The 7 Nutrients You Need While Pregnant (and Which Foods to Avoid)

what to eat while pregnant

Pregnancy is an incredibly sacred time. Your body is changing and accommodating to grow a precious, beautiful life within.

You’ll definitely need to choose what you’re putting in your body carefully to help that incredible baby develop and give him or her the healthiest start possible. The idea of “eating for two” is not really true- some researchers believe that excessive weight gain during pregnancy can actually contribute to a more difficult birth and other health complications. There’s no need to double your caloric intake simply because you’re pregnant, or let all dietary rules leap out the window. Besides, you don’t want to put less than ideal, processed foods in your body that would end up in the baby. But you will need to increase your caloric intake by about 300 calories per day. There are also certain nutrients you should make a special effort to get more of in your diet while you’re at it. Choose your foods wisely!

Consume More of These 7 Nutrients:

There’s really not much that you need to consume when you’re pregnant that you didn’t need when you weren’t pregnant. You’ll need to increase your intake of certain nutrients, though, because they’re especially helpful for preventing birth defects and reducing the likelihood of complications.

1. Folate/Folic Acid

Folate (found naturally in foods) and folic acid (the supplement) are especially important the first 28 days after conception. Since you may not know you’re pregnant right away, consider increasing your intake if you’re trying to get pregnant and continue throughout the pregnancy. The CDC actually recommends folic acid supplements, but you can also increase your folate consumption to meet the RDA prior to pregnancy with foods like leafy greens, fruits, fruit juices (skip the store-bought juices, though, and juice your own!), nuts, beans, peas, and grains. Take a look:

  • 1 cup of raw spinach has 58 mcg and a cup of cooked, drained, unsalted spinach contains a whopping 263 mcg
  • 1/2 cup of raw, sliced avocado has 59 mcg
  • 1 cup of shredded romaine lettuce has 64 mcg
  • 4 spears of boiled asparagus have 89 mcg (or 134 per cup); 70 mcg per cup of raw asparagus
  • 1/2 cup of cubed papaya has 27 mcg
  • 1 cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 47 mcg, and one cup raw gives you 54 mcg 
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa has 78 mcg
  • Parsley has 91 mcg in one cup

The recommended daily amount to decrease the likelihood of neural tube defects like spinal bifida and anencephaly is 400 mcg. My Raw Tabouli Salad with Hemp Seeds gives you folic acid (via lots of parsley!) and omega-3s, which are also important during pregnancy.

2. Omega-3schia seeds

Eat your chia seeds! Many women don’t get enough omega-3s while they’re pregnant (DHA is especially important for a developing fetus). Some women have been trained to believe that the best–or only–source of omega-3s is fish, and when they learn that certain types of fish, in fact, can be dangerous because of their mercury content, they may cut back on seafood without replacing the omega-3s in their diet.

A fetus’ exposure to mercury in the womb could result in mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness, and blindness, but both baby and mom need omega-3s. Since the consumption of seafood should be severely limited (no more than 12 oz. per week, or roughly two meals) during pregnancy, but omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for healthy neurological and eye development in the baby, women have to seek out other sources. Luckily for Beauty Detoxers, we know that you can get your omega-3s from seeds, nuts, algae (including seaweed), and avocados.  Pregnant women need 300 mg of omega-3s per day. If you’re still concerned, algae-based DHA supplements are available. DHA may not be present in your prenatal vitamins.

3. Calcium (with Magnesium)

When you’re pregnant, the baby needs calcium to develop. If there’s not enough calcium for both of you, the baby will still take what it needs, leaving you, mom, with potentially weakened bones. The recommended amount of calcium for pregnant women is 1,400 mg. Don’t head straight for the dairy products, though! Since dairy is acidic, it, too, will leach the calcium from your bones in your body’s attempt to neutralize it. Instead, seek out Beauty Greens—bok choy, broccoli, collard greens, cucumbers, kale, romaine lettuce, sea vegetables, turnip greens, spinach and sesame seeds/tahini to reach your recommended calcium goal per day. To absorb all that calcium, you’ll need another Beauty Nutrient, magnesium. Side note about magnesium: it also helps keep our bowels regular, so if you’re experiencing constipation during pregnancy, increasing your magnesium intake could help. Hempseeds, pumpkin seeds, and spirulina are all good sources of magnesium. While you shouldn’t depend on your prenatal vitamins to cover all your calcium needs, there is usually some (anywhere from 75 to 300 mg) to supplement an already nutritious diet.

