Now that you're pregnant, you have certain extra nutritional needs. You'll need to add a relatively small amount of calories per day -- about 300 total, according to Medline Plus -- but you need to focus more on getting certain essential nutrients throughout your pregnancy. The best way to shop for food during this time is to avoid the center aisles full of processed foods and instead stick as much as possible to the periphery of the grocery store -- in the produce section, the butcher's section, the bakery and the fish counter. Make a game plan and compile your list before you head out to the store.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
The produce aisle is where you'll find foods rich in natural folates and vitamin C, two nutrients you particularly need during pregnancy. Folates prevent a specific set of spinal nerve deformities in your baby-to-be, especially during the first trimester, and vitamin C assists in tissue formation and repair. Many fruits and vegetables are also rich in soluble fiber, which will help with pregnancy-related constipation symptoms. Whatever is in season is best. Good vegetable choices include orange-yellow-red vegetables such as red bell peppers, tomatoes, carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes. They're rich in vitamin C, vitamin A and many contain healthy doses of folates and fiber as well. Dark leafy greens including spinach and kale provide iron, folate and fiber. Don't forget your fruits, either. Dried fruits including prunes, raisins and apricots will provide fiber. Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes add vitamin C to your diet. Melons, mangoes, bananas and kiwi are particularly good choices for their folate, vitamin A and C and potassium content.
Protein provides the basic building blocks for building your baby and long-burning fuel for your body in general. Getting enough protein is vital to a healthy pregnancy. Lean meats such as beef and chicken are good choices from the butcher's aisle. Lean lamb and pork cuts are wise ideas as well. Fish can be more problematic because you want to avoid those that carry a risk of being contaminated with mercury. Fish is a good source of omega-3s, which help with brain function, though, so you probably don't want to eliminate it entirely from your pregnancy diet. Seek out sardines, salmon -- fresh or canned -- cod and rockfish, trout, tilapia, catfish, shrimp, oysters, mussels and crab. If you don't eat meat -- or you have pregnancy-related food avoidance issues -- try beans and lentils and tofu for your protein needs. Add some flaxseed and walnuts for those omega-3s.
The Dairy Aisle
Dairy products are fine sources for protein and calcium -- the latter especially important for building baby bones. Milk is effective, but so is cottage cheese, yogurt and hard cheeses. Eggs are also found in the refrigerated dairy section and they're a fine source of protein as well. If you don't consume cow's milk, try calcium-fortified soy or almond milk, or calcium-fortified orange juice.
Carbo-loading Pregnancy Style
Don't forget to add breads and cereals to your pregnancy grocery list. Carbohydrates are a source of energy and fiber. Plus, many of these foods are fortified with important vitamins. Add whole-grain sandwich bread, low-sugar breakfast cereals and whole-wheat pasta to your basket. Oatmeal is a nutritional powerhouse, filled with fiber and iron naturally as well as a dose of calcium, too. Definitely consider making it a star of your shopping list.
When you're pregnant, you might feel hungry a lot more often than usual. And pregnancy-related nausea could prevent you from eating a full meal all the time. Healthy snacks can help keep you on an even nutritional keel. Try whole-grain crackers with some cheese, dried fruit, nuts and trail mix, granola and muesli and of course fresh fruits and vegetables -- carrot sticks, apples and pears and edamame are a good start.