Pregnancy: The Diet Do’s and Don’ts


Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

A Diet for a Changing Body

It’s no secret that you are what you eat. Our society recognizes that a diverse, balanced diet is key to living a long and fulfilling life. And when eating for two, your diet can significantly impact your baby’s health as well.

There are a lot of generally safe foods out there that can endanger the health of a pregnant mother and the life of the unborn child. The risks of alcohol and caffeine consumption during pregnancy are common knowledge, and the list doesn’t stop there! Many kinds of fish, cold cuts, and even precut fruit can contain contaminants that pregnant people are more vulnerable to. Let’s take a closer look into why and how these contaminants are much more damaging to the body and fetus during pregnancy and investigate some substitutions you can work into your diet during this time. This article is, however, not professional advice. It is always best to discuss any decisions regarding your health with your doctor.

What Not to Eat When Pregnant

Foodborne illnesses and pollutants are the two major factors to watch out for in a pregnancy diet. Normally, these are both taken care of with the help of organ systems. The immune system can effectively eradicate contaminants in the body, sometimes with the aid of medication. As for pollutants, we have the liver and kidneys that process our blood and filter out any waste products and toxins in a process called elimination. With all that said, we generally don’t need to worry too much about the food we pick up in our stores.

Pregnancy can complicate these systems, to say the least. Exposure to pollutants and toxins such as mercury, alcohol, and nicotine is shared from the mother to the fetus through the umbilical cord, like all substances. The main food risk here is large fish such as tuna. These fish contain high levels of mercury through biomagnification. This process is an increase of substances in the tissues of organisms at higher levels in a food chain. It is why meat from predatory fish is best left alone during this time.

Studies continue to examine the modulation of the maternal immune system in tandem with the placenta and fetus. What is known now is that even though the mother can contract some diseases easier, the susceptibility and severity can change throughout the pregnancy. Even so, a wide range of food is less safe for expecting mothers. Foodborne illnesses and parasites are not pleasant alone but can be debilitating or deadly for the child. Consuming raw or undercooked meat, smoked or processed meat and fish, and unpasteurized food products increase the risk of infection. Even unwashed vegetables could expose a pregnant individual to toxoplasmosis, which could have been in the soil where the vegetables were grown.

What Can Pregnant People Eat?

With all this in mind, what can pregnant people eat? Some fish are low in mercury and are safe to consume in smaller amounts. Safe Catch is a brand of canned and shelf-stable fish that touts mercury levels ten times stricter than the FDA standards. It’s about as safe as you can get if you crave a tuna salad sandwich. Also, limit disease risk by ensuring you only consume pasteurized soft cheeses, juices, or milk.

Pregnant people also need more of certain nutrients like protein, iodine, calcium, and iron. Eating meals and snacks rich in these nutrients and taking prenatal vitamins when necessary is a great baseline for a pregnancy meal plan. In early pregnancy when morning sickness is prevalent, look for foods light on the stomach like crackers, toast, or applesauce. It is also best to consult a physician to establish a diet that best suits you and your baby’s needs.

This Information Benefits Everyone!

Pregnancy can be a precarious process, even when meeting every precaution. When mothers, family members, or even food service workers don’t know of these risks, the results could be detrimental to children and families. As a former barista, occasionally, I have had to explain the caffeine content of espresso and offer decaf options to pregnant mothers in the drive-thru. Again, the best advice anyone could get for their health is from their doctor. This article does not substitute for that advice. Raising informed awareness of the dietary restrictions and needs of expecting mothers will help give families and communities the knowledge they need to make informed decisions and better care for each other.

Thank you for reading! If you want to learn more about how to have a healthier pregnancy, look here.


We hope that this information on “what can pregnant people eat” is useful to you.

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