19 Pregnancy Super-Foods You Can Eat During All 3 Trimesters, According to a Nutritionist

For all nine—ahem, ten—months

pregnancy super foods woman eating berries in pregnancy
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Wine and unpasteurized cheeses are off-limits—this, every pregnant mama-to-be knows. But sleuthing out what you can and can’t eat during all three trimesters can be confusing (and complicated). To muddy the waters further, not all medical experts will give the same guidance—your OB-GYN might sign off on the occasional sushi roll, but ask another and they might be a stickler for the rules.

To make your pregnancy eating plan less stressful, we asked Vanessa Rissetto, registered dietitian and CEO of Culina Health, to break it down once and for all. Below, her advice on how to maximize your nutrition during pregnancy, plus a list of pregnancy super foods that will take you through all nine ten months.

10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being Pregnant

Meet the Expert

Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and the co-founder of Culina Health. With over 10 years of experience, Vanessa also serves as the dietetic intern director at New York University. Essence Magazine named Vanessa as one of the top nutritionists that will change the way you think about food. Her private practice work includes treatment of GI disorders, bariatric surgery, weight management, PCOS and family nutrition.

What Are the Best Foods To Incorporate Into Your Diet During Pregnancy?

Rissetto cites four things to keep in mind when building your ultimate pregnancy diet: folate, calcium, vitamin D and protein.

“Folate helps prevent spinal cord and brain issues [in the fetus],” she explains. “Folate is a B vitamin—we know it decreases premature birth weight and we fortify most foods in America with it. You can find it in cereals, spinach and even oranges.” Per Rissetto, you should aim for 400 micrograms of folate daily.

“Calcium is for bone health,” she adds, and 1000 milligrams per day is the goal. “It’s found in dairy products but also in dark leafy greens and even broccoli,” she says.

Your daily goal for vitamin D—which, per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), helps build your fetus’s bones and teeth and promotes healthy eyesight—is 600 IU, and Rissetto recommends fatty fish (like salmon) as a great dietary source.

Finally, protein is important “for overall growth,” she explains, saying that you should add an extra 71 grams per day into your diet. “You can find it in beans, eggs, fish, beef and chicken,” she mentions.

But wait, aren’t we supposed to be eating for two during these ten months?

Sorry to say, but according to Rissetto, the popular idea of eating for two is not an actual thing. “In your first trimester you don’t need any additional calories,” she explains. “In your second trimester we are looking at an extra 250 calories, which is something like a yogurt and a banana, and in the third trimester, an extra 350 calories, which would be an additional apple to the aforementioned.” (Of course, talk to your own doctor about your exact needs.)

With that in mind, here are 19 pregnancy super foods to add to your grocery list.

pregnancy super foods: leafy greens
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1. Leafy Greens

Think kale, spinach, arugula and Swiss chard. They’re all rich with folate, plus some other beneficial pregnancy nutrients cited by ACOG like vitamin C, the minerals iron, calcium and magnesium, and fiber. A few mega-pregnancy benefits? Magnesium can help regulate your blood sugar levels and blood pressure; calcium and vitamin C help build your baby’s bones; and as Rissetto mentions, folate is essential for neural tube and fetal brain development. Pretty darn good.

pregnancy super foods: beans
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2. Beans

No matter the trimester, your body needs a lot of protein when you’re pregnant. And depending on your pre-pregnancy intake, you’ll probably need to add more to your diet (especially for vegetarian mothers. Beans are a natural source, and they’re also infused with folate, calcium and iron, which are linked to lowering the risk of pregnancy complications and supporting healthy birth weights.

pregnancy super foods: lentils
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3. Lentils

Not into beans? Lentils are another easy protein source. Sprinkle them on a salad, use them as taco filling...the opportunities are endless.

pregnancy super foods: salmon
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4. Salmon

As Rissetto mentioned, salmon is a great source of vitamin D, not to mention omega-3 fatty acids, which ACOG says are good for your baby’s brain and eyes. It’s also a good source of protein for meat-eaters and pescatarians. Cook it on a sheet pan for an easy, healthy dinner when you’re bone tired (pregnancy can do that to you).

pregnancy super foods: berries
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5. Berries

Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries (yum) are loaded with potassium, folate, fiber and vitamin C, per the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. These are all crucial to the development of your baby’s tendons, brain, bones, skin and cartilage.

pregnany super foods: broccoli
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6. Broccoli

This super-food veggie is rich in two of Rissetto’s key nutrients, calcium and folate. It also contains a lot of vitamin C, which—when eaten with iron-rich foods—helps your body better absorb the iron, research shows.

pregnancy super foods: Edamame
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7. Edamame

This easy snack is a fabulous source of protein, folate, vitamin A and B vitamins, all of which support proper fetal development. (FYI, ACOG states that B vitamins in particular are important for building the placenta, supporting your fetus’s developing eyesight and giving you energy throughout your pregnancy.) We like turning our edamame into hummus, but you can also just roast the pods whole.

pregnancy super foods: lean meats like chicken
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8. Lean Meats

If you’re not a vegetarian, skinless chicken breast is your pregnancy best friend. It not only packs a protein punch, but it’s a good source of iron, which Mayo Clinic states that your body needs to make extra blood to carry oxygen to your baby. Craving red meat, like a burger? It’s fine as long as it’s cooked well-done to avoid food-borne illness.

