Mediterranean diet for pregnancy

The Mediterranean-style dietary pattern can be a well-balanced and nutritious choice for pregnant parents

A bowl of hummus with tomatoes and sesame seeds.
Photo: Alesia Kozik/Pexels.

A healthy dietary pattern plays an important role in ensuring optimal health during pregnancy. With the potential to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes, the consumption of nutrient-dense foods is especially significant.

The impact of a healthy diet on both the pregnant parent and baby can continue beyond these early life stages, shaping future phases of life. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) outlines the essential recommendations for healthy eating throughout the life stages, including pregnancy and breastfeeding.  

For pregnant people, the Mediterranean diet has garnered recent attention. It was first brought to light by the scientist Ancel Keys in 1975, based on the eating patterns of people who live in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. It is a variation of the Healthy U.S.-Style Dietary Pattern and shares its core components. It emphasizes a combination of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fish, while limiting the intake of foods high in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium.

Recent studies have found a positive association between the Mediterranean-style dietary pattern and pregnancy-related outcomes. These benefits include a reduced risk of gestational diabetes in the mother and a reduced risk of prematurity and low birth weight in the new-born baby.

Components of a Mediterranean-style dietary pattern includes:

By incorporating components of the Mediterranean diet, pregnant people and their support systems can set the stage for healthy pregnancies and the future well-being of themselves and their babies. The USDA’s Healthy Eating on A Budget can help pregnant people and their support systems plan and prepare healthy, inexpensive meals that follow healthy dietary patterns such as the Mediterranean diet. Contact your local Michigan State University Extension office for support and/or classes on how to plan and prepare healthy meals on a budget.

Note: It is important to consult with your healthcare providers to tailor dietary plans according to specific individual needs.

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