What Foods & Exercises Are Safe During Pregnancy?

There’s a lot to consider when you learn you’re expecting. Plans for baby names, nurseries, safety, feeding and other exciting changes likely fill the minds of expectant mothers. With all the excitement on the horizon, it can be a challenge to remember the changes you should make to your habits to ensure that you and your growing baby remain healthy throughout your pregnancy. To help simplify what you need to know, provided is a list of foods and exercises to add, remove or modify from your routine while pregnant.

Food & Drink

You may be familiar with some of the main foods to avoid in pregnancy, but due to risks of complications, more foods that could contain Listeria, Salmonella or e-coli have been added to the “avoid list” in recent years. However, some foods and beverages can be eaten safely as long as they are modified.

Avoid these:

  • Raw or under-cooked meat and fish
    • Such as: sushi, oysters, rare or under-cooked beef, pork or poultry
  • Unpasteurized soft cheeses
    • Such as: brie, feta, blue cheese or queso blanco
  • Pre-made deli salads or dips
    • Your best bet is to make your own to control shelf-life, ingredients and refrigeration
  • Unpasteurized milk and juices
  • Fish with high levels of mercury
    • Such as: tuna, swordfish, marlin and king mackerel
  • Raw dough or batter
    • Any pre-cooked mix that includes raw egg
  • Raw sprouts
  • Alcohol

Modify these:

  • Deli meats and hot dogs
    • Safe if heated to steaming (165 degrees) right before consumption
  • Eggs
    • Cook eggs until yolks are firm
  • Smoked seafood
    • Canned versions are safe, refrigerated versions are not unless heated to 165 degrees right before consumption
  • Homemade ice cream
    • Only safe if pasteurized eggs or egg products are used
  • Coffee
    • Drink no more than 200 mg/day,  which is one 10-12 oz cup of regular coffee

See a full list and safe cooking recommendations at foodsafety.gov.

Eat these:

In pregnancy, you’ll want to follow similar rules of healthy eating as is normally recommended, with a few modifiers to increase key vitamin intake, incorporate more protein and remove unsafe foods. Add these choices to your diet to help encourage a healthy pregnancy:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Cooked eggs
  • Salmon
  • Lamb
  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sweet potatoes

Exercise

While you should consult your doctors for individual recommendations, low-impact exercise is healthy and encouraged during pregnancy.

Include these:

As a general guide, a low-impact, pregnancy-safe exercise routine means about 30 minutes of exercise at a level where you could carry on a conversation. Some examples may include:

  • Walking
  • Prenatal Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Low-impact aerobics

Modify These:

  • Yoga & Pilates
    • If you can’t find prenatal classes, beginner to moderate level class can be safe. Let your teacher know you are expecting and they can recommend modifications.
  • Aerobic Exercises
    • If you attended classes before conceiving, at your doctor’s discretion you should be able to keep them up. Pay attention to your exertion levels and modify when you feel uncomfortable or can’t easily talk.
  • Strength Training
    • Use lighter weights to maintain your strength training routine. Avoid motions that quickly jolt your core or put strain on it.

Avoid These:

  • Hot Yoga, Saunas or Steam Rooms
    • High temperatures are not safe during pregnancy
  • Abdominal exercises
    • Laying on your back for extended periods is not recommended after the first trimester
  • HIIT or high-intensity training
  • Contact sports
    • Hockey, basketball, soccer, etc.
  • Activities with high risk of falling or being struck in the abdomen
    • Kickboxing, water sports, skiing, volleyball, etc.
  • Scuba Diving

It is important to note that every person and every pregnancy is different. While these guidelines will fit for most, it is pertinent to establish a relationship with a family medicine or obstetrics and gynecology provider once you learn you are pregnant. They will become your partner in the journey to parenthood and make recommendations and adjustments to your lifestyle along the way based on your individual needs. Find a provider that’s right for you at altru.org/providers.

Roshan Ghimire, MD, is a family medicine physician with an interest in obstetrics and women’s health. Dr. Ghimire enjoys family medicine as it allows him to interact with a variety of medical problems and different patient groups. He finds caring for pregnant women, delivering babies and then caring for that baby to be a very rewarding process. Dr. Ghimire enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with his family, especially his young daughter.

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