4. Ironspirulina for iron

When you’re pregnant, your risk of developing iron deficiency anemia is heightened because your body needs about 15 to 18 mg when you’re not pregnant, and then 27 mg or more when you are. Iron deficiency is already a common problem all over the world. Add pregnancy to that, and you need to be especially careful, especially if you’re a vegetarian. In addition to anemia in the mom, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says an iron deficiency could mean a decrease in birth weight, complications during labor and delivery, and even impaired maternal functioning could result.  Pumpkin seeds (1 oz = 4.2 mg), spirulina, spinach (1 cup, raw = .81 mg and, when raw, includes vitamin C for best absorption), lentils (1/2 cup, cooked = 3.3 mg), chickpeas (1/2 cup, cooked = 2.4 mg), navy beans, black beans, and kidney beans are all good sources of iron. Eat the legumes with foods rich in vitamin C, like bell peppers, hot peppers, thyme, parsley, and leafy greens to maximize the iron absorption.

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for absorbing the calcium in your diet (and making your baby’s bones strong). With sun exposure, your body creates vitamin D, so you may not be deficient or in need of a supplement if you get plenty of sun. However most of us, pregnant or not, do need a vitamin D supplement. Pregnant women need at least 600 IU of vitamin D per day. Some prenatal multi-vitamins have all of that (and in some cases, more, like New Chapter’s Perfect Prenatal), so you won’t necessarily need an extra supplement. In 2007, the Canadian Pediatric Society stated that pregnant women needed 2,000 IU per day. A deficiency in vitamin D could lead to recurrent wheezing episodes later in life. If you’re not vegan, one tablespoon of cod liver oil can offer 1,360 IU of vitamin D.

6. B12vitamine side effects

A B12 supplement may be recommended while you’re pregnant, especially if you’re a vegetarian or vegan mommy-to-be. B12 is important for the baby’s developing brain. It’s also important for the mom, before, during, and after pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. While you’re body will be more efficient at creating B vitamins in your gut with the right balance of healthy flora, it is a general recommendation across the board, as I mention in the Beauty Detox books, to take a B12 supplement if you are vegetarian or vegan.

The B12 in the body will go to the fetus first (so be sure to get enough for the baby and yourself so you don’t become deficient!), and the baby will generally have enough stored up for the first four months of life as protection in case the mother is deficient at first. You’ll need to continue with a B12 supplement while breastfeeding to ensure that your baby is getting enough. Moms who don’t eat animal products will need the vitamin for their babies and themselves. Deficiency shows up as lethargy, irritability, and developmental delays. The RDA for B12 in pregnant women is 2.6 mcg and 2.8 mcg for breastfeeding women.

7. Protein

Though it depends on your size of course, a general recommendation by the Mayo Clinic is 71 grams of protein per day for pregnant women. You can hit this requirement whether you eat animal protein or not. Some of the best sources of plant-based protein include:

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, 8.14 grams
  • 1 Power Protein Shake, around 26 grams
  • 1 16 ounce serving of Glowing Green Smoothie, around 6 grams
  • 1 cup tempeh, 31 grams
  • 1 cup boiled garbanzo beans, 14.53 grams
  • 1 cup lentils, boiled and unsalted, 17.86 grams
  • 1 cup sliced avocado, 2.92 grams
  • 1 cup chopped kale, 2.87 grams
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, 17.82 grams
  • 1 cup amaranth, cooked, 9.35 grams
  • 1 tablespoon spirulina, 4.02 grams

What to Avoid Eating While Pregnant

Just as there are foods you should try to get more of in your diet while you’re pregnant, it’s super important to avoid certain foods due the potential toxins that are present, like mercury or dangerous bacteria, despite any potential benefits (like the omega-3s in fish). You’ll want to discuss the limitations with your healthcare provider, of course, but the Mayo Clinic lists:

  • Fish that is likely to be high in mercury, like swordfish, shark, tuna, king mackerel, and tilefish
  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood, like lox
  • Unpasteurized meat or soft cheeses
  • Deli meat or hotdogs, unless cooked until steaming (there are so many other reasons NOT to eat these foods while pregnant or otherwise, which we won’t get into here!)

Remember that one of the biggest sources of environmental toxins entering your body is through animal foods, which are concentrate toxins in their flesh as contaminants move up the food supply.

So Can You Follow the Beauty Detox Principles?

