What Foods You Should Eat (and Not Eat) When Pregnant

Upon finding out you’re pregnant, the shocking revelation hits: you are not only responsible for your own health with the food choices you make, but for a growing life inside of you. This coupled with the common notion that: “I’m eating for two.”

It’s a common misconception that pregnant women need to eat significantly larger amounts of food when they are expecting. In fact, pregnant women only need about 250 to 300 extra calories per day, which is sufficient to provide adequate nutrition for the baby.

How Much Weight to Gain When You’re Expecting

Most experts recommend gaining about 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Keeping your weight gain under control not only will allow you to have a more comfortable pregnancy, but it also makes it far easier to return to a healthy, pre-pregnancy weight. Here’s how that 25 to 35 pounds is distributed.

  • 7 – 8 pounds is baby
  • 7-8 pounds is stored nutrients
  • 8 pounds is extra blood and other extra bodily fluids
  • 4 pounds is breast and uterine enlargement
  • 2 pounds is amniotic fluid
  • 2 pounds is placenta

Problems Associated With Too Much Weight Gain

Excessive weight gain during pregnancy is linked to a number of negative health effects for both mom and baby. According to the CDC:

  • It is associated with higher birth weight babies, as well as more development of fat cells in babies before they are born. In fact, babies born to moms who gain excessive weight during pregnancy have a higher risk of becoming overweight children, and later overweight adults.
  • It makes it much more difficult to lose pregnancy weight after delivering.
  • It increases risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.
  • It amplifies risks of other pregnancy complications.
  • It increases risk of c-section. The U.S. rate of cesarean section is the third highest in the world.
  • It increases risk of type-2 diabetes in baby.
  • It increases risk of fetal and maternal death.
  • It increases the length of post-birth hospital stays.

Food You Eat Is Important

How much you eat when you’re pregnant isn’t as important as what you eat. Mothers-to-be have unique nutritional needs to protect their health and aid in the development of the baby.

Folic Acid: Pregnant women (and those planning on becoming pregnant) need higher levels of folic acid. Getting enough folic acid (also called folate or vitamin B9) during pregnancy is necessary for fetal neural tube growth, and can prevent common neural tube defects like spina bifida. Since these defects can occur before a woman knows she’s pregnant in the first four weeks after conception, it is especially important for women of child bearing years to get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. She should also continue to consume 600 micrograms of folic acid throughout pregnancy. Foods containing folic acid include lentils, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, spinach, asparagus, black beans, peas, green cabbage, and collard greens. Supplementation may also help provide adequate levels; however, research suggests more than 1,000 micrograms per day from supplemental sources such as fortified foods and supplements is not recommended.

Protein: While many pregnant women worry that a vegetarian diet contains insufficient levels of protein during pregnancy, the opposite is, in fact, true. The World Health Organization recommends pregnant women receive 6 percent of her calories from protein. This is well within the bounds of a plant-based diet.

As I discuss in The Beauty Detox Solution, excess protein produces excess acidic wastes in the body. Read below on the dangers of consuming animal protein while pregnant.

Vitamins and Minerals: Your body has unique requirements for vitamins and minerals as you grow a baby. Eating a plant-based diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables across the spectrum of color is the best way to ensure you consume the nutrients you and your baby need. Choose locally grown, in season, organic fruits and vegetables, and be sure to include whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. Your doctor or midwife may also recommend a prenatal supplement to ensure proper vitamin intake. One nutrient with significantly increased requirements is iron, which will help you produce the extra blood your body needs. Dark leafy greens, legumes like lentils and kidney beans, dried fruits, and artichokes are all excellent sources of iron.

Foods You Don’t Eat Is Important, Too

Along with making sure you take in the right nutrients when you’re pregnant, you also need to keep out things that may be harmful. Keep in mind that what you eats, your baby eats, too.

What not to eat while pregnant?

Pesticides: These toxic chemicals can be harmful to the developing fetus and to the mother. Choose organic foods, and wash all produce well before eating it.

Artificial Colors, Flavors, and Food Additives: Chemicals can have a deleterious effect on the health of your baby. Avoid processed foods, and read labels for additives and preservatives. Also avoid excitotoxins like monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame (NutraSweet), and other artificial sweeteners like sucralose. Food dyes should also be avoided, along with any ingredient on a label you can’t pronounce. The easiest way around this is by eating a whole, plant-food diet of the freshest foods you can buy. Avoid anything that comes in cans, boxes, bottles, or jars unless you know what each of the ingredients listed on the package is.

