What Food to Eat and What to Avoid During Pregnancy

The consumption of alcoholic beverages during pregnancy can cause physical and psychological problems in the fetus, which are fixed for life, thus conditioning their health.
What Food to Eat and What to Avoid During Pregnancy
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez in 24 March, 2021.

Last update: 24 March, 2021

During pregnancy, it’s important to take good care of your diet. You don’t only need to monitor the woman’s health, but also need to look after the child developing inside them. A failure in the dietary approach can negatively condition the baby’s development at a future stage.

For this reason, we’re going to talk about the food that should be avoided during pregnancy, as well as food that should certainly be included. We should be clear that one of the pillars of a healthy diet, even when pregnant, is variety.

What foods to eat?

We’re going to look at the food that all pregnant women should consume, as well as looking what science says about it.

Raw olive oil

Olive oil is good in pregnancy.
Olive oil is excellent for cooking and stands out for having healthy fats.

Olive oil is characterized by its high-quality lipid content. Its concentration in unsaturated fats stands out, especially in regard to omega 3 acids. These don’t only reduce the risk of postpartum depression, but also have many other functions.

Among them, we can highlight their role in modulating the levels of inflammation in the body. Furthermore, and according to research published in the journal Nutrients, their intake is essential in order to guarantee good brain development in the fetus.

There is even evidence that indicates that a high intake of these nutrients during pregnancy could be linked to a lower incidence of allergies and asthma in the early stages of life.

Small fish

Fish stand out for their concentration in high-value proteins. This means that they contain all the essential amino acids, apart from having excellent digestibility qualities.

These nutrients are key to tissue development. They are closely linked to function, health, and muscle growth, as pointed out in a study published in the journal Food & Function.

They also have essential nutrients which maintain the function of the thyroid gland, such as iodine. Regular consumption of this element has been linked to a lower risk of developing inefficiencies in the production of thyroid hormones, which could affect lifestyle habits and health.

However, it’s important to ensure that you ingest smaller fish. This is because larger ones usually contain a higher concentration of heavy metals inside. These substances could pass into the fetus through the placenta, causing problems in its development.

Nuts

Another product with a high content of omega 3 fatty acids inside is nuts. They have a high concentration of essential minerals, such as iron, calcium, and zinc. All three will be necessary to guarantee the good health of the mother and the fetus.

It’s important to meet the micronutrient requirements in order to avoid deficits that could create physiological problems. For example, anemia can lead to excessive fatigue which can condition lifestyle habits. In turn, consuming less calcium than recommended could be associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis.

However, it’s important to eat the nuts raw or roasted; fried or salted versions should be avoided.

Although there’s disagreement regarding the consumption of salt and its relationship to health, no one questions the fact that fried foods in the diet are counterproductive. These elements have fatty acids of the trans type, which have an inflammatory nature.

Whole dairy

The group of whole dairy products is capable of providing three essential elements for the health of the mother and the fetus. The first of these are high-value proteins. In addition to that, they have a significant dose of vitamin D and, in the case of fermented milk, the probiotic bacteria the woman needs for her digestive tract.

As far as vitamin D is concerned, it’s always advisable to purchase enriched dairy products. It’s important for them to be full cream, because this micronutrient has a fat-soluble character, and if the fat is eliminated, it’s lost.

In turn, fermented dairy products provide the necessary probiotics to ensure good digestive health. These bacteria are capable of selectively colonizing the digestive tract, thus bringing great benefits to the person’s health.

In this way, it improves the absorption efficiency and improves the use of nutrients, apart from strengthening the immune system.

Food to avoid during pregnancy

Just as there are products whose consumption should be increased during pregnancy, there are some that should be avoided or restricted.

Soda and sugary drinks

Soda is bad for pregnancy.
As far as possible, it’s advisable to replace carbonated drinks with water or natural juices.

One of the most frequent pathologies in pregnant women is gestational diabetes. This is temporary and transitory, although it can determine the mother’s habits. Therefore, it’s worth highlighting the need to restrict the contribution of simple sugars, in order to prevent them from being magnified.

According to research published in Nutrients, reducing carbohydrate intake in pregnant women improves the management of this condition. When it has already developed, the key is to try to reduce the consumption of simple sugars. Even if diabetes doesn’t appear, it’s still appropriate to take the same preventive measure.

It should be noted that simple sugars have been shown to be much more dangerous when ingested through liquids than through solid foods. This is due to the fact that the absence of fiber that accompanies them increases the speed of their absorption, and has a more noticeable impact on blood glucose.

Alcohol

Alcohol is toxic to the body under all circumstances. But, in the case of pregnancy, things become even more critical. According to a study published in Nutrients, the intake of this element during pregnancy increases the risk of physical and neurological disorders in the fetus.

For this reason, alcoholic beverages must be eliminated from the diet of pregnant women. In the same way, its necessary to avoid exposure to any type of toxin, including tobacco or drugs in this group. Even with food additives, even though they’re not classed within this set, you still have to be careful.

In recent years, it has even been claimed that the alcohol consumption habits of a woman in her adolescence or youth could impact the health of her children in the future. In this sense, it’s crucial to be aware of the importance of avoiding alcohol intake, which is quite literally poison for a pregnant woman.

Coffee and tea

Caffeine affects the central nervous system, and temporarily increases cognitive performance. This can be positive for a healthy adult, and coffee intake is recommended.

However, in pregnant women, regular caffeine consumption is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. For this reason, it’s essential to avoid coffee, tea, and, of course, energy drinks. It’s important to be careful with infusions in general, as more than one a day could increase the risk of miscarriage.

To avoid problems in this regard, it’s always recommended to consult with your doctor before including herbal drinks in your diet.

Sausages

Sausages that haven’t undergone a cooking process, such as Serrano ham or sausage loin, may contain the toxoplasma toxin. This would be very problematic for women during the pregnancy period.

Although in the case of a healthy adult this toxin doesn’t cause any problems, in pregnant women it could negatively affect the health of the fetus.

However, if the person in question has previously had contact with Toxoplasma gondii, especially through contact with cats, then it wouldn’t be necessary to remove these sausages from the diet. To verify this, it’s possible to carry out a toxoplasma test.

However, some caution is recommended with the inclusion of sausages in the diet. They stand out for their additive content and trans-type fatty acids, and so they could be unhelpful for the maintenance of adequate metabolic health.

Sweet

Sometimes pregnant women have cravings for something sweet. If taken occasionally, it isn’t usually a problem to consume food with high sugar content or even ultra-processed food.

However, the regular inclusion of this type of food in the diet must be avoided. They increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes. In addition, they have a negative impact on the health of the microbiota, which could affect the functioning of the immune system.

During pregnancy, it’s necessary to prioritize the consumption of fresh food with high nutritional density. The requirements of certain macro and micronutrients increase, but at the same time, it’s important to avoid the intake of empty calories in a systematic way.

It’s important to monitor your diet in pregnancy

As you’ve seen, pregnancy affects a woman’s nutritional needs. You need to satisfy these requirements in order to ensure a good state of health and the correct development of the fetus, thus avoiding cognitive or physical problems.

In order to do this, we recommend that you optimize your diet, increasing the presence of fresh products and reducing industrial ultra-processed products. On the other hand, it’s necessary to restrict the consumption of alcohol and toxins, as these have a very negative impact on the baby’s health.

Remember that it’s also important to use certain supplements in order to ensure that the woman’s vitamin levels are healthy. However, the specialist will always be in charge of these recommendations, and they’ll do so to ensure good results and minimize risks.



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