You’ve probably kissed your daily red-eyes good-bye, and skipped the all-you-can-eat sushi bar since finding out you were pregnant, because excess caffeine and raw fish are a couple of the items on the relatively universal “what not to eat” list (though that might be debatable! Keep on reading). But what should you be eating? Between cravings and aversions, the most important thing is aiming for a balanced diet, and here are a few pregnancy powerfoods you can add—your body and your baby will thank you.
Just as folic acid is critical in the first few months of pregnancy, so is iron (nearly half of pregnant women deal with anemia). You might want to take an iron supplement, but you can also get quite a bit from a couple iron-rich foods.
Spinach: Spinach has about twice as much iron as other leafy greens, and cooking your spinach takes it up a notch higher.
Beef: One bonus of eating meat is that the iron it contains is more easily absorbed by the body. Next to eating liver (which, if you like it, go for it!), beef provides the highest amount of iron per serving. Grill up a steak or order filet mignon on date night!
Vitamin C is important in its own right, but it also supports the absorption of iron—bonus!
Kiwis: Most people’s thoughts go straight to oranges when vitamin C is mentioned, but the tiny, mighty kiwi has more vitamin C within its furry exterior than an entire orange.
Broccoli: Not only is broccoli high in vitamin C, but it’s also got folate, calcium, fiber, and antioxidants too.
Calcium is crucial for bone and tooth growth, and if baby’s not getting enough through your diet, she’ll just start taking it from your body instead.
Yogurt: Load up on that dairy for your daily calcium needs. Yogurt also has that probiotic goodness!
Seeds: Not a daily person? Stock up on seeds, like chia, poppy, and sesame. Those tiny seeds pack a big calcium punch.
Protein is a crucial contributor to baby’s growth, especially in the second trimester, so make sure you’re getting more than you normally would (about 10 grams extra a day, for a total of 60 grams).
Quinoa: It’s pretty well-known that meat contains lots of protein, but if you feel like eating veggie, go for quinoa, an under-the-radar protein-powerhouse. Use it as a base for a healthy grain bowl, or add it to a big, leafy salad.
Nut butter: Nuts are a great source of protein and nut butter is extra delicious. Slather in on apple slices or add a couple spoonfuls to a morning smoothie.
Foods to Avoid
Now that we’ve covered some of the crucial foods you should be eating, let’s talk about a few you shouldn’t. The list of items to avoid can vary wildly depending on the source, and a few items that have held long-standing space on these lists, are up for debate (I’m looking at you, sashimi!). So do your research, consult your doctor, and trust your gut before deciding what you want your “do not eat” list to look like.
Raw or undercooked meat, raw cured meat, unwashed fruits and vegetables: You’ll definitely want to steer clear of raw or undercooked meat, and raw cured meat (buh-bye salami), as well as unwashed fruits and vegetables, all of which can expose you to the parasite Toxoplasma gondii and cause the infection toxoplasmosis, which can transfer to your baby causing miscarriage or birth defects.
Raw milk, raw milk cheese, deli meats, sprouts: Raw milk and raw milk cheese can contain listeria, a dangerous bacteria that can cause miscarriage or preterm delivery. Listeria is also the reason doctors recommend avoiding deli meats and sprouts, which can be contaminated with the bacteria. Beyond the above items, which can most certainly pose a risk, are a few other foods that many consider risky.
Raw or undercooked eggs: Raw or undercooked eggs (think real runny over-easy’s) can contain salmonella. And though the food poisoning it causes can be quite unpleasant, it rarely has a detrimental effect on a pregnancy.
Sushi: Sushi is another food item we’ve long been told to avoid, but high-quality sushi that’s been frozen to kill parasites, is not very likely to cause any harm. Ingesting high levels of mercury may be a larger risk, so just be sure to limit your intake.
Though many women choose to give up caffeine entirely, it’s widely believed that limiting your intake to 1 cup per day is perfectly healthy.
Alcohol might be the final taboo food frontier (if you’ve ever had a glass of wine in public while noticeably pregnant, you’ve probably experienced that firsthand!), since excessive amounts of it can cause fetal alcohol syndrome and associated birth defects. A glass of wine once or twice at the end of pregnancy however, is probably not going to cause any harm.
Of course drinking no alcohol is the safest amount of alcohol, but if half a glass of wine will make you the happiest pregnant woman on earth, ask your doctor for their advice. The same goes for everything else on this list: maintaining a diet for a healthy pregnancy is your number-one goal, so choose your foods as you and your doctor see fit. But don’t have a stress spiral if you slip and eat a sub sammie—that’s probably more harmful than the deli meat itself!