Vice” Substances: Pregnancy is not the time to indulge your vices. Caffeine not only speeds up your heart rate and blood pressure, but it crosses the placenta into your baby. It can also cause birth defects, preterm delivery, and increase the risk of low birth weight. Some research has shown that caffeine intake before and during pregnancy has been found to double the risk of spontaneous abortions.

Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause birth defects, fetal alcohol syndrome, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and many other issues. According to the March of Dimes, no amount of alcohol consumption is safe during pregnancy.

Smoking exposes your baby to harmful chemicals, lowering the amount of oxygen the baby receives. Smoking during pregnancy also increases risk of low birth weight, stillbirth, placental previa or abruption, prematurity, cleft palate, and other birth defects.

Animal Protein: Animal proteins including eggs, meat, poultry, and fish contain numerous toxic substances for mom and baby and are one of the chief ways that harmful toxins can be ingested. For example, fish contains high levels of mercury that can lead to a host of neurological and developmental problems. A study in Michigan found that school-age children who were exposed to low levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) while in the uterus had an average decrease in IQ scores of 6.2 points. The PCBs were attributed to the mothers consuming fish while pregnant, which can lead to damage to the nervous system of the developing child. Fish are a mjaor source of human exposure to PCBs.

Factory farmed animal proteins also contain high levels of hormones and antibiotics, which can cross the placental barrier into the baby. If your doctor won’t let you take medications like hormones or antibiotics when you’re pregnant, why would ingesting them in the foods you eat be any safer? Additionally, animal proteins create acid in the body, which require minerals to neutralize them. This can rob your baby of vital minerals necessary for growth and development.

Astrocytoma, a common brain cancer in young children, has been linked to mothers consuming nitrosamine-containing meats (such as hot dogs) while pregnant.

The Way to Eat

Choose a healthy, organic plant-based diet that provides your baby with the rich nutrients he or she needs for the best possible start in life.

Have a family member or friend who is currently pregnant? I personally have a few!  Be sure to share this info with them, which will hopefully be helpful to them and will help protect their unborn child.

This free blog is intended to be a source of inspiration to everyone around the world. We welcome your feedback through relevant, constructive, thoughtful comments. Please understand for legal reasons, I cannot answer specific/personal medical condition questions on the blog. For customer service issues or inquiries regarding purchases of any kind, go to http://support.kimberlysnyder.com. For all other questions or feedback, click here. For press inquires, email us here. Thank you for engaging and adding to the conversation!

67 Responses to “What Foods You Should Eat (and Not Eat) When Pregnant

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  16. Hello Kimberly,

    I’m just in the early stages of pregnancy & I wanted to know if it’s safe for me & my baby if I take both chia seeds as well as hemp seed.

    Many thanks for any information you can provide!

  17. Thank you, I’ve recently been searching for info approximately this subject for a long time and yours is the best I’ve found out so far. But, what about the bottom line? Are you certain about the supply?|

  18. dear,

    my baby is 8 month and in ultrasound doctor find in baby left kidny solien.
    what should to eat to strong both kidny. kindly help me.

    • Hello :) I am sorry to hear about your ultrasound. Unfortunately, you probably can’t help this while pregnant,, but cranberry is well knowing for cleaning and strengthening the kidneys. You could drink juice (regular not cranberry cocktail) . Take care of yourself, eat well and rest. I will pray for your child, Jesus will take care of him/her :)

  19. I have 36 weeks pregnant and I really happy that I.ve been following Kimberly Book since last year and change my habits to eat. I’ve been eating lentils, quinoa, avocados, kale, spinach, almond milk, juice cranberry , etc, etc, during my pregnancy, and I just have 10 ponds more my doctor said my weight and my baby are perfect, i don’t have, any diabetes, nor urine protein, I’m very healthy and my baby is growing perfectly . I’ve been without chicken , without beef during all my pregnancy and I feel very well, I’ve been taking my green juice all mornings and at nights when I need something warmer i drink my ginger tea with lemon.

