Much of the preparation for pregnancy and birth is focused on avoiding risks, but did you know that the way you eat throughout your pregnancy can help to boost your baby’s IQ level, lower their future disease and obesity risk, and also make birth easier and less painful and help you to recover faster post-birth?
Why Should I Eat Well During Pregnancy?
An optimal nutritious diet throughout pregnancy is crucial for growing a healthy baby, minimizing complications, and also beyond birth. A healthy diet during pregnancy can reduce the chances of your baby developing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease later in life. Eating well and taking certain probiotics throughout pregnancy can dramatically reduce the chances of your baby developing asthma, eczema, and hay fever after they are born (more on this later).
This pregnancy diet plan gives you key foods to focus on for the baby’s development each month, along with common physical symptoms experienced at this time and nutritional and lifestyle strategies to manage these. First, let’s look at some general guidelines for healthy eating throughout your whole pregnancy.
What Should I Eat Throughout Pregnancy?
GUIDELINES FOR EATING THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE PREGNANCY
Focus on nutrient-dense whole foods: e.g. minimally processed food and as close to the natural form as possible. When you buying packaged foods – a good rule of thumb is if there are ingredients on the packet you don’t recognize – don’t buy it.
Good quality protein: most women during pregnancy require around 80 grams (2.8 oz.) of protein. Good quality proteins are minimally processed and they from high-quality sources e.g. grass-fed/free-range/organic where possible. To calculate your estimated protein requirement during pregnancy, times your pre-pregnancy weight by 1.2 – this is the amount in grams suggested to eat daily. (E.g. 65 kg woman requires ~78g protein per day).
Adequate healthy fats: modern research is demonstrating the importance of healthy fats for all body systems. During pregnancy, adequate fat intake is necessary for the development of the baby’s organs and brain. Healthy sources of fats include olive oil, nuts, avocado, and seeds, eggs, oily fish, meats.
An abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit: These are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Eating varieties of fruit and veg will act as a cover-all in providing your body with many of the nutrients it needs, as well as plenty of fiber to avoid constipation. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens, parsley, etc) for a good quality source of folate.
During pregnancy at least 10 cups of fluid, a day need to drink. As blood volume increases rapidly during pregnancy, enough amount of fluid is crucial for replenishing the baby’s amniotic fluid and can prevent morning sickness and constipation. Primarily, most of this fluid comes from water, herbal tea, and occasionally juices. And avoid soda/soft drinks, alcohol, and a high intake of tea and coffee.
Steer clear of processed/high sugar foods: processed foods offer very little nutrition and often contain chemicals that can be harmful to you and your baby. Don’t waste space with these types of low nutrient foods – crowd them out with nutritious, satisfying whole and you won’t feel deprived.
Moderate levels of grains/starch: when you eating grains, go for whole grains such as brown rice, whole oats, quinoa, or whole-grain pasta. Nutrient-dense starches include sweet potato, parsnip, pumpkin, and beetroot. The high amount of consumption of carbohydrates (particularly refined carbs and sugars) during pregnancy can imbalance blood sugar levels and contribute to gestational diabetes, so try to include moderate serves each meal.
High-quality pregnancy multivitamin that contains at least 400 mcg folic acid (to help prevent neural tube defects) – it is most important in the very early stages of pregnancy as the spinal cord is developed 4 weeks after conception. It is necessary to start as soon as you know you are pregnant, or ideally before you start trying to conceive. If you already know you have an MTHFR gene mutation (which is responsible for the conversion of folic acid to other compounds required by the body), you may also benefit from supplementing folinic acid and/or 5-MTHF instead.
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus probiotic: If both parents have a history of eczema, the risk of their baby developing eczema is around 60-80%. Probiotics containing Lactobacillus strains have been shown to reduce the risk of the child developing allergies by almost 80%. Lactobacillus rhamnosus when taken in the final trimester of pregnancy (and in some cases postnatally as well), it greatly reduces the risk of the baby developing atopy (asthma, eczema, hay fever). If you or your partner have a history of allergies, talk to your doctor about whether this probiotic might be helpful for you.
Magnesium: It is essential for fetal bone and teeth development and can prevent premature contraction of the uterus. It’s also a great supplement to take throughout your pregnancy as it helps muscles to relax, so it can help with constipation, assist your tissue growth and promote restful sleep.
