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As a pregnant woman, your body no longer belongs to just you. You’re sharing it with a beautiful, growing baby. The best way to ensure healthy development of your new baby is to eat a healthy diet.

By eating the right foods, you can keep you and your baby healthy, as well as avoid uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy like constipation. Many women also gain far too much weight during their pregnancy.

Unnecessary weight gain poses many risks: preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, premature delivery, and an overweight newborn.

You don’t need to significantly increase your calorie intake while pregnant. If you eat the right foods while pregnant, you won’t gain unnecessary weight. We put together a list of the 12 best foods to eat while pregnant in order to promote your baby’s healthy development and avoid putting on unnecessary pounds.

what to eat when pregnant

1) Load Up On Spinach

Popeye’s favorite food was spinach because it made him stronger. You should take his advice and start eating heaps of spinach daily.

Spinach is bursting with folate, which makes it one of the best foods to eat when pregnant. Folate is a B vitamin that is imperative to healthy infant development. It helps prevent serious defects of the spine and brain.

Don’t rely solely on your prenatal vitamins for your folate intake. Eat your leafy greens regularly. Besides spinach, other leafy greens include broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and peas.

Try to consume between 400 and 800 micrograms daily. A half cup of boiled spinach has about 130 micrograms of folate. Other great sources of folate are beans, citrus fruits, and fortified cereals.

couple holding food to eat when pregnant

2) Drink Your Milk

Got milk? Yes, that old advertising campaign with the milk mustaches celebrating calcium still rings true today. Calcium is a necessary part of a healthy diet, especially for pregnant women.

Your mother always told you to drink your milk so you could grow big and strong, and that remains true today. Calcium strengthens bones and teeth for you and your baby and aids in the development of a healthy skeletal system.

Be sure to get at least 1,000 milligrams — a little over 3 glasses of milk — per day. Stock your fridge with dairy products, as those are the best sources of calcium. A cup of skim milk has about 300 milligrams of calcium.

Spinach is also a great source of calcium, with about 120 milligrams per half cup.

3) Increase Your Dairy Intake

dairy and fruits are what to eat when pregnant

You’ll need to consume more than just milk to get your daily dairy intake. Dairy products contain high amounts of phosphorus, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc, so you can see why they’re important.

Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is a great source of calcium and dairy. And calcium is essential because it helps in the growth and development of your baby’s bones.

Note: Various Greek yogurts also contain probiotic properties, which is good for your digestive health.

4) Add Legumes To Your Diet

This particular group of food includes lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts. Legumes are an excellent source of fiber, protein, iron, folate, and calcium.

And remember what we said earlier about folate? Folate is a very important nutrient during pregnancy, and it may reduce the risk of some birth defects and diseases.

5) Eat Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is a plant compound that converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for the growth of your baby, and you’ll need to increase your daily vitamin A intake by 10 to 40 percent during pregnancy.

Vitamin B6 is another important nutrient found in sweet potatoes and can help prevent morning sickness. So if you’re dealing with nausea, eat a sweet potato to help ward off the symptoms!

6) Snack On Berries

baskets of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries

Berries contain water, healthy carbs, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Their healthy properties help your body correctly absorb iron. As for your baby, berries help build healthy skin cells and their immune system.

Consider munching on berries such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries. They make for a great snack that will leave you feeling full and help you reach your daily nutrient and water intake requirements.

Bonus: You can make this a fun family activity! Find a local farm and gather various berries together. Then add the berries to your pancakes, cereal, or yogurt.

7) Choose Whole Grain Foods

As you know by now, you have to increase your calorie intake while pregnant. Eating whole grain foods can help you do just that.

Whole grains contain fiber, vitamins, and plant compounds. B vitamins, fiber, iron, and magnesium are other properties found in whole grains. Grains supply energy for your baby’s development and aid in the growth of your placenta.

Bread, oats, barley, rice, and corn are examples of grains. Make sure you choose healthy whole grain foods, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice.

8) Enjoy Avocados

Avocados are a type of fruit that’s considered a superfood, especially for pregnant women. They contain a high content of healthy fats, folate, and potassium. Healthy fats assist in the development of the skin and brain of your growing baby.

And foods with a high content of potassium are known to help relieve leg cramps during pregnancy. So if you’re dealing with bothersome leg cramps at night, add avocados to your diet during the day.

9) Be A Lean Meat Machine

protein and other foods to eat when pregnant

Meat is one of the best sources of iron, and as a pregnant woman, you need almost twice as much iron as a woman who’s not pregnant. Your baby’s blood supply is rapidly developing, and your own blood supply increases as your baby grows inside you.

Iron transports oxygen and is essential to healthy development. If you don’t get enough iron, you could develop anemia and become seriously fatigued. Iron deficiency also increases your risk of premature delivery, postpartum depression, and having a newborn with low birth weight.

Your prenatal vitamin should have a helpful dose of supplemental iron, but make sure to include it in your diet as well. Meat is an excellent source of iron, but if you are vegetarian, have no fear! Iron has plant-based sources too: beans, spinach, peas, and quinoa are just a few.

10) Choose Chicken

A serving of chicken offers an abundance of protein. As an expectant mother, you need plenty of protein. Protein supports fetal development, so you do not want to skimp on it. Aim for three servings of protein a day, or about 75 grams.

Protein can be found in animal sources such as meats, fish, poultry, and dairy products. Three ounces of a boneless, skinless chicken breast contains about 26 grams of protein, while a cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains 28 grams. An egg boasts six grams of protein, making it a great way to start your day.

11) Eat The Right Fish

Include more fish in your diet when pregnant. Not only is fish an excellent source of protein, thus giving your baby essential amino acids to aid in cell growth, it is also rich in DHA.

Getting enough DHA, also known as omega-3 fatty acid, is crucial to your baby’s development. It promotes brain development, which leads to better vision, memory, motor skills, and language comprehension in the first few years of your child’s life.

Expecting and breastfeeding mothers should eat two to three servings, or 8 to 12 ounces, of low-mercury fish every week. Omega-3-rich wild salmon is one of the best foods to eat when pregnant. However, be careful about what kinds of fish you are choosing to consume.

Consuming mercury is very dangerous to you and your baby’s health. Avoid shark, swordfish, bigeye tuna, marlin, king mackerel, tilefish, and orange roughy. Instead, opt for safe choices like wild salmon, cod, black sea bass, trout, and halibut.

Just because fish is an important addition to the pregnancy diet does not mean that you can continue to treat yourself to sushi every week. Raw or undercooked fish can contain dangerous bacteria and parasites like Listeria that could really harm your baby.

12) Drink More Water

Pregnant women need to drink more water than they did before expecting. Water does all the hard work of transporting nutrients and vitamins to your baby and helps them get absorbed properly.

Be sure to drink 12 to 13 glasses of water each day. If you have a hard time remembering to drink water, fill up a large bottle and keep it with you all day as a reminder to sip. If you exercise, make sure you are drinking before, after, and during your workout.

Drinking enough water also helps to keep skin plump and hydrated, which can aid in preventing stretch marks.

mother and child preparing foods to eat when pregnant

Be Happy And Healthy

Expecting a baby is both exciting and overwhelming. One of the best things you can do for yourself and your developing baby is to implement a healthy diet during your pregnancy.

Don’t eat too much, but make sure you are getting enough essential nutrients and vitamins to help your baby grow. Be sure to include plenty of folate, calcium, iron, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and water in your daily diet, and in nine months you will have a healthy, smiling baby!