You can absolutely follow the Beauty Detox guidelines and eat Beauty Detox Foods while you’re pregnant, like cutting out refined foods, dairy, gluten, and fried foods and eating Light to Heavy throughout the day. In fact, it’s a sure way to get plenty of the nutrients you and your growing baby need while you’re pregnant. Increase the intake of the foods and nutrients as discussed above, and add an excellent prenatal vitamin and others that your doctor recommends. Regardless of the Beauty Stage you’re in when you get pregnant, whether you still eat some animal products or you no longer eat them at all, you can meet all of the nutritional goals for a healthy pregnancy.

What I don’t recommend is attempting to move through the phases too quickly while pregnant. It is not a time to unleash a lot of toxins in your system. Use it as a guide for incorporating more Beauty Foods with the important Beauty Fats, Beauty Minerals, Beauty Proteins, and Beauty Vitamins into your diet, a guide for making nutritious choices over the ones that won’t do you or your baby any good (like the empty calories in those fried and refined foods!), and eating too much fatty foods.

Enjoy this sacred time for nourishing yourself and baby!



Last updated: Friday, June 19, 2015
  • Amy Duncan

    Hi Kimberly,

    I was under the impression that soy is usually not good for you because of it’s hormone-imitating characteristics and because most soy (as least in the U.S.) is genetically modified. If this is true, wouldn’t you want to steer clear of Tempeh and other soy-based foods?


    • Shanell

      If you read Kimberly’s books she will tell you that yes, you should avoid soy. But her books will also tell you that tempeh is made from fermented soy, which is much better for you. She always recommends non-GMO tempeh.

    • Truthnut

      Yes be careful of any type of soy and going overboard- all have a hormonal effect regardless of source- gmo or not gmo makes no difference

  • Natalia

    Thanks for sharing all this great info Kimberly!! The only thing that raised my eyebrow was the mention of Parsley. While I am sure a bit of Parsley isn’t going to do any harm, I thought I would share what I have always been taught by the women in my family. Parsley ( in large quantities )can cause abortions as it causes the muscles in your uterus to contract.

  • Jenni

    It’s funny how the foods we should avoid while pregnant are foods we should simply be avoiding in general. If we eat (for the most part) the way our scientific makeup wants us to, we’ll be set for all of life’s natural processes–like childbearing! I’m not ready to have a baby just yet, but I’m already in the mindset of making my body a healthy home for a fetus! Haha. The tips you give here are very informative! I think pregnant women get too excited about “eating for two”, which is why so many gain unnecessary weight. Being pregnant and giving birth should be healthy for both the mommy and the baby!

  • Maria Jose

    Hi Kim, Can you recommend a brand for spirulina tablets or powder ? Thanks for your posts!

  • Megan Kahn

    Thanks so much for posting this. As a health and wellness advocate, we are often bombarded by the need for pregnant moms to be consuming dairy and milk for calcium! I was so relieved to see your post say the opposite of that. Also, wanted to see which B12 supplement you would recommend for a pregnant mom and for a vegan. Thanks for all you do each and everyday to keep inspiring us to live a healthier, cleaner life!

  • Anita De Bauch

    “1 cup of raw spinach has 58 mcg and a cup of cooked, drained, unsalted spinach contains a whopping 263 mcg”

    –> How come cooking spinach increases the folate content? Seems counter-intuitive

    • Christina

      I think since the spinach shrinks down a ton when cooked, 1 cup of cooked spinach would be a lot more if eating it raw.

  • debra

    Kimberly, You have revitalized my life with the GGS! I love you for it…Thanks, Debra

    • Kimberly Snyder

      Thanks so much and I’m glad you like the GGS! :)

  • Sharon

    I don’t normally leave comments because Im a busy single mom of a 3yr old boy who is trying to keep up with me now since I started your Beauty Detox! I read your book and you changed my life! I was an uncommitted vegetarian and I was doing the Atkins diet which was horrible and after reading a section in your book, I immediately stopped and understood why I was so sick! You changed my life! I lost 3lbs in the first week and this is my 2nd week on the Beauty detox foods. My skin is already glowing, my “laugh” lines are barely noticeably. I hardly put creams on my skin, my once oily/combo skin has balanced out!! My blemishes are fading and my hair is growing healthy and strong!! I could literally leave the house without any makeup, in fact makeup makes my skin look worst!! I forget to add that I worked out hard core. I would go to the track or Prospect Park and run for an hour 5/6 days a week and do resistance training 4x a week. The week I started your program I didn’t even lift a finger and I lost 3lbs! You helped me break my plateau and I have energy for days on end!!! Keep up the good work and continue to help others become their most beautiful selfs!!

