Best Foods to Eat While Pregnant or Breastfeeding

Last Update: July 9, 2024

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, chances are you’ve got a lot on your mind. Between midnight cravings and sleep deprivation, ensuring you’re getting the nourishment you need isn’t always easy, but we’re here to help. From nutrient-dense dishes to enjoy during pregnancy to quick and easy breastfeeding eats, here are our favorite baby-friendly recipes and the best foods to eat while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Best Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

Let’s begin by looking at the best foods to eat while you’re pregnant. Cravings, food aversions, foods to avoid, morning sickness … finding the best foods to eat during pregnancy can be challenging. Get the nutrients you and your baby need in the first, second, and third trimester with this helpful list.

Foods for Breastfeeding

First Trimester

  • Bone broth: Plagued by morning sickness? Go easy on your system with chicken or beef bone broth, and get a protein boost in the early days of pregnancy, too [1]. Bone broth is often a good source of essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
  • Walnuts: Not only do walnuts contribute to your daily protein intake (pregnant women should have 75-100 grams of protein per day), but they include filling healthy fat and fiber making walnuts one of the best pregnancy snacks [3]. Walnuts are also a rich plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Omega-3s are essential for the development of the baby’s brain and eyes. [4].
  • Spinach: Folate, manganese, iron, vitamin C, A and K—this leafy green is packed with nutrients for mom and baby [5]. Spinach is an excellent source of folate (vitamin B9), which is crucial during pregnancy. [6].
  • Lentils: Another great source of plant-based protein, lentils also deliver folic acid (pregnant women should consume about 400 mcg of folic acid a day, making lentils one of the best foods to eat while pregnant) [7]. Lentils are a source of plant-based protein, essential for the growth and development of the baby’s tissues and organs [8].
  • Eggs: Wake up with protein! Eggs also have calcium and vitamin D, which support baby’s bone development, plus choline, which supports baby’s brain development [9]. Eggs provide high-quality protein, which is crucial for the growth and development of the baby’s tissues and organs [10].

Second Trimester

  • Beans: As your baby continues to grow, you’ll want to load up on folic acid, and beans are an excellent source. Bonus: You’ll also get a dose of dietary fiber [11]. The high fiber content in beans can also help prevent constipation, a common issue during pregnancy. [12].
  • Nuts and seeds: From pumpkin to sunflower seeds and almonds to cashews, nuts and seeds deliver a protein boost along with folate and magnesium [13]. Nuts are easy to carry and readily available, making nuts one of the best pregnancy snacks. Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for the baby’s brain and eye development [14]. Especially important are walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, which are high plant-based omega-3 [15].
  • Yogurt: Keep your digestive system in check with probiotics, get a dose of calcium (even more than milk), and up your protein intake by incorporating yogurt into your daily diet [16]. Yogurt is rich in calcium, which is crucial for the development of the baby’s bones and teeth. Adequate calcium intake during pregnancy also helps maintain the mother’s bone density and prevent bone loss [17].
  • Orange juice: Feeling sluggish? Get a vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid boost with a nice cold glass of OJ. Orange juice is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is essential for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body. Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron, which is important during pregnancy to prevent anemia [18].

Third Trimester

  • Fruit: As your placenta kicks into overdrive, stock up on fruits high in vitamin C. Go for kiwis, strawberries, banana, citrus, and melon [19]. Many fruits are packed with antioxidants, such as flavonoids and carotenoids, which protect cells from damage [20].
  • Avocado: With vitamins C and E, fiber, folic acid, and healthy fat, avocados are a near-perfect third-trimester food [21]. Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid, which are beneficial for heart health and may help with the development of the baby’s brain and tissues [22].
  • Salmon: As your baby’s brain grows, support healthy development with omega-3 fatty acids and DHA found in superfoods like salmon [23]. Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which is crucial for the development of the baby’s brain and eyes. Adequate intake of omega-3s during pregnancy may also be associated with reduced risk of preterm birth and improved developmental outcomes for the child [24].
  • Olive Oil: Get an energy boost and key nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and magnesium by adding a drizzle of olive oil to your next meal [25]. The phenolic compounds in olive oil have anti-inflammatory properties [26], which may be beneficial in reducing the risk of pregnancy-related complications and improving overall health.

