The Healthiest Pregnancy Diet
The Healthiest Pregnancy Diet

by Monica Gullon

The Healthiest Pregnancy Diet: Tips to Stock Your Pantry

It's easier to eat well during pregnancy when you have the right foods stocked in your kitchen. When shopping, look for nutrient-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains, advises Melissa Dobbins, M.S., L.D.N., R.D., C.D.E., a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and prenatal nutrition coordinator at the Center for Maternal & Fetal Health at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill.

"When shopping for food while pregnant, you want the most nutritional bang for your buck," says Dobbins, who encourages her pregnant clients to develop a nutrition-based shopping list and to be adventurous in the way they eat. "Try a fruit or vegetable you haven't had before! You can't live on just broccoli."

Here's what to toss in your cart for a healthy pregnancy:

Brightly colored fruits and vegetables

Whether you're buying fresh or frozen produce, try to choose fruits and veggies that are dark green, vibrant yellow or deep red. Think kale, yellow peppers and raspberries. You'll get vitamins and important minerals, like iron and potassium (key to regulating the body's intake of sodium), plus fiber to help keep your digestive system working properly.

Whole grains

Whole-grain cereals, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta in various shapes offer fiber, a modest amount of protein and folate (a B vitamin that protects your baby against birth defects).

Calcium-rich, low-fat dairy foods

Milk, cheese and yogurt add protein and calcium, nutrients that are all essential to your baby's developing skeletal system. (If you steer clear of dairy, stock up on fortified orange juice and calcium-rich veggies -- like broccoli -- to add to soups or stir-fries.)

Lean meats, fish and plant-based protein

Choose a variety of lean red meat, lean poultry, tofu and seafood. (Pick low-mercury seafood, like salmon, whitefish, tilapia, haddock and shrimp. Avoid high-mercury fish like tuna, marlin and Chilean sea bass.) Canned wild salmon is especially convenient and can be used to make salmon burgers, salads and spreads.

Fiber-filled legumes

Chickpeas, peas, lentils, soybeans and beans are low in fat and high in protein and fiber. Choose canned, frozen or dried legumes.

Healthy fats

Olive oil, nuts (e.g., almonds and walnuts) and seeds (e.g., sunflower and sesame) are loaded with healthy fats that help your body properly absorb vitamins. Plus, they're all easy to keep in your cabinets.

Flavor-boosting spices, herbs and seasonings

Don't forget to include herbs like basil, oregano, parsley and thyme -- as well as spices like ginger, curry and chili powder -- to liven up your cuisine (and add antioxidants). Also, opt for the low-sodium versions of soy sauce and other favorite condiments.

Do a Quick Check

To ensure you're getting the nutrients you need, make sure to take your prenatal vitamin daily and review your kitchen to make sure the following key nutrients for fetal development are well-represented:

Folic acid

This B vitamin prevents birth defects. Look for it in fortified breads, cereals and pastas. You need 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.

[ Why You Need More Folic Acid in Your Pregnancy Diet ]


This mineral helps stave off anemia so you can have a healthy delivery. You'll find it in leafy greens, beans, red meat, chicken and fish. You need 27 milligrams of iron per day.


This mineral is essential to the development of your baby's bones and muscles. Get three servings of low-fat dairy, such as milk, cheese and yogurt. You need 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.

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Women's Health: The Healthiest Pregnancy Diet