Pregnancy Diet – The Complete Guide


I just found out that I am pregnant, so should I start eating for two?

Do I have to follow any specific meal plan for pregnancy?

What are the nutrients I need during my pregnancy?

Once you are pregnant, you are asked to change your diet if have not been a healthy eater. What you eat during your pregnancy determines the nutrients that your little one gets.

Sounds like a big responsibility right? It is, as your little one needs these nutrients for growth and development. So in today’s post we will be talking all about pregnancy diet.

pregnancy diet

Calorie requirement during pregnancy:

Pregnancy – time to eat for two. That’s what you have been hearing, but do you really have to eat for two? Actually, you do not have to eat for two, but you need to increase your calorie intake so that you can meet your required weight gain during your pregnancy.

Your body’s dietary requirement varies as per your trimester, your BMI at the time you conceived and how active you are as a person. The rough guideline of the calorie intake is given below.

1st Trimester – No extra calories.

2nd Trimester – Around 300 to 350 calories daily as compared to your normal intake.

3rd Trimester – At least 350 calories daily as compared to your normal intake.

You need to consult with your doctor who will determine the required weight gain per month depending on your height and weight.

If you notice, the calorie intake is not much as compared to the earlier diet, but you shouldn’t be having empty calories aka calories without any nutritious value. Instead have food rich in nutritive value.

You can also read the article on 14 must do things beforehand when trying to conceive.

Pregnancy diet – nutritional requirements during pregnancy:

During pregnancy, we need to eat a balanced diet, just like you learnt in school. You need to ensure that you include the following in your diet. The best pregnancy diet includes food items from all the groups mentioned below.

#1. Folic Acid

It is a type of Vitamin B (Vitamin B9) which helps in the development of your little one’s central nervous system. Lack of folic acid can cause a serious defect called Spina Bifida. It is a condition where the bones do no close around the spinal cord, leaving it exposed.

The development of the nervous system happens early on in the pregnancy. This is the reason why women who are planning to start a family are advised to take folic acid early. Folic acid is also beneficial in the synthesis of red blood cells. Apart from the folic acid supplements, you can get it from the food as well. Folic acid found in food is called Folates.

What to eat

  • Legumes Legumes also rank high in folates. Dal, chickpeas, green peas, beans can be included in your diet.
  • Ladies finger – If you are one of the people who loves ladies finger or okra, then you are in luck as this yummy veggie contains this essential nutrient.
  • Nuts –  If you are having a case of munchies, snack on some nuts as they will help meet your requirement of folates. You can include almonds, cashew nuts and walnuts in your daily diet.
  • Beetroot – So if you haven’t started yet, now would be a good time to include beetroot in your diet. Beetroot is yet another vegetable contains folate too. If you are craving for sweets, try this beetroot halwa.
  • Liver – If you are a non-vegetarian, you can have liver to get your daily requirement of Vitamin B9.

You can also read the amazing benefits of moringa leaves during pregnancy.

#2. Choline

Choline, like folic acid helps in preventing any defects to the neural tube and is essential for the development of the brain.

What to eat

  • Broccoli – Broccoli has the honor of ticking most of the nutrient boxes today. It is a vegetable that contains a variety of nutrients that are good for you.
  • Cauliflower – Cauliflower is also a good source of choline.
  • Egg – Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande. (Be it Sunday or Monday, have eggs daily)
  • Chicken- Choline is also found in chicken.

#3. Iron

A lot of women worry about their dipping levels of Hemoglobin during pregnancy. The low levels of hemoglobin will lead to anemia and less oxygen being supplied across the body and to the baby. So pregnancy is time when you need more iron as it is an important component of hemoglobin.

Apart from folic acid, your doctor will prescribe iron supplements during the last two trimesters. Iron can be categorized into two Haem Iron and Non-haem Iron. Haem iron in found in animal products and non – haem iron in plant products.

