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During pregnancy, the goal is to be eating nutritious foods most of the time, Krieger told Live Science. To maximize prenatal nutrition, she suggests emphasizing the following five food groups: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy products. When counseling pregnant women, Krieger recommends they fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of it with whole grains and a quarter of it with a source of lean protein, and to also have a dairy product at every meal.

Pregnant women should focus on fruits and vegetables, particularly during the second and third trimesters, Krieger said. Get between five and 10 tennis ball-size servings of produce every day, she said.

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These colorful foods are low in calories and filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Pregnant women should include good protein sources at every meal to support the baby's growth, Krieger said. Protein-rich foods include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, tofu, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds. These foods are an important source of energy in the diet, and they also provide fiber, iron and B-vitamins.

At least half of a pregnant woman's carbohydrate choices each day should come from whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta or breads and brown rice, Krieger said. Aim for 3 to 4 servings of dairy foods a day, Krieger suggested. Dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese are good dietary sources of calcium, protein and vitamin D. In addition to a healthy diet, pregnant women also need to take a daily prenatal vitamin to obtain some of the nutrients that are hard to get from foods alone, such as folic acid and iron, according to ACOG. For women who take chewable prenatal vitamins, Krieger advised checking the product labels, because chewables might not have sufficient iron levels in them.

Detailed information on healthy food choices and quantities to include at meals can also be found in the pregnancy section of the USDA's choosemyplate.


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Consuming fewer than mg of caffeine a day, which is the amount found in one ounce cup of coffee, is generally considered safe during pregnancy, according to a ACOG committee opinion , which was reaffirmed in The committee report said moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy does not appear to contribute to miscarriage or premature birth. Fish is a good source of lean protein, and some fish, including salmon and sardines, also contain omega-3 fatty acids , a healthy fat that's good for the heart.

It is safe for pregnant women to eat 8 to 12 ounces of cooked fish and seafood a week, according to ACOG. However, they should limit albacore or "white" tuna, which has high levels of mercury, to no more than 6 ounces a week, according to ACOG. Mercury is a metal that can be harmful to a baby's developing brain.

Canned light tuna has less mercury than albacore "white" tuna and is safer to eat during pregnancy. Avoid alcohol during pregnancy, Krieger advised. Alcohol in the mother's blood can pass directly to the baby through the umbilical cord. Heavy use of alcohol during pregnancy has been linked with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, a group of conditions that can include physical problems, as well as learning and behavioral difficulties in babies and children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC.

Seafood such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy and tilefish are high in levels of methyl mercury, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and should be avoided during pregnancy. Methyl mercury is a toxic chemical that can pass through the placenta and can be harmful to an unborn baby's developing brain, kidneys and nervous system. According to the USDA, pregnant women are at high risk for getting sick from two different types of food poisoning: listeriosis, caused by the Listeria bacteria , and toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite.

The CDC says that Listeria infection may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labor, and illness or death in newborns.

To avoid listeriosis, the USDA recommends avoiding the following foods during pregnancy:. A mother can pass a Toxoplasma infection on to her baby, which can cause problems such as blindness and mental disability later in life, reports the CDC.

Pregnancy diet: What to eat and what to avoid

To prevent toxoplasmosis, the USDA recommends avoiding the following foods during pregnancy:. Some foods may increase a pregnant woman's risk for other types of food poisoning, including illness caused by salmonella and E. When a mother-to-be is experiencing morning sickness , the biggest mistake she can make is thinking that if she doesn't eat, she'll feel better, Krieger said. The exact causes of morning sickness are not known, but it may be caused by hormonal changes or lower blood sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic. This common complaint can bring on waves of nausea and vomiting in some women, especially during the first three months of pregnancy.

And "it's definitely not happening only in the morning," Krieger said. If the restaurant can't give you a firm answer, swap dressings to say, balsamic vinaigrette, or change your order altogether.

How much do I need to eat?

Chunk light tuna is a bit lower in the toxin, so you can have up to 12 ounces per week, roughly equal to three regular-sized sandwiches. If you're within this amount, "I say go for it," says Largeman-Roth. Pregnant women tend not to get enough omega-3s which are important for Baby's brain and vision development, so if you're craving tuna, don't overthink it. First ask your server if the feta is made with pasteurized milk. If so, eat up. Most cheese sold in the U. The eggs as long as they're thoroughly cooked and veggies in this dish are both top pregnancy nutrition picks.

You may already be sticking to cucumber rolls at the sushi bar, but did you know that ceviche is raw fish, too? The words "carpaccio" and "crudo" on a menu also warn you that your dinner hasn't seen a stove and therefore could put you at risk for foodborne illness, says Largeman-Roth. Other raw red flags: "sashimi" and "tartare. Most of the fresh mozzarella you find at the grocery store is pasteurized, but you can't be sure about restaurants.

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Sure, it's a bit fancier sounding than say, ham or bologna, but prosciutto is still considered a lunch meat, so nix it. The shrimp in this dish have been fully cooked -- just check to be sure it arrives at your table thoroughly chilled. A high-mercury fish, swordfish is best avoided altogether during pregnancy , says Ward. Opt instead for flounder, haddock, freshwater trout, and wild salmon to deliver brain-building omega-3s to your baby.

Beef is a great source of iron, a crucial mineral for helping your little peanut grow and develop during the whole nine months. What's more, the vitamin C found in the vegetables will help your body absorb that important iron. Swap the white rice for brown or wild to make the dish even better. It's actually a myth that all of the alcohol in a cooked dish burns off from the heat.

Feed the Belly: The Pregnant Mom's Healthy Eating Guide

A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that between 45 percent and 85 percent of the alcohol used in a recipe remains, depending on the cooking technique. If you've just gotta have some, share a few bites as an appetizer. However, wild salmon is the preferable choice because it also has lower levels of chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls PCBs compared to farmed salmon.

This is a winner: Lean protein, loads of nutrient-rich veggies, and the whole wheat couscous packs a punch of fiber. Pass if it's Zabaglione a popular Italian treat , which is made with minimally cooked egg yolks and wine.


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Ask for whipped cream, frozen or plain yogurt, or ice cream but not homemade, which may also contain raw egg. News from the "too good to be true" department: "Some studies show that eating chocolate while pregnant can lead to happier babies," says Largeman-Roth.