For expecting mothers, a nutritious diet during pregnancy is critical

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it’s expected that approximately 300 extra calories are needed each day. Expecting mothers need a balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains, according to Dietitian Nutritionist Johane Filemon, MS, RDN, CLT. It’s important for pregnant women to eat a variety of colorful, plant-based foods to reduce the necessity of tracking the nutrients that are important to eat during pregnancy.  

“Variety is key during pregnancy!” Filemon told 21Ninety. “Adding lots of colorful plant-based foods increases vitamins and minerals and feeds your body, promotes gut health, feeds good bacteria, as well as grows the baby you are carrying.”

Filemon explains that every expecting mother will have a different tolerance to certain foods. Tolerance is very important when talking about eating while pregnant, as mild or severe nausea can significantly alter an expecting mom’s way of eating. 

“Lots of women go through nausea and vomiting,” she explains. “Eating smaller portions and not drinking during or right after you eat are interventions that help you consume more nutrient-dense foods.”

What to Eat During Each Trimester

In general, there are no differences in the types of foods a woman to maintain a nutritious diet during pregnancy for each trimester. All pregnant women should eat foods that are high in folate, like spinach, kale, beans and whole grains. They should also eat iron-rich foods, like red meat, lentils, nuts, seeds and broccoli.

“The quantity of foods consumed is more important than the types of food and should be increased to provide more calories to feed the growing baby,” she said. “The amount of increase is specific to the person and how active they are.” 

It is best to consult your doctor or dietitian nutritionist to get more specific recommendations.

Foods to Avoid and Limit

During pregnancy, it’s important to avoid foods that are high in mercury, such as swordfish, shark and marlin. Avoid raw foods like sushi. Pregnant women also should avoid undercooked and unpasteurized foods. 

As far as what to limit in your diet, don’t overdo it on foods that are not rich in nutrients. Filemon explains that too much of these foods may cause long-term harm. They might also inhibit your consumption of the nutrient-dense foods that you and your growing baby need.

How to Maintain a Balanced Diet

Filemon encourages women who plan to have kids to “prep” their bodies. This way when they are pregnant, they are not struggling to find a balanced diet. Start making changes in the foods you are eating now. During your pregnancy, continue to make changes as your body allows.

“Even the small changes matter,” she said. “Give yourself the grace you need, so that you are not stressed out.”