

Folate and Folic Acid

Folate is part of the B vitamin group. Folate is an important nutrient that helps form DNA and RNA. Your body also uses folate to produce red blood cells and is critical during periods of rapid growth (pregnancy and fetal development).

Foods that naturally contain folate include:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and asparagus
  • Beans, legumes, peas, and lentils 
  • Fresh citrus fruits: oranges, grapefruit, papaya
  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains such as wheat germ

Read our full write up on healthy folic acid food sources for more details on each of these foods.

Take the first steps to a healthy pregnancy — today!

Take your reading on the go and download the PDF, included with your downloadable guide is a 7-day meal plan complete with easy-to-follow recipes.

Download the Guide

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Diabetes and Pregnancy

If you have diabetes, working with a dietitian during your pregnancy will help you and your baby stay safe and healthy.

Managing Diabetes During Pregnancy

  • Plan for pregnancy beforehand, so your doctor can evaluate the effects diabetes has had on your body.  You may need to meet with your doctor more frequently during your first trimester 
  • Control your blood sugar through diet and exercise. Eating a balanced diet filled with a mix of complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables will aid in controlling blood sugar. Pair carbohydrates with protein and fat to reduce a high blood sugar spike.
  • Eat your starches throughout the day in small amounts to keep blood sugar stable
  • Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. This exercise can include a brisk walk or light workout.
  • Take diabetes medications as directed by your doctor

Gestational Diabetes: Causes and Symptoms

Gestational Diabetes is diabetes diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy. Similar to Type 1 and Type 2, Gestational Diabetes affects how your body uses glucose.  When pregnant, you should get checked for gestational diabetes as part of general prenatal care.

Common symptoms include:

Risk factors for developing gestational diabetes include:

  • Excess weight gain before pregnancy
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Previous diagnoses of gestational diabetes or prediabetes
  • PCOS
  • Diabetes in an immediate family member
  • Race: Black, Indian, and Asian American women have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Read an even more detailed explanation of managing diabetes while pregnant on our in-depth resource page.


Pregnancy Diet FAQs

What Fish are Safe to Eat?

Fish and shellfish are both high in protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin D, which are all crucial during pregnancy. Your daily iron needs increase during pregnancy, which makes getting iron in your food even more important. Fish is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for your baby’s growth and development.

Although fish and shellfish are good protein, healthy fat, and iron sources, there are risks when consuming certain types of seafood while pregnant. Avoid fish with high mercury concentrations.

Other food safety practices may help to limit the likelihood of developing a foodborne illness from seafood:

  • Make sure your fish has been properly refrigerated
  • Use separate cutting boards for raw fish vs other foods
  • If you are using a marinade for fish, dispose the marinade after cooking

The best seafood choices are the safest fish to consume during pregnancy. Consuming 8 to 12 ounces of these weekly is safe during pregnancy. The best choices include:

  • Anchovy
  • Atlantic croaker
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Black sea bass
  • Butterfish
  • Catfish
  • Clam
  • Cod
  • Crab
  • Crawfish
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Herring
  • Lobster
  • Mullet
  • Oyster
  • Pacific mackerel
  • Perch
  • Pickerel
  • Plaice
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Sardine
  • Scallop
  • Shad
  • Shrimp
  • Shake
  • Smelt
  • Sole
  • Squid
  • Tilapia
  • Trout (freshwater)
  • Tuna (canned light, skipjack)
  • Whitefish

Can I Eat Spicy Food?

Eating spicy foods during pregnancy is generally safe for both you and your baby. However, while there are no threats to you or your baby, spicy foods may cause some uncomfortable side effects for pregnant women, including heartburn and indigestion. Both issues are common in pregnant women regardless of what they eat, but spicy foods may make these issues even worse.

The effects spicy foods have on your body may vary by trimester:

  • First trimester, spicy foods may aggravate morning sickness
  • Second and Third trimesters: spicy food is more likely to cause heartburn, indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and gastroesophageal reflux

Nausea is most common early in pregnancy, and is often called morning sickness, although it can last all day. Heartburn is common during the second and third trimesters. Hormonal changes in your body relax the muscle that prevents stomach acid from leaking into the esophagus, which makes acid reflux more likely.

While there is some caution against overdoing spicy foods during pregnancy, there are benefits to including a bit of spice in your pregnancy diet. Capsaicin, which gives peppers their spice, is anti-inflammatory, and believed to support your immune system and heart health.

Read the full download on spicy foods and pregnancy here!


How to Handle Morning Sickness

Nausea and vomiting are common during the first trimester of pregnancy. Most often, nausea sets in during weeks 6 to 12 of pregnancy, which is caused by rapidly changing hormone levels.

