Prenatal Nutrition: How to Eat When You're Pregnant

October 14, 2016

Regardless of how many weeks or months you are into the pregnancy, you’re already a mother. What you eat during pregnancy has a tremendous impact on the child’s developing brain and body.

Believe it or not, some medical experts believe that an imbalanced diet can cause trauma to the child’s brain and possibly contribute towards cognitive disorders such as ADHD.

Adversely, a healthy diet can not only promote health for your baby, it can help you, the expecting mother to have a better experience with childbirth. How so?

In addition, what foods should mothers eat, what foods should be avoided?

Why is Prenatal Diet Important?

A healthy diet prior to and during pregnancy plays an important role in protecting the growing baby and the mother from short and long-term health risks. The mother’s diet is a developing baby’s main source of nourishment.

Dr. Alan Greene, spoke on the importance of prenatal health, saying,

“The developing baby is more vulnerable than adults are. The placenta does an amazing job of nourishing and protecting the baby but there a few things we need to pay attention to.”

Poor prenatal nutrition is a key factor contributing to a developing baby’s health. Research shows that prenatal diet plays a more important role in determining a developing babies health and predisposition to some diseases, than genetic factors. For example, studies show that in cases of surrogacy where a woman carries and delivers a baby that was conceived from the egg of another woman the health of the baby is influenced more by the woman bearing the child then the woman whose eggs were used.

Experts recommend that pregnant women and mothers-to-be choose a variety of different food groups including grain, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and dairy to provide the important nutrients a baby needs for healthy growth and development.

What Food and Nutrients do Pregnant Women Need

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist recommended the following nutrients for pregnant women:

Folic Acid

Also known as folate. This is vital for preventing birth defects in the brain and spine. Many women take supplements to achieve the recommended dosage of 600 micrograms a day. Folic acid can be found in leafy vegetables, bread, and pasta.


This mineral contributes towards the foundational development of the baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnant women are advised to have 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Calcium can be found in greens, yogurt, cheese, sardines, salmon and leafy greens.


Mothers to be are advised to have 27 milligrams of iron per day. Which is double the amount recommended for non-expecting women. The additional iron is needed to make more blood to supply the baby with oxygen. A shortage of the mineral during pregnancy can lead to anemia, resulting in fatigue and an increased risk of infections. This mineral can be found in meat, poultry, fish, dried beans, cereals, and peas.


This nutrient plays a role in developing the baby’s, brain and heart. This can be found in meat, tofu, nuts, eggs, dried beans, and peas.

What Foods Should Pregnant Women Avoid

When it comes to a prenatal diet, it is especially important to avoid certain foods. Dr. Alan Greene mentioned, in the video above, a few saying,

“There are a few fish you need to avoid because of the mercury and PCP pollutants. Things like swordfish, shark and king mackerel , you want to avoid. Also, raw fish, raw sushi, raw oysters you want to avoid because of infections…

Listeria is a bacteria that can be devastating for a baby. The thing that is different about it, it can thrive in a refrigerator. Most bacteria don’t do well there. Soft cheeses are one place to be concerned about. I would be concerned with brie, camembert. I would be concerned with any soft cheese or any cheese with blue veins it could have the bacteria.

Another place you can find it is in luncheon meats. Things like cold cuts, hot dogs before they’re cooked , can have it in there.

Leftovers in general can have listeria.”

What about Prenatal Caloric Intake and Weight Gain?

Dr. Keith Eddleman, offered his professional opinion saying,

“For the average sized woman, the recommendation is that you gain, somewhere between 25 and 35 pounds throughout the whole pregnancy… Most women, when they’re not pregnant, consume about 2100 calories a day, a pregnant woman needs to increase her caloric intake about 300 calories a day… It’s not just calories. You really want to be eating high-quality calories…”

Mothers should always consult a pediatrician for specifics, but most women can expect to gain 25 - 35 pounds and if you’re having twins, 35 to 45 pounds. Why? The extra weight goes towards the baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, breast tissue, and stored fat for breastfeeding.

Are Green and Vegan Diets Healthy for Pregnant Women?

More women are looking at vegetarian and vegan diets for childbearing. Reason being is that women are reporting tremendous health benefits. This includes better weight management, less sickness and a better overall mental state.

Before mothers consider a green diet, they need to consult with their pediatrician to ensure that they’re getting the proper nutrients. In addition, mothers are advised not to start a green diet while pregnant. This should be a diet that is started before the pregnancy.

Prenatal Nutrition and Breastmilk

When it comes to prenatal diets, and healthy milk, mothers are advised to eat a well-balanced diet that includes dairy products. This includes healthy yogurt, cheese, and milk. These foods are rich in calcium and vitamins.

However, some mothers who’ve abandoned dairy products have noticed that they experience less morning sickness. If you do decide to abandon dairy, speak to your pediatrician about a safe alternative.

Conclusion: Your Amazing Body

No two pregnancies are the same but one of the amazing things about your body is that in most cases you really don’t need to do too much. Even if you maintained your current diet, your body would use your existing food stores to provide for the child inside of you.

However, if you want your child to grow up healthy and strong, definitely keep in mind the points mentioned in order to help ensure proper development of your baby’s brain and body development.

Handpicked Related Articles

Let Us Guide You Through The Process of Finding a Nanny or Nanny Job is Canada’s largest and most trusted online service for finding nannies and babysitters. We have been recognized by Today’s Parent, CanadaAM, the Globe & Mail, Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living Magazine, and many reputable parenting websites and publications across Canada.

Contact Us

Although we may be a self-serve nanny service, we are still very much devoted to helping families and caregivers succeed in their search for a match through our site. Our customer support team is always here and happy to offer any advice to our potential and existing customers.

Need a Nanny?

Need a Nanny Job?

Canadian Nanny Payroll and Tax Service powered by Heartpayroll