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Blog Nutrition Diets Pregnancy Diet Menu: Simplify Your Meal Choices To Get The Most Nutrients For You And Your Baby

Pregnancy Diet Menu: Simplify Your Meal Choices To Get The Most Nutrients For You And Your Baby

low carb diet pregnancy menu

Every soon-to-be mother wonders about the best foods to eat during pregnancy. You might wonder whether you need to change your diet completely, and what to do if you’re craving a slice of pizza. The truth is that you don’t need to go on a special diet when you’re pregnant. You can indulge in the occasional treat, including pizza and other foods you love. However, moderation is the key. It’s also important to maintain a healthy diet that includes all the nutrients you and your growing baby need. Here’s what you need to know about the best pregnancy diet menu. 

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How Many Calories Should A Pregnant Woman Eat?

Pregnant women are often told to “eat for two”. However, this is a myth. You don’t need to eat twice as much as usual. Women who do so might gain more weight than recommended and make it harder to shed those extra pounds after giving birth. 

The truth is that pregnant women should only consume an additional 340 to 450 calories each day during their second and third trimesters (8). Keep in mind that the amount of healthy weight gain in women varies depending on their weight. After delivery, when you’re breastfeeding your newborn, you will probably want to add another 500 calories per day (1).

However, it’s not just what you eat that matters; it’s also about how much food you eat at each meal and snack. We know that calorie needs vary from person to person and throughout the pregnancy. That’s why the best thing you can do is consult your doctor or a registered dietitian to get specific advice on how much weight you should gain.

Read More: 17 Weeks Pregnant Diet: What To Eat And What To Avoid

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What Are The Best Foods To Eat While Pregnant?

The best pregnancy diet plan menu consists of a variety of whole, healthy foods, such as:

Fruits And Vegetables

It’s important to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day when pregnant, including fresh, frozen, or canned produce and 100% fruit juices. 

These foods are rich in vitamins, such as A, E, K, and C, fiber, folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and calcium. These foods are also rich in antioxidants that protect cells from damage and help prevent conditions like gestational diabetes (3).

Complex Carbohydrates

Pregnant women need to get enough complex carbohydrates. These foods provide your body with energy so you don’t feel tired and lethargic (12). Whole grains like oatmeal or quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat bread and pasta, along with legumes like lentils and beans – these foods are rich in vitamins, such as E, B1, B2, B3, and B6, iron, folate, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and protein.

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Protein

In addition to complex carbohydrates, pregnant women need plenty of protein from plant-based or animal sources. It’s important to eat a variety of nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds and chia seeds, as well as beans and lentils. Protein is essential for the development of your baby’s body parts before birth and energy after delivery (9). 

Healthy Fats

Fats should make up about 30 percent of a pregnant woman’s diet during her second and third trimesters. Healthy fat sources olive oil, avocado, nut butter, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and full-fat dairy products are all great options. Healthy fats with omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for your baby’s brain development after birth (11).

Iron-Rich Foods

When you’re pregnant, you need three times the amount of iron that an average woman needs. It’s vital to get enough iron in order to prevent anemia during pregnancy, which can lead to fatigue and depression, among other symptoms (5). Iron-rich foods include lean red meat, poultry, beans/legumes, spinach, molasses, and whole wheat bread or pasta.

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Supplementation During Pregnancy

It’s also a good idea to take supplements throughout pregnancy to make up for any nutritional deficiencies. Be sure to talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting supplements, as some may be harmful during pregnancy. Generally, pregnant women need to supplement the following nutrients. 

Iron

Iron is a major component of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells. The maternal volume of blood in the body rises by roughly 45% during pregnancy (10). To generate extra hemoglobin in this blood, pregnant women need more iron.

A pregnant woman may develop anemia if her iron reserves are insufficient. This raises the possibility of several pregnancy conditions, including pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (6). Other complications that may develop from iron deficiency include:

  • Tiredness, irritability, and depression
  • Preterm delivery
  • Low weight for the baby
  • Stillbirth

Taking iron supplements ensures that you have sufficient iron throughout your pregnancy.

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Folate

Pregnant women need 600 micrograms of folate daily. Folate is needed for healthy cell division, especially during fetal growth and pregnancy. It’s also important for the formation of red blood cells (4). 

Vitamin D

Adequate vitamin D intake during pregnancy may lower your risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, bacterial vaginosis, and preterm labor. Vitamin D plays a critical role in helping our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus (13). 

During pregnancy, it’s important to get at least 600 IU of vitamin D every day because you’re more likely to be deficient in vitamin D when you’re pregnant.

Read More: Pregnancy Cardio Workout: Everything You Need To Know To Do It Safely

Zinc

A pregnant woman needs 11 milligrams of zinc daily (9). Studies show that supplementing with zinc can improve birth outcomes and reduce the risk of preterm births (14). 

Choline

The majority of pregnant women do not get enough choline in their diet. Choline helps in the development and growth of the nervous system and liver during fetal life and infancy. Research suggests that choline influences early brain development, learning abilities, memory retention, and behavior in infants (2).

