Pregnancy Diet & Nutrition: What to Eat, What Not to Eat

Pregnancy Diet & Nutrition: What to Eat, What Not to Eat


By Dr. Divya Gandhi , Dietitian/Nutritionist

Pregnancy is the happiest moment in a woman’s life. It can also be very stressful and tedious. Whatever an expecting mother eats during pregnancy is her child’s only source of nourishment. Therefore, it is important for an expecting mother to consume healthy beverages and foods for the baby’s development. A woman needs more folic acid, protein, calcium and iron content in her body.

What to eat during pregnancy?

  1. Folic acid- This is also known as folate, it is rich in vitamin B and is important in preventing birth defects in the brain and spine of the baby. This defect is known as neural tube defect. Foods like fortified enriched cereals, pastas, yogurt, calcium, cheese, milk and breads contain folic acid.
  2. Iron- Very little iron during pregnancy can cause anemia (deficiency of hemoglobin and red blood cells in the body) which leads to an increased susceptibility to infections and fatigue. Oranges, poultry meat, peas, iron-fortified cereal and dried beans have high iron content in them.
  3. Calcium- Calcium is a mineral used to build a baby’s bones and teeth. If a pregnant woman does not consume enough calcium, the mineral will be drawn from the mother’s stores in her bones and given to the baby to meet the extra demands of pregnancy, explains the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Many dairy products are also fortified with vitamin D, another nutrient that works with calcium to develop a baby’s bones and teeth. Pregnant women age 19 and over need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day; pregnant teens, ages 14 to 18, need 1,300 milligrams daily, according to ACOG. Milk, yogurt, cheese, calcium-fortified juices and foods, sardines or salmon with bones, some leafy greens (kale, bok choy) are some of the good sources of calcium.
  4. Protein- A woman needs more protein in her body during pregnancy. Protein helps in the development of the baby’s heart and brain. Foods like peas, tofu, eggs, fish and meat are rich in protein and should be consumed.

What not to eat during pregnancy?

  1. Caffeine- Beverages which contain caffeine should be avoided. Excessive caffeine consumption can lead to premature birth and miscarriage. However, it is safe to consume less than 200mg of caffeine per day.
  2. Alcohol- Even minute quantities of alcohol in the mother’s blood can be directly passed to the fetus through the umbilical cord. Heavy intake of alcohol can lead to physical problems as well as behavioral and learning difficulties in children.
  3. Fish containing high levels of mercury- Many sea-foods like shark, mackerel, swordfish and tilefish have extremely high amounts of mercury in them. Chemicals like methyl mercury can be harmful for the baby as it may affect the baby’s kidney, nervous system and brain.