Pregnant women can eat a variety of foods without harming a developing baby, but there are certain foods women should eat more of while pregnant, as well as foods pregnant women should limit or eliminate altogether. Learn the differences between foods that are safe, foods that are beneficial and foods that pose health risks to your unborn child to give him a strong, healthy start.
Although there are some exceptions, most everyday, nutritious meal items are considered safe to eat while pregnant. Enjoy healthy servings of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean protein -- just make sure everything is well rinsed and thoroughly cooked. Raw or undercooked meat and fish, as well as unpasteurized dairy products and juices, should never be consumed because these foods can harbor illness-causing bacteria. Fish that are high in mercury should also be avoided at all costs. Processed meats such as hotdogs and deli ham are only safe when heated to steaming hot. These foods pose the risk of listeriosis, which can be harmful to your baby when you eat them uncooked.
Foods with Benefits
Your developing baby relies on your body for essential nutrients to help him grow strong. Since your body now converts food into nutrients for both you and your baby, it’s important to eat the recommended number of daily servings from all food groups to ensure that you both receive proper nutrition. The American Pregnancy Association recommends two to three servings of protein, legumes, leafy greens and fruit per day to promote healthy tissue, brain and bone development and prevent defects such as spinal bifida. Calcium is also important during pregnancy, and experts recommend increasing daily intake to 1000 milligrams during pregnancy. Low-fat cheese; pasteurized, skim milk and yogurt made with pasteurized milk are calcium-rich foods that are healthy for both mother and child. Fruits and vegetables containing vitamins A, C, B6, B12 and D are also beneficial to a developing fetus because they promote healthy skin, eyesight, cell formation and nervous system health.
Food to Eat in Moderation
Coffee and soda should be consumed in moderation, since excess caffeine may lead to birth complications or negatively affect the mother with nausea, dehydration and increased urination. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day while pregnant. As with any diet, fast foods should be kept to a minimum when pregnant to avoid excessive weight gain and empty calorie consumption. Pregnant women should also only consume sugar, fat and artificial sweeteners in moderation.
Managing Symptoms with Food
Common pregnancy symptoms include cravings, constipation and nausea, which can affect eating habits. If you’re craving something sweet or crispy, try something healthy like low-fat frozen yogurt, which is a good alternative to ice cream. Rice cakes or whole-grain crackers can satisfy the crunch you crave from potato chips. Relieve constipation naturally with vegetables high in fiber. For first-trimester nausea, stick with bland foods such as whole-grain toast, or plain foods such as cereal and fruit, to keep queasiness at bay while still receiving vital nutrients.