Eating well and preparing a healthy menu when you're pregnant will help ensure that your baby gets the appropriate nutrients for his or her growth and development. It is important that you learn what foods are the most beneficial for you and your baby and what foods to avoid when you're pregnant.
Eating for Two
While you are eating for two, this does not mean you should double up on your servings. A healthy daily menu for a pregnant woman includes only about 300 additional calories than a woman who is not pregnant. In general, you should eat a well-rounded, well-balanced diet that is high in protein and fiber and low in sugar. You should also eat foods that are rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats and low in trans fats and saturated fats.
Sample Menu for a Pregnant Women
Pregnant women may find it easier to eat several smaller meals over the course of a day rather than three larger meals.
You want to start your day with a healthy breakfast. Be sure to include whole grains, dairy, and fruit such as:
- A slice of whole wheat toast with butter and jelly
- A glass of milk
- A piece of fruit such as an apple or banana
An alternative breakfast that you may enjoy includes oatmeal with low-fat milk instead of water and you can add some blueberries or strawberries for a sweet treat.
A good mid-morning snack could include one of the following:
- A piece of bread with peanut butter or low-fat cheese
- An apple with peanut butter (spread thinly)
- A yogurt without artificial sweeteners
For lunch, you could have the following:
- Eat a sandwich made with whole grain bread, low-fat protein and veggies. Good options include turkey breast with cheese, mustard, lettuce and tomato, or tuna fish or chicken salad with lettuce and tomato.
- Add yogurt or milk if you are not yet on track for four servings of dairy.
A few examples of some great afternoon snacks include:
- A handful of nuts (not every day because they're high in fat)
- A piece of fruit
- Carrot sticks with hummus
- Rice cakes with cheese or peanut butter
For dinner, try one of these healthy meals, made even healthier with a few substitutes:
- Chicken fajitas made with lean chicken breast
- Chicken omelette and for lower fat content, use lean chicken breast, and olive oil
- Eggplant casserole with vegetarian (100%) shortening, or substitute a plant-based oil
- Carrot and pepper salad, swapping the mayonnaise for fat-free honey mustard
- Spicy tofu paired with salad or cooked veggies and rice
Healthy Eating in Pregnancy
Pregnant women should take general healthy eating advice very seriously. You should limit sweets (choose fruits or natural fruit juices instead), limit fats (especially saturated fats); however, you shouldn't cut out fat completely. You should also limit or eliminate fried foods as well. Eating a varied, healthy diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat protein is very important when you're pregnant. Be sure to also consume at least four servings of low-fat dairy (low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese) per day to ensure you get your calcium.
Foods to Avoid
There are a few foods that a pregnant woman should steer clear of when pregnant. Stay away from the following food products completely:
- Unpasteurized milk or cheeses: Be sure to check the ingredients on the cheese and other dairy products to make sure that the milk used to make the product was pasteurized. Unpasteurized milk can harbor bacteria that is dangerous to the fetus.
- Deli meats and paté: These should be avoided for the same reason as unpasteurized milk products.
- Raw eggs, meat, and fish: Raw meats can contain harmful bacteria. It is imperative that the eggs, red meat, and fish are cooked thoroughly before consuming; remember that homemade mayonnaise and treats like chocolate mousse or egg-nog can contain raw eggs. Also note that products like smoked salmon are, most often, raw.
- Alcohol: While some wonder if even a small amount of alcohol is harmful, it is best to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy. In cooking, only eat foods that have been cooked at length (about an hour) that contain alcohol; dishes that have alcohol added to them in the last moments of cooking should be avoided.
Generally speaking, it is a good idea to limit or eliminate caffeine consumption during pregnancy. Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic and it can affect your baby. There are conflicting studies on just how much caffeine will or won't affect your baby, so until further research is done, it is recommended that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to 200mg a day or one to two 12oz cups of coffee or you can enjoy several cups of green tea or black tea. Herbal teas can be enjoyed without limit.
Eating Fish When Pregnant
While fish is an important part of a pregnancy diet because of the omega-3s it contains, pregnant women should still limit their fish consumption to eight to twelve ounces per week.
Some fish that is safe to eat include:
- Canned light tuna
- Freshwater trout
- Anchovies, herring and sardines are also safe.
Fish to Avoid
Fish that you should avoid eating due to high levels of mercury they contain include:
- Any raw fish
Foods Rich in Omega-3s
If you decide to eliminate fish altogether from your diet while your pregnant, be sure to include the following foods in your diet which are good sources of omega-3s.
- Sunflower seeds
Your Own Healthy Pregnancy Menu
A special healthy pregnancy menu is relatively easy to put together and will not take any more time than planning your weekly menu prior to pregnancy. It is important to understand that when you eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet, it benefits both you and your baby. Ultimately, healthy eating is essential for a healthy baby.