Below are our top tips for avoiding, managing, and preventing future morning sickness

  • Eat more Often: Many women report that nausea is worse when their stomach is completely empty. Eating small, frequent meals and snacks may help to minimize your nausea. Try to eat a small meal as soon as you wake up.  Or, keep a small protein bar or cereal snack by your bedside to eat first thing in the AM.
  • Stick to Starches: Carbohydrates are easy for the body to digest and give you quick energy when you need it most. Popular starchy carbohydrates include crackers, toast, bagels, oatmeal, dry cereals, plain pasta, pretzels, and popcorn.
  • Include a Nighttime Snack: A snack before bed may help if you wake up overnight feeling sick. A high-protein snack may be helpful in keeping your blood sugar steady over night.
  • Separate Solids: Some women find that eating food and drinking liquids at the same time makes nausea worse. Hydration is key during pregnancy, so try to drink water in between meals and snacks.
  • Eat Cold Foods: During the first trimester, some women find it easier to eat cold foods vs warm foods.

Foods to Try

  • Eggs, which contain protein and choline.  Cooked and cooled hard-boiled eggs are a great way to get some protein throughout the day.
  • Refrigerated chicken can be used in a sandwich or wrap. You can also put chicken onto a salad if cool, crisp vegetables sound appealing.
  • Cool, fresh fruit is easy on the stomach. Wash all produce thoroughly before eating
  • If you don't want cut fruit, make a fruit smoothie

During days or times that you are feeling better, try to expand your palette. Try your best to consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats as tolerated.

Foods to Avoid

  • High fat foods such as fried foods and foods with heavy sauces are often not well-tolerated because they are harder for your body to digest
  • High acid foods and drinks like citrus and tomato products may make nausea worse
  • Spicy foods may cause heartburn, which may also make things worse
  • Gas producing foods including beans and cruciferous vegetables can cause gastrointestinal distress and contribute to the problem
  • Caffeine, coffee specifically, may also aggravate the symptoms you are experiencing. Although some caffeine is believed to be safe, you may feel better eliminating it all together (link to foods to avoid for pregnancy blog)

Potential Remedies

  • Ginger is nausea remedy for many women. Grating fresh ginger and steeping in hot water like tea is a common way to alleviate nausea.
  • Warm lemon water
  • Getting fresh air by sitting outside or going for a walk

What If I get Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning happens when you consume something that contains bacteria, a virus, a parasite or a toxin that causes your body to have a negative reaction. Food poisoning symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Most food poisoning is mild and resolves without treatment. When you are pregnant, take the following food poisoning precautions.

Food safety and prevention of a foodborne illness is extremely important during pregnancy. There are precautions you can take to avoid getting sick. Four simple steps you can take to ensure food safety are:

  • Cleaning hands and surfaces often
  • Separating raw foods from ready to eat foods (don’t cross contaminate!)
  • Cooking food to proper temperatures
  • Refrigerating food promptly after serving

In addition to these preventative measures, learn the foods that are most likely to cause food poisoning:

Read all the ways to avoid pregnancy food sickness in our full discussion.

Pregnancy and Bloating / Constipation

Pregnancy Bloating

Bloating and uncomfortable fullness are common during pregnancy. Unlike other pregnancy symptoms, this symptom may last through all three trimesters. Fullness and bloating may be accompanied with nausea and vomiting, often referred to as morning sickness, or may present on their own.

Fullness and bloating make it challenging to eat all the nutrients you and your growing baby need each day. You may not feel like eating or may struggle to consume a full meal in one sitting. Many women also report changes in hunger levels and appetite during pregnancy.

Progesterone is largely to blame for uncomfortable fullness during pregnancy. Progesterone is a hormone secreted in the ovaries and released during pregnancy. This hormone relaxes your smooth muscles, which is critical while growing and carrying a baby. However, progesterone also relaxes the muscles in your stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, which slows your digestion significantly.

There are a few different things to try to alleviate your pregnancy bloating.  We recommend:

  1. Eat smaller meals, more frequently
  2. Incorporate fiber into your meals and snacks.  Having enough fiber is the main key to relieving bloating.
  3. Stay hydrated: Water is the second key to smooth digestion. Without enough water, the fiber you eat will not be able to pass smoothly through (and out) your body
  4. Sip something warm.  Warm beverages help activate your digestive system!
  5. Eat slowly and practice mindful eating
  6. Move more! Taking a walk or doing light exercise can also help relieve bloating and fullness
  7. Try a probiotic. Supporting healthy gut bacteria can relieve gas and bloating

We elaborate on each of these recommendations in our dedicated write-up. 

Click this link for a detailed walkthrough on each of these remedies for pregnancy bloating.

Pregnancy Constipation

In addition to bloating, you may also struggle to complete bowel movements while pregnant.  Pregnancy constipation often accompanies bloating and is caused by a slowdown in your digestion. Hormones changes during pregnancy are the main reason your digestion slows down.

Unfortunately, constipation may occur in all three trimesters, and often appears throughout entire pregnancies. However, the good news is constipation is reasonably easy to fix.

You can relieve pregnancy constipation by:

  1. Increasing fiber intake
  2. Staying hydrated and drinking more water
  3. Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  4. Increasing physical activity
  5. Taking a stool softener
For a full discussion, read our full explanation of the ways to relieve pregnancy constipation.
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