18 Healthy Foods and Balanced Meals During Pregnancy

Parul Dube

October 13, 2022

A balanced and diverse diet is crucial at every age but should become a priority during pregnancy. The maternal diet must offer enough energy and nutrients to support the mother’s standard demands and the developing foetus’s needs. With a few significant exceptions, the dietary recommendations for pregnant and lactating women are very similar to those for normal adults. 

The most important piece of advice is to eat a healthy and balanced diet. According to a study, pregnant women should eat plenty of iron-rich foods, proteins, and a dose of vitamin D supplement (10 g/day) is healthy throughout the pregnancy. It allows the mother to store resources for the development and nursing of the foetus. In addition, simple steps like going for wholegrain or high-fibre starchy foods rather than purely refined starch are more nutritious.

This article discusses some foods and meals that satisfy your nutrition requirements and satisfy your taste buds. 

The Need to Eat Healthy When Pregnant

There is a vast difference between eating extra and eating healthy. Some popularly believe that pregnant and lactating women don’t have to ‘eat-for-2’. However, a healthy pregnancy diet is responsible for the baby’s normal brain development and healthy birth weight. As a result, it reduces the chances of birth problems and defects. In addition, a well-balanced diet can minimise Anemia and other pregnancy-related issues like exhaustion, feeling too hot and too cold, and morning sickness. 

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a pregnant woman needs more calcium, folic acid, iron, and protein than those who aren’t. The baseline is to fundamentally understand the body’s nutrient requirements, the food items that provide those, and the ideal time for their consumption. The body needs fibre, vitamins, minerals, proteins, healthy starch (carbs), fat, and calcium.

Folic Acid

Often known as folate when found in foods, it is a B vitamin (vitamin B9) that aids in the prevention of neural tube abnormalities, which are birth abnormalities affecting the baby’s brain and the spinal cord. Dark green vegetables, whole grains, fortified cereals, pasta, bread, beans, and citrus fruits, are all excellent sources of folic acid.


This mineral is necessary for developing a baby’s teeth and bones. When a pregnant woman doesn’t get enough calcium, research shows that it gets taken from the mother’s bone stores and given to the baby to fulfil the increased demands. Calcium-fortified beverages and meals, salmon and its bones, and various leafy greens are all excellent sources of calcium (kale, bok choy). It is essential for the mother’s and developing baby’s bone health.


If a pregnant woman does not obtain enough iron, she may develop anaemia, which causes exhaustion and increases the risk of infection. Lean meat, fish, chicken, dried beans and lentils, and iron-fortified cereal are all excellent sources of iron.


Women need to increase their protein intake during pregnancy, although most women have no trouble consuming sufficient protein-rich foods in their diets. Protein is known as a “building nutrient” because it aids in the development of vital organs in the developing baby, like the heart and brain. Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and peas, eggs, almonds, and tofu are excellent protein sources.

Healthy Foods to Eat

Breakfast Foods

You’ll need 300 more calories every day to provide your unborn baby with the nutrients it needs during pregnancy to grow. So starting your day with a nutritious breakfast helps you consume more calories and provides you with the required energy. Breakfast should include whole grains, dairy foods, protein, and fruits, and you’ll be well on your way to providing everything your baby requires.


Although eggs can be a healthy complement to a well-balanced diet, many pregnant women wonder if eating them raw or gently cooked is acceptable. You can eat eggs when pregnant, as long as you cook them or pasteurise them. The salmonella bacteria found in raw or undercooked eggs can cause food poisoning when eaten raw. You can quickly get rid of the bacteria by cooking and pasteurising the eggs, lowering the danger of salmonella illness.

According to a research article, one big egg contains around 16% of the daily recommended amount of this macronutrient. Thus, pregnant women need 50% more than other women. As a result, iodine shortage may lead to brain impairment and an increased chance of spontaneous abortion.

You can prepare various egg-based dishes, from being hard-boiled, an omelette fried or scrambled alongside your toast, some steamed vegetables, and a portion of fresh fruits. 

Fortified Cereals

Fortified foods contain added vitamins and minerals that aren’t naturally available in foods. Foods that children and adults commonly consume, such as cereals, milk, and juice, are fortified to boost people’s levels of specific nutrients. One of the most widely fortified foods is cereal.

One cup (40 grams) of Total fortified cereal, for example, has 40 mg of iron, which is 100% of the Daily Value. Research suggests that women should eat enough iron-rich foods and vitamin C-rich foods throughout pregnancy to improve iron absorption. These foods can be red meat, pulses, dark green leafy vegetables, bread, and fortified breakfast cereals.