Fish oil/omega 3’s are essential nutrients for neurological and visual development in your baby, and the production of breast milk. Healthcare experts say that supplementing with omega 3 during pregnancy can increase the cognitive development of your baby and boost future IQ. It is also found that a higher intake of omega 3’s may decrease the risk of allergy development in the baby. Furthermore, it has been shown to reduce premature labor, lower the risk of preeclampsia and the mother’s risk of depression. Consult with your doctor about whether an omega 3 supplement may be beneficial for you but more importantly note – the quality of these supplements varies widely. Choose good quality brands that have proven purity and appropriate storage – not the cheap brand off your chemist’s shelf.
1st Trimester Pregnancy Diet Plan – (4 – 13 weeks)
The beginning of 1st trimester of pregnancy is the first day of your last period. And this period continues until 12 weeks of your pregnancy which means the first 3 months of your pregnancy. In biological terms, this period is the first step of pregnancy. In that stage, the fertilized egg rapidly divides into layers of cells and implants in the wall of your womb. The interesting fact is these layers of cells become an embryo, the term we use for the baby in this stage.
Your fetal grows rapidly during the first trimester, and by the end of 3rd month, it grew a tiny human being that is a fetus. And during this fast-developing period, you need to have a disciplined diet.
1st Month pregnancy diet
Baby’s development during 1st month of pregnancy:
During the first month of pregnancy, your baby is an embryo consisting of two layers of cells. All the organs and body parts will start to develop from here. During this month, the neural tube is developed which is the reason a supplement containing folic acid (or folinic acid or 5-MTHF if you know that you have an MTHFR gene mutation) is important to prevent neural tube defects(NTD).
Your physical symptoms during 1st month of pregnancy:
Morning sickness is a common symptom in the first few months of pregnancy. It is not experienced by all pregnant women but can be extremely severe for some. The good news is that most pregnant women find their nausea disappears by the beginning of their second trimester. In the meantime, here are some tips to decrease nausea (which can occur at any time of the day, not just in the morning):
- Eat a carbohydrate-rich snack 15-20 minutes before you get out of bed in the morning – this can help to settle the stomach before you start to move about. Try store some plain crackers or bread by your bed for when you wake up
- Consume a smaller amount of meals, more frequently (i.e. 6 meals a day, rather than 3).
- Focus on foods that are light to digest
- Consume liquids between meals rather than with food
- Stay away from foods that contain high fat (fried and spicy foods) as these can aggravate nausea
- Drink plain soda water throughout the day when you feel nauseous
Important food to focus on during 1st first month of pregnancy :
- Folate-rich foods: green leafy vegetables (spinach, parsley, rocket), whole-grains and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, beans, )
- Vitamin B6: 40 mg taken twice daily is an effective, natural treatment at reducing early pregnancy nausea and vomiting. Consult with your healthcare provider about taking this supplement if you feel it might be useful
- Dairy Products: Dairy products are a good source of calcium, protein, vitamins, and healthy fats.
- Fruits: Fruits are rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Ensure to have at least 3 servings of fruits every day.
- Sugary Foods: To add at least 200-300 extra calories a day in the form of natural sugars include foods like puddings, fresh fruits, pancakes.
- Iron-Rich Foods: It helps in providing a steady flow of blood. Include foods like oatmeal, beetroot, and dried fruits, and beans for a good supply of iron.
2nd Month pregnancy diet
Baby’S development during 2nd month of pregnancy:
During the second month of pregnancy, your baby is around the size of a kidney bean and has distinct, slightly webbed fingers.
Your physical symptoms:
Nausea and fatigue are common in the second month of pregnancy.
Important food to eat 2nd month of pregnancy:
- Ginger for nausea: It has been demonstrated to provide the same relief from nausea as the leading anti-nausea drugs. Try grating 2 Tbsp. into hot water as a tea, chewing on crystallized ginger sweets for entire the day, or adding powdered ginger to cooking.
- Vitamin E: It demonstrated a link between low vitamin E status and increased miscarriage risk
- Some good sources of vitamin E include:
- raw almonds
- olive oil
- sunflower seeds
- egg yolk
- Protein: It supplies blood to your baby and is helpful for the development of muscles in the baby. Fish and low-fat cottage cheese are good sources of protein.
- Folic Acid: Folate or folic acid is an essential B vitamin that beneficial for the normal growth of the neural tube. Sources of folic acid include beans, spinach, and fortified cereals.
