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Understanding Pregnancy Diet

“Strike a balance between healthy weight gain and nutritional intake. Try to keep in mind that you are not eating for two, you are eating carefully for one.” - Catherine Jones and Rose Hudson, authors of Eating for Pregnancy: The Essential Nutrition Guide and Cookbook for Today’s Mothers-to-Be

A woman's dietary habit during her pregnancy is her baby's main source of nourishment. Therefore, to provide essential nutrients a baby needs for growth and development, experts have recommended an expectant mother to include a variety of healthy foods and beverages.


During pregnancy of any trimester, the goal is to be eating healthily most of the time, ensuring sufficient supply of prenatal nutrition to maintain the expectant mother's health while developing a healthy baby. To make things clear, one should emphasise the following five food groups:

  1. Fruits

  2. Vegetables

  3. Lean protein

  4. Whole grains

  5. Dairy products

Pregnant women are recommended to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of it with whole grains and a quarter of it with a source of lean protein, and to also have a dairy product at every meal. Between mealtime, if needed, it's a good idea to snack on



It is generally safe to consume fewer than 200mg of caffeine a day (the amount in one 12-ounce cup of coffee) during pregnancy. Moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy does not contribute to miscarriage or premature birth. However, it is wise to be prudent in limiting caffeine intake to minimise other potential complications.


Fish is a good source of lean protein. Some fish (such as salmon and sardines) contain omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that's good for the heart. Therefore, it is recommended for pregnant women to consume 8-12 ounces of cooked fish and seafood weekly. However, fish like albacore (or "white" tuna) contains high levels of mercury, which can be harmful to a baby's developing brain. In that case, the intake of this fish should be limited to no more than 6 ounces a week.



Avoid alcohol during pregnancy as alcohol in the mother's blood can pass directly to the baby through umbilical cord. Excessive intake of alcohol during pregnancy is a cause of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, a group of conditions that can include physical problems, as well as learning and behavioural difficulties in babies and children.


Seafood which are high in levels of methyl mercury, a toxic chemical that can pass through the placenta, can be harmful to an unborn baby's developing brain, kidneys and nervous system. Hence, a pregnant woman should avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy and tilefish.


Pregnant women are at high risk for getting sick from two different types of food poisoning: listeriosis, caused by the Listeria bacteria, and toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite.

Listeria infection will have severe impact on a pregnant woman, it may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labor, and illness or death in newborns.

Therefore, experts have recommended to avoid the following foods during pregnancy:

  • Unpasteurised milk and products from it, such Brie, Camembert, blue-veined cheeses, queso blanco and queso fresco

  • Hot dogs, luncheon meats and cold cuts unless heated to a high temperature before eating to kill any bacteria.

  • Store-bought deli salads

  • Unpasteurised refrigerated meat spreads or pates.


A mother can pass a Toxoplasma infection on to her baby, this can case problems such as blindness and mental disability later in life. To avoid this condition, the best policy is to avoid the following foods during pregnancy:

  • Raw or undercooked meats and poultry.

  • Raw fish (sushi, sashimi etc.)

  • Raw or undercooked shellfish (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops)

  • Raw or undercooked eggs (soft-cooked, runny or poached eggs, other foods containing undercooked eggs)

  • Raw or undercooked sprouts (alfalfa, clover)

  • Unpasteurised juice or cider


Eating healthily and happily during pregnancy is a key to drive a pregnant woman towards achieving a contented pregnancy. Whenever you are in doubt of any dietary concern, consult your doctor immediately.

**This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.**

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