You can always add milk, nuts, seeds, dried berries, fruits, cottage cheese, yoghurt, and natural sweeteners to make your cereal more exciting. 

Fresh Fruits

The amount of fibre you get from taking fresh fruit in the morning is one of the critical advantages and causes of why you need to. Fibre keeps you full for longer, giving you more energy throughout the day. It also aids in preventing constipation, a common issue among pregnant women.

Fruit also contains folate, vitamin C, and potassium in a single serving. Toss fresh blueberries into a bowl of oats or add banana slices to a bowl of cereal. Add peach slices or diced pineapple to yoghurt or cottage cheese to make your meal more exciting.

Lunch Foods

Tofu Stir Fry

Tofu stir fry offers everything you need for a quick, healthful lunch you’ll want to make again and again. You can add a variety of vegetables. This dish is inherently vegan and gluten-free for anyone with dietary restrictions. 

Tofu, or soy-bean curd, is a common food ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisines. It is a high-protein food item with numerous advantages, particularly for vegetarians. 

Tofu has 8 grams of protein per 100 grams, 16 per cent of the daily need. Protein is vital for the growth and development of the foetus. It provides 35 per cent of your daily calcium intake in 100 grams. Calcium is also essential for your foetus’s bone development. It strengthens your bones as your body goes through various changes during pregnancy. Manganese, copper, iron, and selenium are all abundant in tofu. Each of these nutrients has a distinct and equally significant role throughout pregnancy.

Middle Eastern Pita Sandwich

Double-deckers, paninis, wraps, whatever sandwich-style you crave, make it a healthy one with lean protein, fibre, and whole grains. Then, fill it with greens to make the most of your lunch.

This pita sandwich is anything but ordinary, stuffed with veggies like onion, tomato, cilantro, sliced avocado, fresh herbs, tahini sauce, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. You can add chickpeas for added protein and enjoy this zesty sandwich, especially on a warm day, along with a beverage of choice, like chilled lemonade. 

Cooked Bean Salad

Salads with essential nutrients like iron, calcium, and folate can significantly help a pregnant woman’s health. In addition, you may achieve your fibre and protein needs while also keeping your hunger at bay if you incorporate lentils, meat, and cheese into your diet.

A bean salad made with cooked beans is a high-protein, high-iron food. You can add pasta or whole grains to your bean salad. For example, add sweet potatoes, capsicum, and maize to make it more delicious. Most pasta salad recipes need eggs as a substitute or use fully cooked eggs.

Daytime Snacks

Tropical Smoothie

Numerous health professionals recommend fruit smoothies for pregnant women. And it’s for a good purpose. It helps keep the mother’s vitamin and mineral intake on track. Whipping up a quick smoothie by combining fresh ingredients, blending it, and savouring it is a much better option on any day of the year. For example, you could add ingredients like frozen peaches, frozen bananas, some baby spinach, coconut milk, orange juice, and vanilla-flavoured yoghurt. 

Roasted Sweet Potato

To prepare hundreds of healthful snacks that never get old, roast a sweet potato into rounds and top them with various delectable ingredients. For example, you can add a topping like ricotta cheese, chives, garlic powder, lime juice or blueberries, yoghurt, cherries, etc. you can easily prepare sweet and savoury snacks by topping sweet potato rounds with toppings.

Boiled Sweet Corn

Sweet corn is high in essential minerals and vitamins vital for a healthy pregnancy. In addition, ferulic acid, found in large amounts in sweet corn, helps combat tumours and lowers the risk of breast cancer. 

It also contains a significant amount of Vitamin B12, which is critical for preventing anaemia during pregnancy. To make a lip-smacking snack, you could add a bit of butter topped with onions, tomatoes, lime juice, salt, chat masala, and black pepper.

Dinner Foods

Grilled Salmon with Vegetables

A colourful and balanced seafood dish made with grilled salmon and vegetables can be ready in minutes. It is a light yet filling dish. You could use a good portion of salmon and vegetables like bell peppers, baby corn, mushrooms, broccoli, and potatoes. You could also pair this dish with an amount of brown rice or quinoa to finish the meal.

According to research, oily fish like salmon is an abundant source of fatty acids. It leads to plasma AA concentrations in pregnant women and their newborns, improving maternal health benefits. 

