7 Crucial Foods to Eat When You’re Pregnant

During your pregnancy, it’s extremely important to eat nutrient-rich, good-for-you foods. The Office on Women’s Health, which falls under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, explains that it is crucial to make healthy choices when you’re eating for two because your body needs more protein, iron, calcium, and folic acid. This means you need to choose foods that will provide you and your baby with a powerful dose of vitamins and minerals. Luckily, there are several foods that will provide you and your developing baby with the nutrients you need. Here are 7 of the best foods to eat while you’re pregnant.

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Whole grains

Whole grains are a wonderful source of fiber and other key nutrients, including selenium, potassium, and magnesium. Baby Med explains that whole grains provide insoluble fiber, which helps the body push foods more quickly through the digestive system. This decreases constipation, an issue that can often arise for pregnant women. Parents states that by eating whole-grain bread instead of white, you’ll be able to more easily reach the recommended 20 to 35 daily grams of fiber.

Looking for another great way to up your whole grains intake? What to Expect suggests munching on air-popped popcorn. It’s packed with fiber and can even help to ease nausea. You can also get a serving of whole grains by eating whole corn, rice, oats, quinoa, wheat, and barley, according to What to Expect.

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Lean meats

During pregnancy, your daily iron needs double, meaning it’s important to eat plenty of iron-rich foods. If you don’t have good iron stores, Parents warns that you’re more likely to feel tired throughout your pregnancy. Livestrong adds that without enough iron, a pregnant woman can end up developing iron-deficiency anemia, a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells.

That is why it’s important to consume plenty of iron-packed lean meats. Livestrong says that pork has the highest iron content among meats, with a 3-ounce serving containing more than 7 milligrams of iron, or about 25 percent of a pregnant woman’s needs. Additionally, one half-cup of diced chicken or turkey contains 4.5 to 7 milligrams of iron, while a 3-ounce serving of beef contains 4.5 to 7 milligrams of iron.

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Dark green, leafy vegetables

You can’t go wrong with dark green, leafy vegetables. The Huffington Post suggests eating plenty of spinach, a folate-packed, nutrient-rich food. “Adequate folate is required in early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain and spinal cord),” Anar Allidina, a registered dietitian, told The Huffington Post.

Baby Center adds that kale, Swiss chard, and any other vegetable with a dark-green hue will promote eye health and provide several key vitamins and nutrients, including folate and vitamins A, C, and K. There are several easy ways to ensure you’re incorporating leafy greens into your diet. Lifehack recommends tossing them into a smoothie, preparing kale chips, and using them as an ingredient in your soups.

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Colorful fruits and vegetables

Any fruit or veggie that has a vibrant green, yellow, orange, or red hue will provide you with plenty of nutrients throughout your pregnancy. This includes foods such as sweet potatoes, berries, oranges, peppers, and tomatoes. What to Expect explains that colorful produce contains phytochemicals, particularly beta-carotene, which the body then converts to vitamin A. It’s important to make sure you’re getting plenty of this vitamin, since it plays a key role in the development of your infant’s eyes, skin, bones, and organs.

Make sure you’re consuming vitamin A that comes from plants and retinoid. Pregnancy recommends avoiding preformed vitamin A, which comes from animal tissue and has been linked to birth defects. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states: “High intakes of preformed vitamin A in pregnant women can also cause birth defects in their babies. Women who might be pregnant should not take high doses of vitamin A supplements.” Eating fruits and veggies is the safest and healthiest way to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin A.

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Dairy products are packed with calcium, a nutrient that’s essential for building your baby’s bones and teeth. The Mayo Clinic notes that you’ll also get vitamin D and protein through the dairy products you eat and drink. When you’re pregnant, Parents explains that your body absorbs about twice as much calcium from foods, meaning your daily needs remain the same. It’s important to aim for about 3 cups of dairy a day, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Parents suggests drinking nonfat milk, which provides about 30 percent of the recommended dietary allowance of 1,000 milligrams. The Huffington Post recommends eating Greek yogurt to get your calcium and protein fix. While regular nonfat yogurt only has 6 to 8 grams of protein per serving, Greek has between 15 and 18 grams per serving.

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Beans are a quintessential pregnancy food. Baby Center explains that this super nutritious veggie is packed with iron, folate, calcium, and zinc. Beans also happen to contain the most fiber and protein of all the vegetables, according to Baby Center. Getting plenty of fiber throughout your pregnancy can even help ward off some unwanted problems. Baby Center warns that pregnant women are more susceptible to constipation and hemorrhoids, due to the gastrointestinal tract slowing down during pregnancy. Luckily, fiber can help alleviate those issues.

There are plenty of bean varieties to choose from, and each type is just as nutritious as the next. WebMD suggests incorporating black beans, white beans, pinto beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, and kidney garbanzo into your regular food rotation. They add great flavor to a number of dishes, including chili, soups, salads, and pasta.

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Flaxseeds contain omega-3, an essential fat that plays a key role in helping your baby’s brain and eyes develop, WebMD explains. Flaxseeds contain a hearty dose of a particularly beneficial fatty acid, DHA, which helps to metabolize fat-soluble vitamins, according to What to Expect. It’s important to find food sources that can provide DHA fatty acids, since it is something our bodies can’t make on their own. WebMD notes that research has shown that infants who are born to moms with higher blood levels of DHA at delivery had advanced attention spans.

Additionally, during the first six months, these babies were two months ahead of infants whose mothers had lower DHA levels. To make sure you’re getting enough DHA, What to Expect suggests sprinkling flaxseed over your cereal, yogurt, or soup, or drizzling some flaxseed oil over a salad. You can also get your healthy fats by incorporating salmon, avocados, and walnuts into your diet. Just remember: While healthy, these are still high-calorie foods, so make sure you aren’t overindulging.

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