- Calcium: It is required for the ossification of the baby bone. Therefore, include foods like leafy green vegetables and dairy products.
- Iron: To keep up with the increase in the supply of blood in your body, includes iron supplements to fulfill it
NOTE: Before taking iron supplements consult your doctor
3rd Month Pregnancy Diet
BABY’S development during 3rd month:
During 3rd month of pregnancy, your baby is around 7 to 8 cm (3 inches) long and weighs the same as a pea pod. Tiny, unique fingerprints are now distinct.
Physical symptoms during 3rd month:
Nausea possibly starts to disappear at the end of this month.
Important foods to focus on in the 3rd month of pregnancy:
- Ensure you are having at least 10 glasses of water each day plus fluid-filled fruits and vegetables to keep you and your baby hydrated
- Fresh fruits
- VItamins B6 rich food
- Meat is a good source of proteins and minerals.
2nd Trimester of Pregnancy Diet Plan (14-27 Weeks)
Healthy and nutritious diet that contains all the essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, etc. Will help you to gain extra weight during the 2nd-trimester of pregnancy.
2nd trimester is the second stage of pregnancy and in this stage, you need to take extra care of yourself to prevent any further complications.
Knowing what foods to eat when pregnant during your second trimester is crucial as this is the phase where your baby is growing day by day.
Month 4 Pregnancy Diet
During the fourth month of pregnancy, your baby is around 13 cm (5.5 inches) long and weighs 140g (5oz). The skeleton is starting to harden from rubbery cartilage into the bone and now your baby bump will usually begin to show this month.
YOUR PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS:
Nausea usually disappears by 4th month and you may start to notice much of your energy returning.
Important Foods to include in your diet in the 4th month of pregnancy:
- Iron-rich foods: your blood volume is rapidly increasing during the 2nd trimester (and will increase by 50% by the time you give birth). It is important to increase your intake of good-quality proteins like eggs and free-range meats (organic/grass-fed where possible). If you are vegetarian, ensure you are consuming enough iron-rich plant-based foods such as leafy greens and legumes with every meal, along with a source of vitamin C (such as a squeeze of lemon juice or some capsicum/peppers) as this enhances the body’s uptake of iron from plant-based sources. Iron deficiency during pregnancy causes fatigue for the mother and low birth weight in iron-deficient infants so keep on top of your iron intake or consult with your healthcare provider about supplementation of iron if this might be an issue or you have been feeling very fatigued.
- High Fiber food: whole grains and green vegetables have high fiber content. Fiber-rich foods will help you get rid of constipation during the later stages of pregnancy.
- Milk Products: Calcium intake is very important for the development of stronger bones and teeth in your baby.
- Seasonal Fruits: Fruits are essential throughout the pregnancy period. Fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals and ard fiber.
- Fatty Acids: To lower down the risk of cognitive retardation in your baby try to eating freshwater fish, olive oil, and nuts, etc. These contain essential fatty acids like omega 3, 6, and 9.
Month 5 Pregnancy Diet
During 5th month of pregnancy, your baby’s elbows and eyelids will now be visible. The baby is around 27cm (10.5inches) long. Your energy usually increases during this month and your baby bump is probably obvious by this point. You may also feel baby kicks in this month!
YOUR PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS:
Important Foods to Include in Your Diet in the 5th Month of Pregnancy:
- Calcium: is crucial during pregnancy for your developing baby’s teeth and bones, as well as helping your baby grow a healthy heart, nerves, and muscles.
- Some good sources of calcium (try to include at least 2 daily):
- Small bony fish such as sardines
- Green leafy vegetables
- Dairy (if tolerated)
- Vitamin C: your body is not able to store vitamin C so it’s important to have daily food sources such as broccoli, oranges, and tomatoes. It is needed throughout pregnancy to make collagen – a protein that provides structure to cartilage, bones, tendons, and skin, as well as helping your body to fight infections
- Whole grains
- Eat foods that are rich in protein(eggs, meat, tofu, cheese, etc.)
- Eat lots of green vegetables
- Increase your fluid intake
Month 6 Pregnancy Diet
During the 6th month of pregnancy, your baby weighs around 660g (1.5 lb). Their wrinkled skin is starting to stretch out as the baby puts on some fat.
Your Physical Symptoms:
Hunger often increases during this month, so you need more calories to support your rapidly growing baby, ensure to choose nutrient-dense rather than calorie-dense foods to give you and your baby optimal nutrients for growth.