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Sample Healthy Pregnancy Diet Menu

Here is an ideal 7-day healthy menu for pregnant women:

Day One

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries and milk 
  • Snack: 1 banana and ½ cup yogurt
  • Lunch: Mixed greens, chopped walnuts, crumbled feta cheese, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette on top of a bed of mixed fruit
  • Snack: Whole-wheat crackers with sliced cucumbers and tomato slices spread with hummus
  • Dinner: Wild salmon with a side salad of spinach, carrots, tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, or your favorite light dressing; fresh fruit for dessert

Day Two

  • Breakfast: Avocado, eggs, and whole-grain toast
  • Snack: Carrot sticks and cucumber slices dipped in hummus 
  • Lunch: Vegetable stir fry (broccoli, carrots, red peppers, mushrooms) over steamed brown rice
  • Snack: 1 apple and one-ounce almonds
  • Dinner: Chicken fajitas (chicken breast pieces sautéed with green pepper strips and onion slices on a whole-wheat tortilla); a side of fresh fruit for dessert

Day Three

  • Breakfast: Omelet made with spinach, tomato, avocado, served with 1 slice of whole-grain toast or a corn/bean tortilla
  • Snack: 1 medium banana and 1-ounce peanuts
  • Lunch: Vegan Mexican bean salad consisting of black beans, corn, salsa, avocado on a bed of lettuce
  • Snack: One pear and a one-ounce serving of almonds
  • Dinner: Chef Salad (chopped romaine with tomato wedges, cucumber slices, croutons, and hard-boiled egg chunks); a side dish of fresh fruit for dessert

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Day Four

  • Breakfast: Creamy quinoa cereal made by cooking quinoa with skim milk, cinnamon, and blueberries
  • Snack: A small handful of almonds and 1 medium apple 
  • Lunch: Whole-wheat spaghetti with turkey meatballs, sautéed zucchini, kale, and tomato sauce
  • Snack: A small bowl of sugar snap peas and a piece of string cheese
  • Dinner: Roasted chicken breast over steamed brown rice topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions

Day Five

  • Breakfast: Overnight oats topped with berries, nuts, and chia seeds 
  • Snack: A medium banana and 1-ounce peanuts. 
  • Lunch: Steamed broccoli with whole-grain pasta, grated parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • Snack: A medium orange
  • Dinner: Lamb chops with green beans, sautéed mushrooms, and onions; fresh fruit for dessert

Day Six 

  • Breakfast: Overnight oats topped with berries, nuts, and chia seeds
  • Snack: Greek yogurt topped with chia seeds 
  • Lunch: Vegan Mexican bean salad consisting of black beans, corn salsa, avocado on a bed of lettuce 
  • Snack: 1 apple and a handful of almonds 
  • Dinner: Slow cooker beef chili

Day Seven 

  • Breakfast: Quinoa cereal made by cooking quinoa with skim milk, cinnamon, and blueberries 
  • Snack: A small handful of almonds and a medium banana
  • Lunch: Steamed broccoli with whole-grain pasta, grated parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, and pepper 
  • Snack: 1 medium orange
  • Dinner: Baked tilapia fillets over sautéed spinach and mushrooms with mashed potatoes; fresh fruit for dessert
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Which Foods Should Pregnant Women Avoid?

Exercise caution when including these foods into your pregnancy diet plan menu:

Raw Or Undercooked Meat, Poultry, Eggs, And Seafood

These meats may contain bacteria called listeria, which can cause illness in a mother and baby during pregnancy. This includes raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products (7). If you do eat these foods, be sure they are cooked thoroughly, so there is no pink left in the center of the meat before eating them. 

Pre-prepared Foods, Ready Meals, Or Takeaways

Pre-prepared foods are usually made with raw eggs, meats, poultry, etc. These have not been cooked at high enough temperatures to kill the harmful bacteria found in these ingredients, so they may cause illness when you eat them.

Unpasteurized Juice Or Cheese

Unpasteurized juice or cheese usually contains listeria bacteria (7). Pasteurization kills the bacteria before it reaches your table. If you do drink unpasteurized juice, make sure it is of a fruit that has skin that can be peeled away. 

Unwashed Vegetables And Fruit

Produce, such as vegetable salad and fruits, should be washed thoroughly before eating to remove any harmful bacteria from farm animals.

Weight Loss According To The Age

The Bottom Line

When you’re pregnant, you should aim to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet full of whole grains, plant-based proteins, healthy fats, and fresh produce. It’s okay to indulge in occasional treats as long as those come from nutrient-dense foods that provide the vitamins and minerals needed for both mother and baby’s health. Consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for more personalized advice regarding your nutrition regimen during pregnancy – after all, every woman is different.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Breastfeeding Your Baby (2019, acog.org)
  2. Choline: Critical Role During Fetal Development and Dietary Requirements in Adults (2008, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Daily Snack Containing Leafy Green Vegetables, Fruit, and Milk before and during Pregnancy Prevents Gestational Diabetes in a Randomized, Controlled Trial in Mumbai, India (2016, academic.oup.com)
  4. Folic Acid Supplementation and Pregnancy: More Than Just Neural Tube Defect Prevention (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. Iron Nutrition During Pregnancy – Nutrition During Pregnancy – NCBI Bookshelf  (1990, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Iron Supplementation during Pregnancy and Infancy: Uncertainties and Implications for Research and Policy (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Listeria and Pregnancy (2018, acog.org)
  8. Nutrition During Pregnancy (2020, acog.org)
  9. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  10. Physiological changes in pregnancy (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  11. Role of Dietary Fat in Child Nutrition and Development: Summary of an ASNS Workshop (1999, academic.oup.com)
  12. Types of Carbohydrates Intake during Pregnancy and Frequency of a Small for Gestational Age Newborn: A Case-Control Study (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  13. Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy: an overview (2020, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  14. Zinc supplementation for improving pregnancy and infant outcome (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
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Eve Chalicha
J. Paul
J. Paul

Jovial is from Dubai, and is a Head EMS Instructor/Fitness Manager/Nutrition Consultant for REMS Fitness. He is certified by the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and Registered as a Gym Instructor.
Jovial specialises in HIIT training, Rehabilitation/injury recovery, Strength and Conditioning, Kickboxing, Body Weight Training and Weight Training, and practices each discipline himself. His approach is to focus on improving his clients’ lifestyle by motivating them and setting an example.

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