Diet plays a very important role in the health of both you and your baby when you're pregnant. That includes what you put in your mouth and what you don't. During pregnancy, you need to eat a healthy diet that provides a variety of nutrients to support the growth and development of your fetus. Just as important, you must also avoid certain foods that can cause harm because of your lowered immune system. Knowing which foods to include or avoid can make for a healthier pregnancy.
Breads and Grains
Breads and grains are a good source of carbs and fiber, as well as B vitamins, folic acid and iron. Make most of your bread and grain choices whole-grain to boost your fiber intake. When pregnant, you need 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat, or 28 grams of fiber on a 2,000-calorie diet. Healthy choices include whole-grain breads, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and whole-grain cereals and crackers.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of fiber and provide vitamins A and C. Include a variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the week to vary your nutrient intake. Good choices include oranges, berries, melon, broccoli, spinach and carrots. While most fruits and vegetables are safe to eat when pregnant, you do need to avoid unpasteurized juice and raw sprouts. Unpasteurized juice might contain the bacteria E. coli, which can cause nausea and severe vomiting or diarrhea. Eating raw sprouts increases your risk of salmonella poisoning, which causes fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
Meat, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds are all healthy additions to your pregnancy diet. In addition to providing protein, these foods also supply iron, and vitamins B-6 and B-12. But meat salads purchased at the grocery store, such as ham, chicken or seafood salad, are a potential source of the bacteria Listeria. This bacteria is very concerning during pregnancy because it can lead to stillbirth, preterm labor or illness in your infant. If you like meat salads, it's safer if you make them yourself at home.
Seafood is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which support fetal growth and development, and protein. But you should only eat low-mercury fish, such as shrimp, salmon, pollock and catfish, and eat no more than 12 ounces a week. Limit your intake of albacore tuna to no more than 6 ounces a week. You also need to avoid high-mercury fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. High intakes of mercury affects your baby's brain and nervous system development. All fish should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Undercooked or raw seafood, including sushi and raw oysters, may contain bacteria or parasites that can harm you or your baby. Raw shellfish is especially worrisome because it might contain Vibrio bacteria, which can be fatal.
Dairy foods are an important source of calcium and vitamin D. Good choices include low-fat or nonfat milk and yogurt and low-fat hard cheese such as cheddar. You should not drink unpasteurized milk when pregnant because it might contain might contain Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria or salmonella. Soft cheeses, such as Brie, feta or queso fresco, are made with unpasteurized milk and should also be avoided during pregnancy.
It's OK to indulge your sweet tooth when pregnant, but do so in moderation. Foods such as cake, cookies and candy provide calories but offer very little nutritional value. If you like to bake your own cookies or cake, refrain from licking the bowl or spoon. Raw dough and batter contains raw eggs, which could potentially be a source of salmonella.