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Ten of the Best Foods to Add to Your Early Pregnancy Meal Plan

8 minutes read
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Being an expecting mom is a source of joy mixed with many challenges, and choosing the best foods for early pregnancy is just one. Still, sticking to balanced eating patterns may put you and your baby in a better position to face the obstacles head-on, so it's definitely worth the effort.

Of course, it's one thing to say you want to eat healthier, and it’s another thing to actually implement it—it doesn't happen overnight. A pregnancy nutritionist can help you on your journey, but here are some of the best foods for early pregnancy.

Why You Should Care About Picking the Best Foods for Early Pregnancy

Most people have a general appreciation of the fact that formulating healthy eating patterns is a smart choice during pregnancy. However, the idea that your consumption choices matter at this critical time goes beyond anecdotes. For instance, research seems to suggest that healthful eating might translate to a healthy pregnancy by

  • improving the neonatal size, also known as healthier birth weight, for your baby;
  • contributing to improvements in symptoms like morning sickness, which, although partially hormone-influenced, may also have to do with the reduced consumption of foods like green leafy vegetables;
  • promoting your baby's general growth and lowering their odds of developing iron deficiency anemia, brain and spinal cord problems, and other issues.

These are just some of the possible benefits for mothers who choose to eat healthily or work with dietitians and nutritionists to come up with healthier eating patterns. 

From helping you manage GI tract issues and lower your odds of constipation to helping your baby develop healthy bones, a lot is going for the argument that eating habits affect pregnancy outcomes from day one, so why wait until the third trimester to start making better choices?

Top 10 Best Foods for Early Pregnancy

Choosing the right foods for maternity can be a bit tricky it’s why partnering with the right type of pregnancy nutrtitionist can make this process a lot easier. But by following a few simple rules, you and your baby can make sure you both get the nutrients you need.

One of the essential things to remember when choosing foods for pregnancy is to eat various foods from all food groups. It's also necessary to make sure you're getting enough calories. Pregnant women need about 300 extra calories per day.

Along with eating a variety of foods, you should also make sure you get enough fluids, since pregnant women are more likely to become dehydrated.

Finally, you should ensure that you get enough folate, either naturally or in the form of a folic acid supplement. Folate is a very important nutrient that helps prevent birth defects, especially those that affect the neural tube. 

1. Legumes

Legumes, like lentils, peanuts, soybeans, and peas, are high in folate. They're also excellent sources of protein, fiber, and iron, which your body craves during pregnancy but their nutrition content varies, so read the labels thoroughly. Preparation may take time, and prepared varieties, like canned beans or packaged nuts, may have high sodium

Bottom Line: Legumes are easy to work into your diet and can help you get enough folate in combination with other sources.

2. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is necessary for the development of the fetus's eyes, heart, lungs, and kidneys. Sweet potatoes are also a healthy source of fiber, which can help prevent constipation and lower your risk of blood sugar spikes.

Sweet potatoes let you get your beta-carotene with a lower toxicity risk than animal-based sources, keeps you full longer, and can help prevent constipation. However it’s low in iron and lacking vitamins B12, and D.

Bottom Line: Sweet potatoes are filling and nutritious when eaten as part of a balanced diet.

3. Mangoes

Mangoes are a good source of vitamin C and folate. They also taste pretty good, and since they come in such wide varieties, adding them to your diet can be an excellent way to mix things up.

They’re a good source of vitamin C and folate but are seasonal in availability and have a slippy consistency, so handling itt can be messy

Bottom Line: Mangoes help support pregnant women and their babies by providing copper and folate.

4. Berries

Berries contain lots of antioxidants, which can help to protect the cells from damage. They're also an excellent way to get more fiber. They’re a good source of antioxidants and fiber, but are a higher per-pound price compared to other fruits and are not very filling.

Bottom Line: Berries make a tasty addition to many other foods, especially when you want a healthier dessert or snack.

5. Kiwi

Kiwi is a good source of vitamin C, promoting a healthier immune system, and is relatively high in folate but some people have kiwi allergies. If you're unsure whether that's you, a latex allergy is often an indicator that you should tread carefully with this fruit.

Bottom Line: Kiwis may be small, but they are full of healthy nutrition. People with latex allergies should beware of possible kiwi allergies.

6. Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables are a group of vegetables that include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards, and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables are rich in nutrients, vitamins A, C, and K, and minerals like iron, potassium, and calcium.

It has been shown that eating leafy green vegetables while pregnant is good for the health of the baby, including giving the baby a healthier birth weight. Cruciferous vegetables are also a good source of fiber and folate, which plays a role in preventing defects caused by improper neural tube development. Still, the taste can be tough to adjust to if you're not used to it.

Bottom Line: Getting your greens is a critical element of a balanced diet and is even more important during early pregnancy.

7. Avocados

Avocados contain healthy fats that promote the development of the brain and nervous system. They are a good source of healthy fats and fiber. Its high water content and even more potassium than foods like bananas, but they go through your system quickly, leaving you hungry.

Bottom Line: Avocados are packed with healthy fats and taste amazing.

8. Whole Grains

Whole grains are a good source of fiber and folate, which can help to prevent constipation. They also include folate, which is essential for developing the neural tube.

However, some sources of whole grains – like bread or dry cereals – may lack sufficient water content

Bottom Line: If you wish to improve your bowel movements and get the added benefit of a complementary source of folate, whole grains are a perfect choice.

9. Guava

Guava is a good source of vitamin C, which is essential for developing the immune system. It's also a handy source of folate. Despite all these benefits, the guava skin could contain bacteria or parasites that can harm you and the baby. It’s best to wash and peel the skin off before eating it. Unfortunately, guava is only sometimes in season, and it can take a while to ripen, so you may have to do some planning to enjoy it as a convenient snack

Bottom Line: Guava is an excellent tropical fruit for moms, but you may want to peel it.

10. High-Fiber Foods

High-fiber foods contribute to a healthy, diverse gut microbiome. Increasing your fiber intake can also help prevent constipation. The next time you go for a potato or pear, leave the skin on. High-fiber diets are helpful for pregnancy but may take some adjusting. 

Bottom Line: If you want to improve your overall GI health and eliminate problems like constipation and indigestion, you should eat more fiber.

11. Water

Increasing your water intake is a brilliant idea during pregnancy. Expecting moms should drink around 2.3 liters of water per day, and it may be easiest to get into the habit during the earlier stages of your pregnancy.

You need water to survive, and so does your baby. It can help make up for the big rise in blood volume you'll have when you're pregnant. You can increase your water intake with a range of other healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables. However, some sources, like tea or soda, come with things you're better off avoiding, such as caffeine and high sugar content

Bottom Line: Moms need to drink more water during pregnancy to avoid dehydration. 

How Top Nutrition Coaching Can Help

Picking the right pregnancy foods isn't about simply getting more fresh fruit, vitamins, minerals, or green leafy vegetables. The journey looks different for every mom, and the eating habits that work for one person may not be ideal for others.

When experts give you advice, it's easier to figure out what kinds of foods are best for your pregnancy. Finding a Registered Dietitian at Top Nutrition Coaching is the smart way to get informed and create a plan that works for you and your baby.

At Top Nutrition Coaching, you are guaranteed to work with a highly qualified Pregnancy & Postpartum Nutritionist specifically chosen for you based on your goals. What’s more? You can access their services from the comfort of your home.

Final Thoughts

Nutrition is more important than ever during pregnancy. You undergo many changes even if you're already a huge fan of healthy eating. When you're carrying a baby, it can be hard to pay attention to what you eat, let alone make big changes to the way you usually eat. 

The sooner you start, the better, so consider rethinking what you eat early in your pregnancy.

Take the quiz now and start working with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there foods I should avoid during early pregnancy?

Eating animal products is essential to ensure they're adequately prepared – meaning they should be well cooked to avoid toxoplasmosis. It's also a good idea to limit your intake of fish with high mercury levels, like swordfish, marlin, and tuna. Even when consuming fruits and veg, it's best to wash them thoroughly.

What drinks should I avoid while pregnant?

If you're pregnant, it's best to avoid alcohol, unpasteurized beverages like raw milk or freshly squeezed juices, and high-caffeine drinks.

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About the author

Nicolette Star Maggiolo, RD, LDN
I'm a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with education from Boston University and clinical training from both Brigham & Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. I specialize in helping the military and non-military individuals embrace nutrition as a partner in both their mental and physical health.

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