    • Hey, I am also trying to slow my weight gain down at 23 weeks (I am about 5-7 lbs “ahead of schedule” on the scale ;), and basically I just cut out the junk food. I try not to eat anything without some kind of nutritional value (fiber, calcium, etc.)

  20. Kimberly,

    My baby is 9 months and I am nursing. I have been using some of the principles from your book, which are great. But I am still losing weight and luckily I don’t need too. Can I still eat as recommend and maintain my weight and perhaps gain a few pounds too. All charts say I am under weight and I don’t want to lose any more. I am guessing I somehow need to get more in since I am nursing. Any advice?

    Thanks,
    Melanie

  21. Hi Kim,

    I am currently pregnant with my second. In October I started the Detox – straight away. I am petite and slim but wanted to be healthy as can be. I lost about 13 lbs from then until January eating healthy and well – I actually wanted to NOT lose that much, but that’s what happened. Anyway, I became pregnant on our first try in Jan. But my nausea caused me to slip as I had NO interest in veggies etc during the first month. I keep visiting your site to see if there are helpful ways to transition into pregnancy better.

    It seems when you give articles on pregnancy, you could be more thorough and at least answer questions; otherwise, I wouldn’t dispense it.

    An article here or there leaves so many questions and if you’re not able to comment, I would skip it all together – because any sort of “detox” feels scary when you are carrying a baby. Someone asked a question on probiotics, etc…That seems like something that should be addressed.

    Of course we can all ask our OBGYNS, but many are more conservative and still recommend lean meats, dairy etc.

    Just my thoughts…

  22. Hi Kim!

    I have a very important question (I feel is)… I hope you can help as I am feeling pretty nervous. I’ve been told I need my wisdom teeth taken out, I will only need local anathesia which means just novacaine because I don’t want to “fall asleep”, I don’t like feeling out of control and it’s just not a good feeling having drugs inside of me. Well I’m nervous about the afterwards part, where they would require or prescribe pain medication, I don’t want to take them… Again another thing I just don’t want in my body. Do you have any other suggestions that would help with the pain? I know you would understand, thanks girl!

    Love, Shannon

  23. I just wanted to share that I am a big fan of your book, blog, and work. After giving birth to my first child August, I was looking for a way to eat healthy, drop some pounds, and clear up my skin. Amazingly your Beauty Detox program addresses all that and more! I have been drinking the GGS and following your food pairing guidleines for almost 2 months. I have EFFORTLESSLY lost 15 pounds, am now 5 pounds less my pre-pregnancy weight, and on my way to a better body weight. My husband actually likes the GGS so I have to make 2 batches a day to keep up with our thirst for greens! Since we’ve started, I’ve turned my best friend, mother, and mother in law to the GGS and they each bought a Vitamix. Thanks for showing a better way to eat and live a healthier lifestyle.

  24. Hi Kim,

    This is a question unrelated to pregnancy; just hoping you can help me. I have been following your diet for a year now. The first 6 months were incredible. Now, after I drink the GGS, I feel weighed down, bloated, gassy, irritable, and have been constipated a lot. (I went a week without going to the bathroom, even while drinking the GGS every morning.) I used to have the flattest stomach naturally. Now after I have the GGS, I feel like it’s stuck in there and not digesting for some reason, and at the same time, I’m still hungry after it. (I drink about 20 ounces worth a day). Maybe I’m putting too many greens in? Or should I maybe switch to a juice?

    Thank you,
    PK

  25. Sorry, forgot to mention, I’ve heard avocados and chocolate are high in copper. I eat both of these foods (am currently doing blossoming beauty due to candida and eating raw rolled oat cereal for breakfast). Do you think it’s necessary to avoid both completely and drink the GGS instead in the morning, even though I still have candida? I’m guessing the very high copper is the first thing needing attention? I’ve also read a vegetarian diet contributes to high copper. Is this true, and how would you work around this but stay as true as possible to your book? Thank you :)

  26. Hi Kimberly, in your opinion, what are the best ways to reduce high copper levels in the body? Also, would really love your opinion on laser hair removal. Thank you, Julia xo

  27. Hi Kimberly,

    Two questions:

    1. When I cut open a really squishy avacodo, sometimes the inside is a mottled dark green. Is this still good to eat? It seems to taste the same, but I didn’t know if it was spoiled.