pregnancy super foods: eggs
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9. Eggs

Eggs are an amazing source of both vitamins B12 and D, which may support the development of the baby’s nervous system and contribute to a healthy birth weight, respectively. Egg yolks contain choline, a mineral that ACOG cites as critical for the health of your baby’s brain. (Just keep in mind that when eating out, you may want to request that your yolks be cooked over-hard, since research is mixed on whether it’s OK to eat runny eggs during pregnancy.)

pregnancy super foods: Sweet potatoes
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10. Sweet Potatoes

Potassium—which sweet potatoes are chock-full of—is a wonder nutrient, whether you’re pregnant or not. It’s important for nerve function, muscles, blood pressure and overall cellular function, and as an electrolyte, helps keep your body’s fluids in balance. Turn your spuds into baked fries, or stuff them with beans for extra fiber and protein.

pregnancy super foods: bananas
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11. Bananas

Ditto bananas, which are also high in potassium. As an added bonus, they might help ward off those pesky, painful calf cramps (aka charley horses) that are common during pregnancy. Good thing we have plenty of ideas for what you should make with them.

pregnancy super foods: pumpkin seeds
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12. Pumpkin Seeds

Also known as pepitas, they’re one of the best sources of zinc around, which some studies have shown to help reduce the risk of pregnancy complications like low birth weight. Try roasting them and tossing them atop enchiladas for crunch.

pregnancy super foods: chia seeds
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13. Chia Seeds

Add them to a smoothie or work them into your favorite pudding recipe. Chia seeds are great for adding protein, calcium, omegas and, most importantly, fiber to your prenatal diet. (Especially during a time when constipation can be a problem, ugh.)

pregnancy super foods: almonds
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14. Nuts

They’re another prenatal workhorse. Nuts (like almonds and walnuts) provide fiber, protein and omega-3s, which, per Johns Hopkins University, can be critical to the development of your baby’s nervous system.

pregnancy super foods: seaweed
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15. Seaweed

Yep, it’s another pregnancy super-food—mainly because it’s a great source of iodine, which ACOG states is essential for proper fetal brain development.

pregnancy super foods: carrots
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16. Carrots

Rich with vitamin A, they’re an maternity must-have because the nutrient supports the development of your baby’s eyes, teeth and bones. Carrots are also rich in fiber. (Lest we forget that whole constipation thing.)

pregnancy super foods: mango
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17. Mangoes

Eat ’em plain or add ’em to a salad—however you eat them, they’re full of potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Even better, they’re a good source of vitamin B6, which has been shown to be helpful for reducing morning sickness. Major bonus.

pregnancy super foods: popcron
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18. Popcorn

Another easy snack—popcorn has loads of fiber to keep you regular through your pregnancy. (Just be sure the kind you pick is air-popped and made with a heart-healthy oil like olive or avocado.)

pregnancy super foods: avocado
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19. Avocados

Sure, you already know they’re a terrific source of heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. But they also come fully loaded with almost 20 essential nutrients like potassium, vitamin E, vitamin K, B vitamins and folate. Huzzah!

What Vitamins and Minerals Are Best for Pregnancy?

According to ACOG, these are the vitamins and minerals you need in your diet during pregnancy (plus how much):

  • Calcium: for strong bones and teeth (1,000 mg per day)
  • Iron: helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to the fetus (27 mg per day)
  • Iodine: for healthy brain development (220 mcg per day)
  • Choline: for development of the fetus’s brain and spinal cord (450 mg per day)
  • Vitamin A: for healthy skin, eyesight and bone growth (770 mcg per day)
  • Vitamin C: for healthy gums, teeth and bones (85 mg per day)
  • Vitamin D: for healthy bones, teeth, eyesight and skin (600 IU per day)
  • Vitamin B6: helps form red blood cells; helps the body use protein, fat and carbohydrates (1.9 mg per day)
  • Vitamin B12: helps form red blood cells and maintains the nervous system (2.6 mcg per day)
  • Folic acid: prevent birth defects of the brain and spine; supports the growth and development of the fetus and placenta (600 mcg per day)

What Foods Should You Avoid While Pregnant?

Because pregnant people are at higher risk for certain foodborne illnesses (like listeria), some foods are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control to be avoided, such as:

  • Raw or undercooked poultry or meat
  • Unheated deli meat, cold cuts, hot dogs and fermented or dry sausages
  • Premade deli salads (like coleslaw or tuna salad)
  • Raw or undercooked sprouts (like alfalfa and bean sprouts)
  • Unwashed fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Unpasteurized fruit juices
  • Unpasteurized (raw) milk, and dairy products made from it
  • Soft cheese made from unpasteurized milk (like queso fresco or Brie)
  • Raw or undercooked (runny) eggs, and foods that contain them (like Caesar salad dressing)
  • Raw or undercooked fish or shellfish (like sushi and ceviche)
  • Raw dough or batter made with uncooked flour

It’s also recommended (by the CDC and ACOG) that you avoid high-mercury fish and seafood like bigeye tuna and swordfish. If you’re unsure whether something is safe to eat during pregnancy, your best bet is always to contact your OB-GYN first.

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