What to eat

  • Spinach – It was good for Popeye and it is good for you! Have it in the form of curries, chutneys, add it to your pasta to get the benefits of iron.
  • Broccoli – Broccoli makes an appearance in this list too as it contains iron.
  • Dried fruits – You can make cookies or soak the dried fruits in water and have the juice. Or you have munch on them just the way it is like prunes and raisins. You can also try this dry fruit laddoo.
  • Dried legumes – Dried lentils are also a good source of iron. So if you are craving for a bowl of dal, by all means indulge your tummy. Have plenty of kidney beans, chickpeas, white beans and dals.
  • Lean meat – Meat contains a type of iron that is easily absorbed by the body. You can have it in the form of soups, salads and curries.
  • Finger Millet – In India, a lot of babies start their semi solids with ragi porridge. Ragi is rich in iron.

#4. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is not generally spoken about but it is essential as it helps in tackling infections, production of collagen, repair of tissues, growth and repair of bones etc. Apart from that it aids in the absorption of iron into the body. This is especially required for the ladies who are struggling with anemia and also those moms who are vegetarians.

Non- haem Iron is found in plants and is difficult for the body to absorb, but if used with Vitamin C, it will be broken down and will facilitate the absorption of iron into the body.  But this is something you do not need to take a lot of as too much can cause complications. So stick to eating one of these daily.

What to eat

  • Citrus fruits – They are all good sources of vitamin C and they are tasty too. Oranges, lemon, grapefruit can be included as part of this category in your diet.
  • Broccoli – This unassuming green vegetable has found its way to this table too.

You can also read the 31 iron rich foods for moms, babies and toddlers.

#5. Calcium

Calcium is required for the growth and repair of bones. This is common knowledge, but apart from that it is needed for a healthy heart and muscles too. If you do not take enough of calcium, the calcium from your body will be diverted to the baby. This will cause osteoporosis that lead to brittle bones and other related issues after your delivery.

What to eat

  • Dairy products – This is a no brainer, we have grown up hearing about how milk is required for you to grow taller. Not just milk all dairy products are very good sources of calcium. Take plenty of milk, curd, cheese and paneer.
  • Legumes – Beans contain calcium too! Apart from other nutrients, they contain calcium as well, so if you are lactose intolerant you can rely on these for your calcium needs.
  • Green leafy vegetables – Green leafy vegetables are also a source of calcium and is yet another alternative if you are lactose intolerant. Broccoli, spinach, drumstick leaves yes you can have these.
  • Seafood – Seafood also provides calcium but there are certain varieties of seafood that you steer clear off. They are tuna, swordfish, and shark as they contain high levels of mercury. They are detrimental to your little one’s nervous system. Exercise caution while having shellfish as well as some of you may not react well to these. You can hve moderate amounts of anchovies, mackerel, sardines and salmon.
  • Tofu – This is made of soy milk and is an alternative for paneer or cottage cheese.
  • Ragi- Ragi contains calcium which means it is good for you.

You can also read the 11 calcium rich foods.

#6. Vitamin D

This is required for the absorption of calcium. The best source of Vitamin D is sun, but don’t you go trying to tan yourself into oblivion. Make sure it is the early morning sun, and not the blazing afternoon sun.

Vitamin D can also protect you from certain disorders like preeclampsia. The calcium supplement prescribed by your doctor may contain Vitamin D too. If not you can turn to the sun and other food.

What to eat

  • Seafood – If you eat seafood, then both your calcium and vitamin D requirements are taken care of. Make sure you include anchovies, mackerel, sardines, salmon etc in your diet.
  • Egg – Yolks of eggs contain Vitamin D so make yourself a hearty breakfast of eggs and toast or a fluffy omelette.
  • Fortified products – Vegans and vegetarians can take fortified products for Vitamin D. Fortified orange juice and fortified breakfast cereals can be taken.

#7. Protein

Protein is required by the body to grow. Your baby’s growth is significantly higher in the last two trimesters hence the protein requirements of the body also goes up then. But don’t you worry, you can easily find it in a variety of yummy, healthy and easily available foodstuffs.