Constipation is common around this time of pregnancy. Constipation commonly occurs during pregnancy as the body is slowing down the speed of digestion to ensure maximum uptake of nutrients to support the growth of your baby. Therefore, focussing on a nutrient-dense whole food, diet will likely prevent constipation as the body’s nutritional needs are being met. If you do struggle with the problems of constipation, focus on getting plenty of whole grains, fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, and legumes, as well as drinking enough water throughout the day.
Important Foods to Eat in the 6th Month of Pregnancy:
- Eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes to prevent constipation. Try to include 25-30g fiber each day. This roughly equates to 2 cups of legumes, 5 large apples, or 2 cups of wheat bran.
- For natural relief from constipation, try to take 1 Tbsp. of psyllium mixed into a glass of water before bed, to promote a healthy bowel movement.
- Carbohydrates: good source of carbohydrates- wheat, cereals, oatmeal, etc.
- Fluids: (8-10 glasses of water daily). It will also help you to get rid of constipation.
- Folic Acid: essential nutrients for determining a baby’s brain development. Consume foods like pumpkin, flax seeds, cereals, etc.
- Vitamin C: Taking enough amount of vitamin C can help in repairing damaged connective tissue and prevent bleeding gums. Include lemons, oranges, grapes in your diet.
- Fruits: Provides all the essential micronutrients and keeps your body hydrated throughout the day.
3rd Trimester Pregnancy Diet (28-40 Weeks)
The 3rd trimester of pregnancy commonly lies between 27-40 weeks. It is important to have a healthy and nutritious diet during 3rd trimester.
In this stage, your baby’s growth will increase as it starts preparing for life outside the womb. Hence, this is the time when mothers should take enough amount of calories for both their daily requirements and their baby.
Month 7 Pregnancy Diet
During the 7th month of pregnancy, your baby is now more than 40cm (15 inches) long. They can able to open and close their eyes and see what is around them.
YOUR PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS:
Heartburn: due to your enlarging uterus, it is common for pressure to be placed on the stomach, causing acid to creep up the esophagus.
Some tips to avoid heartburn:
- Eat small meals regularly
- Avoid high-fat, fried foods and spicy foods
- Don’t eat until you are full (stop at 80%)
- Avoid laying down up to 45-60 minutes after eating
- Try to eat dinner earlier
- Try elevating the head of your bed at night
Important Foods to eat in the 7th Month of Pregnancy:
- Protein: Adequate amount of protein throughout pregnancy is crucial for the development of the fetus. Normally most women need around 80 grams of protein (2.8 oz) every day for a healthy pregnancy. Consuming protein each day has been linked with a lower risk of developing preeclampsia, morning sickness, and other complications. Low protein diets can increase the chances of the baby developing high blood pressure later in life, so you must be consuming enough good quality protein.
- Iron-rich diet: Iron-rich diet decreases the risk of developing anemia. It is also important for the brain development of your baby. Include salmon, chicken, beans, lentils, and spinach.
- Vitamin C: It helps in the absorption of iron-rich foods. Include bell pepper, broccoli, tomatoes, oranges, lemons, etc.
- Calcium-rich diet: It is crucial for the development of your baby’s skeletal system and shapes up the bone structure. Include Milk, cheese, soy milk, and chia seeds.
- Magnesium diet: It helps in the assimilation of Calcium, also prevents premature delivery. Some good sources of Magnesium are barley, almonds, and pumpkin seeds.
- Folic acid: It is essential for the development of neural systems and the prevention of neural tube defects. Oranges, oatmeal, and green leafy vegetables are the best sources of folic acid.
- DHA enriched diet: DHA is a fatty acid that helps in the development of your baby’s brain. Foods like flax, seeds, walnuts, and fish oil are must-haves for DHA intake.
- Fiber-rich diet: Fiber-rich diet helps to prevent constipation.
Month 8 Pregnancy Diet
The baby now weighs around 2.4kg (4.7lb). Layers of fat are filling out and lungs are well developed.
YOUR PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS:
Frequent urination, shortness of breath, trouble sleeping, backaches are common as you head towards the end of your pregnancy. Try having a warm shower before bed and buying a long pillow that will help you to support your belly while you sleep on your side.