Recipes Using The Best Foods To Eat While Pregnant

Cooking for two is almost as enjoyable as eating for two with these crave-worthy recipes.

Spiced Chicken Bone Broth

Get a dose of protein with a kick. This warm and comforting chicken broth recipe includes raw honey and cayenne for the perfect sweet and spicy combo.

Frozen Yogurt Fig and Nut Bark

Stave off those midday cravings with this lighter take on chocolate bark, made with Greek-style yogurt and loaded with crunchy chopped nuts along with figs and fruit spread.

Coconut-Creamed Spinach With Eggs

Morning sickness kicking in? Sometimes all you need is a hearty breakfast to start the day off right. This dairy-free recipe uses coconut milk and nutritional yeast for a bed of savory creamed spinach that’s topped with a poached egg.

Whole-Roasted Sea Bass With Lentils

Light, elegant, and full of protein, this fresh but simple dish pairs beautifully seasoned roast sea bass with earthy green lentils and zesty cherry tomatoes.

Japanese-Inspired Avocado Toast

Load up on healthy fats and give avocado toast a makeover with traditional Japanese flavors. Brush your slices with coconut aminos and sprinkle them with toasted nori and sesame seeds.

No-Churn Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Homemade frozen yogurt without the hard work? Yes please! This genius recipe calls for Greek-style yogurt, raw honey, berries, pistachios, and cacao nibs for a cool, probiotic treat. A fantastic pregnancy snack.

Best Foods to Eat While Breastfeeding

Good nutrition for your baby starts with good nutrition for yourself. That means choosing to eat the healthiest and best foods while breastfeeding. If you choose to breastfeed, make sure you’re staying nourished with key vitamins your body needs to keep milk production high without feeling depleted.

  • Nutritional yeast: Fortified with vitamin B12, this vegan-friendly, super-seasoning is your breastfeeding bestie [27].
  • Beans: If you’re still recovering from birth, foods with iron like beans will help you regain your stamina [28].
  • Salmon: Consider this the perfect breastfeeding-friendly protein. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, and protein, salmon supports baby’s continued brain development and keeps you feeling energized [29].
  • Oatmeal: Not only is oatmeal comforting and a good source of iron, but many moms believe it helps increase milk supply.
  • Leafy greens: Go lean, mean, and green with dark, leafy vegetables, which contain phytoestrogens (thought to increase milk production) [30].

Foods for Breastfeeding

Recipes for Breastfeeding

Getting enough calories while breastfeeding is important for both milk production and energy, so making sure those calories are loaded with nutrients is a must. Eat up with these healthy recipes.

Overnight Oats 3 Ways

Tired of the same old oatmeal and short on sleep? Mix it up (and save yourself some time) with chocolate peanut butter, chai granola, or tropical overnight oats.

‘Nacho’ Kale Chips

These are nacho your ordinary nachos! Made without tortilla chips or cheese, savory kale chips are topped with vegan “queso” using cashews and nutritional yeast.

Creamy Hummus With Avocado Oil

Just when we thought hummus couldn’t get any better, this recipe uses avocado oil for a filling, nutritious dip that’s also vegan!

Salmon Burger With Avocado Salsa

Sink your teeth into some omega-3s. This flavorful burger combines chunks of non-GMO salmon meat with a spicy blend of paprika, cumin, and just a touch of cayenne.

Roasted Salmon and Cauliflower Rice Bowl

From the grain-free cauliflower rice to the sautéed veggies and protein-rich salmon, this meal in a bowl is brimming with nutrients.

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Jillian Gordon

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