    2. I recently bought Vlassic “Old Fashioned” sauerkraut, then I thought about whether it was raw or not. I called up Vlassic and they said it was pasturized at about 150 degrees. Someday, I will make my own, but for now I wanted to know if the sauerkraut I have is totally useless, or if there is some redeeming value.

    Thanks – -

  28. HI Kimberly,

    Are these guidelines pretty much the same if just gave birth and are lactating? My sister just had twins (cutest boys ever!) and I wanted to send this along to her but I wanted to see if some of the guidelines change when you are breast feeding.

    Thanks!
    Arianna

  29. Hello,
    I am 4.5 months pregnant and I bought your book a while back. I couldn’t really follow completely as I was nursing. My three year old girl and I drink your green smoothie with a banana in it to make it sweeter almost every morning, we started recently. I recently started giving it to her and she loves it. Now that I’m pregnant I kept saying to myself I hope Kimberly does some posts about pregnancy seeing that you have pregnant clients and you did!! Thank you.

  30. Hi Kim,

    thank you for all the informations you’re giving on your blog. I’m always waiting for a new post and looking forward reading it.

    my question is for after the pregnancy… how to loose the weight after giving birth?
    I have 3 young kids, and since I gave birth to my third one, I have real difficulty loosing the weight I gain. Each time, I gained about 20-25 pounds and easily lost it after each one of my 2 first babies. But for the third one, there’s a good 10-12 pounds that I’m not able to loose, even if I follow most of your rules since fall. I feel like I really have to starve myself for 4 or 5 days to loose like 1 pound and I regain it as soon as eat normally ( and normally is like following a day in the menu example you list in you book in radiant beauty phase) As soon as I eat quinoa or avocado or nuts, it seems I can’t loose weight… but if I don’t eat those food, I’m so hungry all the time, and feeling so tired…and I have big cravings.
    I’ve been told that after a third child, the metabolism is slower, and it stays like that forever. What do you think about it, is it possible? and also, before reading your book, I did a lot of all kinds diets, and apparently, that too make the metabolism slower…
    I don’t really know what to do next, it’s just so frustrating sometimes to eat so well and not having results…

    thank you

    helene

  31. Hello there Kimberly!

    I very much enjoyed this article as I plan to have children some time in the near future. I’m currently taking classes at the Living Foods Institute in Atlanta, GA (they started on Feb 3rd -which is my birthday and was the best present I could have asked for!) I just wanted to say that you, amongst many other females who teach such vital, important information, inspire me. I so very much want to be one of those teachers but I’m confused as to whether I go to school for nutrition or continue with my approach of traveling around the states, and some day around the world, for classes. Anyway, thank you again for putting out this article on healthy foods for mommies-to-be.

  32. Dear Kimberly,

    Another great post – thank you.

    I wanted to pass on to you and others two great combinations I’ve been enjoying thanks to suggestions in your Beauty Detox Solution:

    1. I cut open an avacado and dip celery into it – great mid-morning snack.

    2. I steam either yam or squash, sprinkle Bragg aminos, and top with cold sauerkraut – great evening meal.

    Also, a couple blogs back you mentioned wheat allergies. In December I self-diagnosed myself with wheat intolerance, and have been off of wheat since. I haven’t missed it at all! But more importantly, late afternoon cravings, sleepiness, and depression have melted away.

    Thank you for all your doing. And it helps to have your blog to read so we all can encourage one another. I know very few people who are interested in eating correctly.

  33. I had been foloowing your diet before becoming pregnant last November. I had smoothies and fruit for breakfast every morning, salads sometimes with a little chicken, and a healthy dinner. Since the morning sickness has kicked in full swing I havent been able to eat as may fruits, I have to eat proteins like eggs, chicken, and turkey for every meal or I am litterally throwing everythin I just consumed right back up. I have recently been feeling a little better and have been able to eat fruits before eating the proteins, and it has been helping with my digestion, and I’m not getting quite as dizzy. Do you think it is ok to have to do what I have to do during the morning sickness? I also do not eat sugars ( I’m hypoglycemic anyways ) and I cook healthy as well. As soon as I start feeling better I will be back to my mostly all plant based diet and healthy eating because I do feel it is best for me and baby. I don’t know if this matters too, but I have also been asked not to excercise due to a blood clot that was in my uterus. I just feel icky, and am feeling so out of shape, I am not even aloud to do yoga! Any suggestions?
    Thanks,
    Nicole

  34. Although I don’t follow all your rules (I do eat animal protein and dairy), I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog. Your knowledge is very wealthy and your advice is sound. I look forward to opening my email and seeing a new blog post from you – definitely a much needed “de-stresser” after a long work day. Thank you!!