  • Jackie

    I purchased Beauty Detox Solution almost two years ago, but didn’t actually sit down and read it until this past January when I was six months pregnant. After reading the book, I immediately started incorporating Beauty Detox principles in my pregnancy diet. This biggest change was cutting out all the gluten, sugar, and refined foods. Previous to cutting those foods out, I had a lot of swelling in my hands and feet and generally felt tired all the time. Once I started my days with the GGS and ate light to heavy, my swelling went down and my energy went up. My daughter is now 3 months old, and I’ve continued the Beauty Detox principles while breastfeeding. She is a happy baby and very healthy. Thank you Kimberly!

  • Suzanne

    Hi Kimberly,
    I just found out about your system and am super excited to get started on it. I’ve been feeling so down about myself for the last few years, the skin-tone of my entire body, deep wrinkles on my forehead, thinning hair at the crown, blemishes and general lack of glow, I’m 31. I’m feeling like and hoping that coming across your system was a God-send (someone I follow on twitter, who I know is a woman of faith, had a picture of your book posted saying she’s loving your book). So right away I ordered your book and should have it by Monday but in the meantime I came across your site and was again excited to see this blog entry about prenancy as I’m 11 weeks pregnant with my second. I wanted your opinion on this lifestyle change while being pregnant. I know that your system is for optimal health which of course is wonderful for an expecting mother or anyone but I just wonder if it could be too much of a shock to my system at this point in my life and should wait until after I have my baby. Please, please, please respond! I’m excited to hear back from you. Thanks!

  • Complementos Alimenticios

    The nutrient that is really important is Omaga 3 for child brain development & anti -inflammatory effects. Better supplemented due to mercury levels in natural fish. Great article

  • Alyza

    This is really a great article for pregnant woman. Very informative and helpful too. Keep posting.

  • Zozo

    Nice post. Thumbs up for these.

  • Jacqueline

    Hi Kim!

    I know you recommend bee pollen in your book, when you are pregnant, is it ok to consume that? Thanks!

  • MIchelle

    I have tried googling it but haven’t been successful in trying to find out whether taking mag07 is safe during pregnancy (i am 10weeks). I have constipation problems when i’m not pregnant and now it’s our of control…. I know i should consult my GP, but i am not seeing her for another week.
    Any links or advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Truthnut

      And no- don’t take any supplements while pregnant- if you’re taking an iron supplement that could be constipation you. I’m not sure if you’re having nausea during first trimester and not eating that well? I would add fiber to your diet. please see a doctor or a dietitian that specializes in pregnancy.

  • Liz

    Hi Kim! I am 18 weeks pregnant and have been on the beauty detox diet for 1 month. Last week my midwife said my protein was very low in my urine. What can I do to increase it? I drink the GGS everyday and eat 2 huge salads before my meals. I’m lost! Please help!

    • Truthnut

      OMG very scary! Your protein is low- and your midwife is correct by doing a nitrogen balance study- and your last first trimester- eat some almonds, beans, add back meat- your baby is more important than this. Vegetables BTW are not a good source for protein.

  • Liz

    Hi Kim!
    I’m 18 weeks pregnant and have been doing the beauty detox diet for 1 month now. I feel great! But recently my midwife said my protein was very low when she did my urinalisis. How can I increase it? I drink GGS everyday along with 2 huge salads before meals. I follow your meal plan you have in the beauty detox foods book. I’m at a loss! Please help!

  • CL

    I was googling prenatals and found this article. Do you still recommend New Chapter prenatal vitamins now that the company is owned by Proctor & Gamble? What about their link to Monsanto? Is there a prenatal vitamin you’d recommend today? Thanks for your help!

  • jacinta

    Am few weeks gone and am taking pregnantcare supplement is it safe? What will I eat to make my baby have hair?

  • Sarah Bee

    Great article! I looove the GGS and follow the Beauty Detox regimen (including chicken and salmon for extra protein).

    I wanted to advise everyone to be careful when ingesting Cod Liver Oil during pregnancy as it is known for its vitamin A toxicity. Most websites suggest against taking it. I took it with my last pregnancy, one tablespoon a day, and I can’t say this for sure contributed to me miscarrying, but I did last Feb. This July I was able to conceive again and from day one I’ve been taking Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Prenatals and their Ocean’s Mom DHA supplements. Hope this helps new mamas!

  • Reproductive Medicine Group

    This is a great post thank you so much for sharing this! It’s amazing how much of an impact diet can have on pregnancy, it’s so vital to watch what you eat!