Black Bean Soup

The primary ingredient in black bean soup, black beans are high in fibre, which can help keep your intestines healthy and functioning correctly. During pregnancy, eating a high-fibre diet is indeed essential. This diet is vital because constipation is a typical complaint among pregnant women, and fibre can help to alleviate these symptoms. Furthermore, black beans include thiamine and protein, which are essential for amino acid synthesis and cell repair.

Night Time Snacks

Soaked Walnuts

Walnuts have a high poly-unsaturated fat content and are high in protein, vitamin B-6, and folic acid. Also, eating soaked walnuts before bedtime helps you sleep better because they contain the antioxidant melatonin. They also have anti-inflammatory properties. 

Frozen Grapes

You’re losing out on a nutritious, delicious, and refreshing treat if you’ve never tried frozen grapes. They’re great as a sweet snack or a low-calorie dessert. Also, frozen grapes aren’t just for summer. You can enjoy this simple and delicious dish all year. So keep some in the freezer to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Roasted Makhana

Low in salt, roasted makhanas (Lotus Seeds) are high in protein and magnesium. Some of the significant advantages of eating roasted makhanas when pregnant include better bone health, maintaining blood pressure, improving sleep, stabilising blood sugar levels, and regulating hunger.

Things to Remember

  • Ensure pasteurising all milk, cheese, and juice to protect yourself and your baby from bacterial or parasite infections, such as listeriosis.
  • Try to eat deli meat and hot dogs only after they are thoroughly heated and not otherwise. Likewise, refrigerated smoked seafood, as well as undercooked meat and seafood, should be avoided.
  • Consult your physician and dietician about other foods you should avoid if you or someone in your family has a history of allergies.
  • Making appropriate lifestyle choices will directly impact your baby’s health. For example, tobacco smoking, narcotic substance misuse, and alcohol intake are very harmful. These lead to severe problems for you and your baby.
  • It’s critical to consult your doctor about safe medicines during pregnancy for any ailments. Many common drugs and supplements, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, may not be safe to take during pregnancy.
  • The best approach to avoiding being sick is to prevent it entirely. Healthy eating and exercise, as well as enough relaxation, should all aid in maintaining good health.


You should obtain your calorie guidelines, daily vitamin and mineral recommendations, and protein selections, during pregnancy, from a medical professional. In addition, you may need to revisit your nutrition needs from time to time, based on the stage of your pregnancy and any particular issues you may have.

Making nutritional changes during pregnancy and when you can feel queasy and tired can be difficult. However, it is critical to prioritise your nutritional intake to support your growing baby and your health effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Can I have a deli sandwich while pregnant?

A. Deli meat and hot dogs should be thoroughly cooked and then consumed. Otherwise, it’s better to avoid them. Likewise, refrigerated smoked seafood, as well as undercooked meat and seafood, should be avoided.

Q. Is pasta good for pregnancy?

A. Yes, you can eat pasta during pregnancy. Although, it would be good to eat whole wheat pasta or lentil pasta in place of pasta made from refined flour. 

Q. What foods help the baby grow in the womb?

A. Foods like cottage cheese, leaf vegetables, sunflower seeds, legumes, and eggs are good options to support foetal development. 

Q. Can you diet while pregnant?

A. If ‘diet’ means restricting intake to packaged ultra-sweet treats, snacks made with trans fats, and avoiding unhealthy eating habits, then yes, you can diet. However, it is better to focus on healthy development and pregnancy rather than dieting.

Q. Can I eat a hot dog while pregnant?

A. Try to eat deli meat and hot dogs only after being thoroughly heated and not otherwise. Likewise, refrigerated smoked seafood, as well as undercooked meat and seafood, should be avoided.

Q. Can I eat pizza during pregnancy?

A. You can eat pizza during pregnancy. It is crucial to allow yourself to manage your cravings. You can consume a small desired quantity.

Q. Is gnocchi safe in pregnancy?

A. Yes, gnocchi is made from boiled and mashed potatoes. It’s entirely safe to consume gnocchi when pregnant. 

Q. Which fruit should I avoid during pregnancy?

A. Pineapple, camellia, tamarind, and unripe papaya are some fruits to avoid during pregnancy. Do consult your dietician for further instructions. 

Q. How long can I go without eating while pregnant?

A. You should frequently consume foods when pregnant. Not doing so deprives the foetus of optimal energy for proper growth and development. 

Q. What vegetables should be avoided during pregnancy?

A. Raw sprouts, bitter melon, raw radish, rose moss, and moringa are some vegetables to avoid during pregnancy. Do consult your dietician for further instructions.

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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