Every calorie counts during pregnancy and it is important to choose the healthiest food and beverage options whenever possible. You can enjoy most foods in moderation. However, there are some foods and drinks that come with extra calories and little to no nutritional benefit to you or your baby that you should eat sparingly.
Simple sugars, also known as white, or refined sugar, are found in many different foods from salad dressings to cupcakes. A sweet treat is okay from time to time, but in general, try to choose foods that provide you with needed nutrients. Reading the label is the best way to know how much added sugars are in the foods you are eating. Try to limit your intake of added sugar to 25 grams (six teaspoons) or less a day. Some foods advertised as “healthy,” may actually be loaded with sugar. For instance, some yogurts with added fruits and sugar may contain 26 grams of sugar, so be sure to read the label.
Processed foods tend to be higher in salt and saturated fat than foods that are prepared at home. They can also be more expensive. Preparing foods in your own kitchen lets you control the ingredients in what you eat.
Here are some ways to reduce your intake of high-fat, salty or processed foods:
- Use weekly menus and a shopping list so that you always have on hand what you need to prepare quick, easy snacks and meals to minimize the need to rush out for fast food.
- At home or when eating out, prepare or choose foods that are sautéed, steamed, stir-fried, braised, broiled, baked, roasted or steamed, instead of fried or deep-fried.
- Read labels. Aim for foods that have five or less ingredients.
- Make your own soups, sauces and salad dressings at home. Processed versions are often high in sugar and sodium.
- Add color and flavor (and lots of vitamins and minerals, too) to snacks and meals by keeping a variety of fresh, canned, and frozen fruits and vegetables on hand.
Some caffeine is okay during pregnancy, and there is no need to stop cold turkey if you already drink coffee. But try to stick to two cups or fewer per day. Switching to half-caffeinated/half-decaffeinated coffee is an easy way to reduce caffeine intake and still drink coffee. Also, avoid large sources of caffeine found in some energy drinks and supplements that are not recommended during pregnancy. Other healthy beverage ideas include:
- Herbal tea, hot or iced, with fresh lemon
- 100% fruit juices
- Low-fat milk
- Soda water with a splash of juice
- Water with fresh lemon, lime, cucumber, or mint
Reducing the amount of foods and drinks you consume that contain sugar, sodium, or caffeine can help you feel better throughout your pregnancy.
Different names for “sugar” listed on a label:
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Cane sugar
- Corn syrup
- High fructose corn syrup