  35. Hi Kimberly,

    I must say I absolutely adored your book and your blog is very inspirational. This comment isn’t entirely about this blog entry but I was hoping if you could share some information and tips about PCOS. I have gotten most of the symptoms under control with birth control pills (which I hopefully won’t have to eat for the rest of my life..), diet and exercise. However, I am not obese or even over-weight.

    The biggest issue at the moment for me is the hair loss, although I am still waiting for lab-results about the exact cause it obviously has something to do with my PCOS. It would be great if you could do a blog post about female hair-loss and maybe share some dietary or other tips that could help. I am sure this is a huge problem for many women nowadays, as a healthy head of hair isn’t a given with the increasing amount of chemicals in our environment.

    Thank you again, it is so inspiring to know that there are people who are so motivated about their cause and want to share their knowledge with the world making it a better place one bite at a time :P

  36. love this although really it’s what to eat even if you’re not pregnant! great article though .. so many people think its unhealthy to be on a plant based diet if you’re pregnant. madness!

  37. Hi Kimberly, This isn’t to do with pregnancy but I was wondering what you think of oat milk? I can’t buy almond milk easily where I live and I don’t have a powerful blender (or the time) to make it fresh, so Ive been drinking oat milk (no added sugar) and using this in my green drinks, is oat milk good to combine with chia seeds in the chia delight desert? Also, for all your deserts, how long after eating dinner should I be waiting? I get home pretty late and eat dinner around 8.30, can I have desert half an hour later – and anything so long as it isn’t fruit?

    Sarah

  38. Hi Kimberly,

    Thank you so much for posting this!! I am about 12 weeks pregnant and I was wondering if it is safe to follow your Beauty Detox plans during pregnancy or should I wait until after? My family and I (and some people at work) are hooked on the GGS and try to have it daily. Can you give me some other ideas of a meal plan to follow while pregnant? I want to try the probiotic & enzyme salad, but is it safe to consume during pregnancy?

    Thank you for spreading the word and telling people “why” it is important to eat right. My dad always told me to eat healthy organic food because its better, but never said “why” or the side effects. Wishing you continued success for all the great things that you do!!

    Jacqui

  39. Kimberly,

    I’m sorry, one more thing!

    I have had numerous professors instruct that eating “types” of fish is safe and necessary to retain adequate amounts of omega 3 (the DHA), which I don’t agree with. I receive my omega-3 from chia, flax and hemp seed (I typically sprinkle it over a salad) and I take an Omega Supplement by nutru [ http://www.amazon.com/-mega-zen-Highly-Purified-Vegetarien-Nutru/dp/B001BO4Z0A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328643187&sr=8-1 ], would this still be appropriate during pregnancy?

    Thank you once more for you thoughts, I apologize for the three entries.

    ~Rachel

    • Your non-fish, non-algae Omega 3′s are not the same. They are good for you, but you will not get all of the benefits without getting algae or animal sourced Omega’s and Vitamin D.

  40. Hello Kimberly,

    Thank you for the wonderfully informative blog entry. I have a few questions:
    1)If a woman is expecting, can she still supplement with probiotics, vegetable based enzymes and magnesium oxygen?
    2)Could a woman still stick to the BDS method whilst pregnant? I know cleansing too much could be detrimental.
    3)What are you recommendations for weight gain? Meaning what foods are best to consume for the weekly weight gain rec. after the first trimester?

    Thanks for any information.

    Best,

    Rachel

  41. Hi Kim–
    I was wondering what you thought about consuming detox foods/beverages (GGS, detox tea, lemon water, apple cider vinegar) while pregnant. Are these safe?

    I have my hot lemon with water about twice a day, and drink my smoothie a few times a week. Every now and then I’ll have apple cider vinegar with water twice daily for a refresher. I haven’t heard or read anything that says this is unsafe, but I just want to be sure there isn’t any info passing me by! Love your book!

    • I saw this from Pintrest -did you ever hear back on the Detox thing. I feel so bloated lately and I was just wondering about the detox drinks and food.

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