Eating Healthy During Your Pregnancy

By Kerrie McLoughlin

Congratulations on your pregnancy! While your baby is developing both physically and mentally in your womb, your food and drink choices are very important to the baby’s growth and development, as well as to your immune system. By now, you may have already started receiving advice from well-wishers about what you should eat more or less of. And, even if you already eat like a nutrition rock star, a few tweaks might be necessary.

Especially during the first trimester, you might need to stick with whatever you can keep down because morning sickness will challenge even the most dedicated to their diet. After that, according to the What to Expect website, a general rule is try to consume an average of an extra 300 calories per day in the second trimester and 500 extra calories per day in the third trimester. Read on to learn how to get those calories in so you can feel your best while also growing a healthy baby (be sure to talk to your doctor if you have more specific questions).


The American Pregnancy Association says, “Experts recommend 75 to 100 grams of protein per day. Protein positively affects the growth of fetal tissue, including the brain. It also helps your breast and uterine tissue to grow during pregnancy, and it plays a role in your increasing blood supply.”

This was my favorite food group during pregnancy, and just a few examples of protein include lean meats and chicken, fully cooked fish, nuts, tofu, beans, peanut butter, eggs, and Greek yogurt, so there are many options here. Sarah Lyons, mom of 6, says, “I liked avocados and hummus. I ate nuts or trail mix. Things that were high in protein. I could only eat small snacks and meals.”

Fruits and vegetables

Juicing is a fantastic way to sneak in many of the vitamins and minerals you need, as well as fiber. Barbara F., mom of 5, who had her last child in her forties, says: “I juiced two times daily with an assortment of fruits and vegetables.”

Now is the time to try some new things! Just a few examples: dragon fruit, ugli fruit, purple sweet potato, pummelo and watermelon radish! Also, consider vegetable lasagna, veggie pizza, dried fruit … any way you can find to sneak in those fruits and veggies!


Nutrient dense is the way to go in this food category, and the carbs and fiber provided by this food group give you lots of energy. Choose wheat bread over white bread, brown or wild rice over white, as well as whole-wheat pasta. A quick and easy beef barley soup would be a great way to get in many of the food groups at once in a flavorful way that is also easy on your first-trimester sensitive stomach (soup also promotes good digestion).

Dairy products

Dairy products pack a triple whammy with calcium, vitamin D and protein, which help create strong teeth and bones for your growing baby. Lynn Letzig, mom of one and foster mom to many, shared, “I ate cottage cheese with peaches every day!!” Other options include yogurt (so many choices of flavor and consistency) and hard cheeses. If you cannot tolerate milk, try items such as calcium fortified OJ and soy milk.

Water and other fluids

According to, “Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated. The Office on Women’s Health recommends that pregnant women drink about 10 cups (2.4 liters) of fluids daily…” There are so many great benefits to getting enough fluids, including lowering the incidence of swelling, bladder infections and constipation. All fluids count toward your daily total, but make sure you are not consuming too much sugar or caffeine.

Fats, oils and sweets

Go for the healthy fats but try to use them sparingly. Think avocado toast, trail mix with a variety of nuts and seeds, as well as olive oil and vinegar for your salad dressing. Don’t deprive yourself! It is okay to treat yourself every now and then with a sweet treat, just do it in moderation.


Talk to your doctor first, but generally during pregnancy, women will be advised to take a folic acid supplement, as well as a prenatal vitamin to fill in any potential nutritional gaps.

Things to stay away from

According to, you need to watch out for canned tuna, sushi, raw cookie dough, and anything undercooked or raw, including meats, as well as any fish that might be high in mercury. Soft cheeses and unpasteurized products are also items to steer clear of. Also, it is best to not consume any alcohol, and keep caffeine to a minimum (200 mg or less per day).

Special considerations

If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you will need to meet with a dietician to discuss consumption of a healthy balance of protein and carbs to keep your insulin levels balanced. Also, if you’re pregnant with twins, you should be taking in approximately 300 extra calories per day per baby.

For more information:

  • The Whole 9 Months: A Week-By-Week Pregnancy Nutrition Guide with Recipes for a Healthy Start by Jennifer Lang
  • What to Expect: Eating Well When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff
  • Feeding the Bump: Nutrition and Recipes for Pregnancy by Lisa Neal

Kerrie McLoughlin ( ate a pretty balanced diet with each of her 5 pregnancies…plus a little extra chocolate.



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