What to eat

  • Lean meat – Meat is something most people turn to for their protein needs. You can have it in any form, but just make sure it is cooked well. Why lean meat though? Because it is healthy! Examples are chicken, turkey etc.
  • Seafood – As long as you follow the regulations, seafood can help you meet some of your most important dietary requirements.
  • Eggs – Both the egg white and yolk contain protein, which gives you yet another reason to have some yummy eggs.
  • Dairy products – You can take food items from this food group like milk, curd, cheese and paneer too for protein
  • Legumes – If you are vegetarian wondering how to get your protein fix, legumes are your answer
  • Nuts and seeds – Nuts contain proteins and also provide with energy, so if you find your energy levels dropping just have a spoon or two of mixed nuts like almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

#8. Riboflavin

This is required so that the body can use the protein it derives from food. This is also required in very less amounts.

What to eat

  • Dairy products – If you take at least 2 -3 servings of any of these milk, curd or cottage cheese in a day, your requirement will be taken of.

#9. Copper

Copper helps in the formation of your little one’s circulatory system, skeletal and nervous systems. Despite the fact that you do not need in large quantities, it is still important.

What to eat

  • Kidney beans – Kidney beans aka rajma is a source of this mineral.

#10. Iodine

You know iodine is required for a healthy thyroid, but did you know that it is required for the development of the baby’s nervous system? It also prevents stunted growth and is vital in preventing miscarriages.

What to eat

  • Dairy products – Consume dairy products like milk, curd and cottage cheese to reap the benefits of iodine.
  • Salt – Your table salt is fortified with iodine, so don’t worry about not getting enough of this.
  • Potassium

During pregnancy, most moms complain of being too tired and fatigued. Potassium can be your solution to that worry. Potassium is also necessary for regulating the function of the heart.

What to eat

  • Green leafy vegetables – Spinach and broccoli
  • Legumes – Legumes can be taken for potassium. Dal, chickpeas, green peas and beans can be included.
  • Starchy vegetable – Starchy vegetables like sweet potato, potato, plantain are quite high in potassium. Along with your energy needs, they take care of your taste buds too as you can prepare a variety of yummy dishes with these.

You can also read the sweet potato tikki recipe.

  • Banana – Start your day with a banana for a power packed beginning.
  • Dried fruits – Yet another reason to add some of these yummy foods like dried prunes and raisins to your pregnancy diet.

#12. Zinc

Zinc is required for the development of the little one’s brain. It will also help provide you with energy.

What to eat

Curd – It is a source of zinc so don’t forget to have some. You can also try the curd rice recipe.

Must read –  What is the ideal food chart for a pregnant woman

pregnancy diet

Food items to avoid during pregnancy:

We all read about what to eat during pregnancy, but did you know that certain food items are not to be eaten during pregnancy? These can cause harm to you and your baby, and certain food items lead to complications during pregnancy. Read 10 foods to avoid during pregnancy to find out about them.

Important points:

  • Make sure the meat and eggs you take are properly cooked.
  • Take calcium supplements between meals as calcium from any other source than food can reduce the iron absorption.
  • Do not lay off salt, but take it in moderation if you are having a normal and healthy pregnancy.
  • Drink a lot of water- this a common thing that every mom to be hears. Staying hydrated is essential for the normal functioning of organs and helps avoid nausea and dizziness.
  • Though not a nutrient, a pregnant woman should have a lot of fibre to ensure smooth bowel movements and avoid constipation. All those iron tablets can lead to constipation, if you do not include a foods containing fibre in your diet.
  • If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetics, thyroid, blood pressure issues or any conditions that makes your pregnancy a risky one, please consult your gynecologist for the recommended calories, the foods to include and the foods to avoid
  • If you are allergic to any of the food items, please talk with your gynecologist

You can also read about the treatment and remedies for constipation during pregnancy.

Rather than sitting with a calculator counting each and every calorie that goes in, try to relax and savor the food you eat. This is probably the only time you will be concentrating so much on yourself, for once the baby comes, you will put your heart and soul into nurturing him and watching him grow.

Remember to include food items from each group and you are good to go!

Hope this article on pregnancy diet was helpful. If you have any doubts or queries, please to share them with us. I would love to hear from you.


About Author

A stay at home mom for a feisty 19 month old named Ahaana, Chitra Santosh has rekindled her romance with words once again now. Though Arakkonam is her home, she can be seen migrating to Mavelikara, a quaint little town in Alappey during summers. Studies have shown that this has no connection with the migratory patterns of birds.

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