Important Foods to Focus on Eat in the 8th Month of Pregnancy:
- Omega 3 fatty acids: baby’s brain growth and development are the fastest around this time, so focus on including omega-3 sources in your diet such as:
- Oily fish like salmon
- Nuts and seeds
- Ground flaxseeds
- Iron-rich food:
- Milk and dairy products:
- Vitamin C:
- Vital fatty acids:
- Bananas: Bananas are rich in potassium, calcium, and iron. Bananas help in digestion and relieving constipation, making them a must-have for pregnant ladies.
- leafy vegetables:
- Sour cherries: promote restful sleep by increasing your body’s natural supply of melatonin (our sleep-regulating hormone). Try to eat 1 cup of unsweetened cherry juice before bed.
Month 9 Pregnancy Diet
The baby is almost ready to come out. At birth, they are possibly more than 51cm (20.5 inches) long from head to toe and weigh around 3.4kg (7.5lb).
Your Physical Symptoms:
Swollen hands and feet are common during the 9th month. To overcome this, avoid excess salt intake and increase your water consumption. Try to do some gentle exercise such as walking or swimming to help to promote the movement of fluid.
Important Foods to Eatin 9th Month of Pregnancy:
- Garlic: garlic intake during the 9th month of pregnancy has been correlated with a significantly reduced risk of preterm labor. This is thought to be related to the antimicrobial properties of garlic, which reduces infections of the urinary and genital tract, which can increase premature delivery. “High” intake of garlic in this study equated to 1 single garlic clove per week.
- Dates: consumption of 6 dates daily during the last 4 weeks before the estimated due date was found to dramatically increase the chances of spontaneous labor (i.e. reduce the need to be induced), encourage greater cervical dilation, faster first stage of labor, and decreased need for medical and pharmaceutical intervention.
- Raisins: an intake of around 2 handfuls of dried raisins per week has been correlated with a reduction in chances of premature labor. Try snacking on raisins as well, or add to salads or rice dishes for a sweet flavor burst.
- High-fiber foods
- Calcium-rich foods
- Iron-rich foods.
- Vitamin C
- Folic Acid
FOODS TO AVOID DURING PREGNANCY:
- Raw/undercooked meats
- Cold cuts of cured meat
- Raw fish (sashimi/sushi)
- Soft cheeses
- Salad bars
- Raw eggs (and foods that contain them e.g. mayonnaise and raw cake batter)
- Unwashed fruit and veg
- High levels of caffeine (coffee, black tea)
- Packaged foods may contain disease-causing bacteria.
- Processed Meats are refrigerated and infected by pathogens. These are not cooked properly and are therefore harmful to your health.
- Unpasteurized Milk: It may contain pathogens and other microorganisms that are harmful to your health.
- Junk food: This food affects your hygiene in a bad way. This kind of food contains harmful microorganisms which may cause complications during your pregnancy.
- Carbonated drinks contain sugar caffeine and unhealthy calories that can harm your baby as well as your body.
- Pate is a food that you must avoid at all trimesters. It can contain listeria which causes listeriosis. It can also cause miscarriage or stillbirth.
QUICK TIPS FOR FOODS TO EAT DURING PREGNANCY
- Dairy products, especially yogurt, are a great choice. They help you to meet the increased needs of protein and calcium.
- Legumes are super rich sources of folate, fiber, and many other nutrients. Folate is a vital nutrient during pregnancy.
- Sweet potatoes are a good source of beta carotene, which your body transforms into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for the growth and differentiation of cells in your growing baby.
- Salmon contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are crucial for brain and eye development in your growing baby. Salmon is a natural source of vitamin D.
- Whole eggs are nutritious and a great way to increase your overall nutrient intake. Whole eggs contain choline, an essential nutrient for brain health and development.
- Broccoli and leafy greens contain most of the nutrients that you’ll need during pregnancy. They’re also rich in fiber, which may help to reduce constipation.
- Lean meat is a good source of high-quality protein. Beef and pork are also rich in iron, choline, and vitamins B, all of which are important nutrients for pregnant women.
- Berries contain water, carbs, vitamin C, fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and plant compounds, so they may help you increase your nutrient and water intake.
- Whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins B & vitamins, and magnesium, and plant compounds.
- Avocados contain high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids, folate, fiber, and potassium.
- Dried fruit may be highly beneficial during pregnancy since they’re small and nutrient-dense. Ensure that limit your portions and avoid candied varieties, to prevent excess sugar intake.
- Drinking water is important as your blood volume increases. Adequate hydration may also help you prevent constipation and urinary tract infections.