Pregnancy Nutrition & The Very BEST Pregnancy Nutrition Books

Last Updated: February 16, 2024
Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

By Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

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If you’re looking for the best pregnancy nutrition books, you’ve probably found it’s actually kind of hard to find. There aren’t many resources out there, which is why I decided to review the BEST pregnancy nutrition books.

When deciding how to review these, I paid close attention to the experience and authority of the book author. This is SO important mama – because you don’t want to be getting outdated advice EVER. Especially with something as serious as pregnancy nutrition.

Either way, let’s get into it! Here are my top nine favorite pregnancy nutrition books! Plus some general pregnancy nutritional advice and know-how for you to keep in mind.

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Why is pregnancy nutrition so important?

So why do we worry so much about pregnancy nutrition? I mean, we stayed alive BEFORE we were pregnant, sometimes off nothing but fast food fries and an abundance of NutraSweet.

  • A nutritious diet will help ensure that she’s getting the right stuff at the right times
  • A nutritious diet during pregnancy has shown links to things like healthy birth weight, reduced risk of birth defects, and good fetal brain development

I mean, we all know how dangerous it can be when you’re not getting enough folate. Low folate levels are a risk factor for early pregnancy loss, so good pregnancy nutrition IS something you need to take seriously.

Another big thing is this: Baby is pretty good at getting MOST of what she needs if you’re doing an okay job. But she’s taking it from you. And she might not leave any for YOUR body.

A balanced diet helps YOU because it decreases the risk of anemia, morning sickness, and fatigue. It’s going to make your whole pregnancy/delivery experience much more enjoyable – so it’s worth paying attention to.

Being conscious of what you’re eating can also help you reduce (prevent, I WISH!) the burden of acid reflux and indigestion.

What foods to avoid when pregnant

Most of the foods you’ll try to avoid are for one of two reasons: they tend to house known dangerous bacteria, or they contain a natural element (like mercury) that can be dangerous to the little littles at this stage in their development.:

As always, mama, your best source of information in this space is your doctor. I’ll give you a couple of general things you want to avoid but check with your doctor for more specifics.

  • ANY undercooked meat – Yes, well done steak and all other meats – sorry mama
  • RAW sprouts – While you can’t eat them raw, cooked sprouts are perfectly fine (and good for you)
  • Unpasteurized milk & cheese Don’t confuse this with homogenized – they are not the same thing. Milk that is not homogenized is safe. Unpasteurized milk and cheese are not safe because it can carry microbes. One of the most worrisome, bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, can cause Listeriosis. MOST milk is sold already pasteurized, but there are some places that do sell it unpasteurized. If you come across that – it’ll be labeled as such
  • Unpasteurized fruit juice Unpasteurized fruit juice has a lot of the same concerns as unpasteurized milk. We’re worried about harmful bacteria like toxoplasmosis and listeriosis. 98% of the juice in the U.S. IS pasteurized, so it’s unlikely that you’ll come across a juice that isn’t (and it’ll be labeled)
  • Alcohol There’s still no known safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy, so steer clear of this
  • Unwashed produce Here we’re worried about the parasites that can exist on unwashed produce. Toxoplasma can truly be avoided by just washing your fruits and veggies, so don’t skip this
  • High mercury fish – Stick with fish that are low in mercury and high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, canned white tuna, freshwater trout, anchovies, shrimp, and tilapia
  • Undercooked/raw fish – The big one here is sushi. Sometimes raw fish can contain parasitic worms which can make you and baby sick. That doesn’t mean ALL sushi is out – flash freezing can kill risky parasites. When it comes to other fish, you’ll just want to make sure that it flakes and is milky white in color
  • Processed meat – You’ll have to cut out those turkey sandwiches and hotdogs unless they’re steaming hot
  • Raw eggs – There are things you may not have considered when it comes to food that raw egg. Be aware that this includes lightly scrambled eggs, poached eggs, and homemade ice cream to name a few

Foods you should avoid in excess during pregnancy

  • Caffeine Limit it to less than 200 mg per day, which roughly equates to one 12oz cup a day
  • Organ meat – No more than once a week
  • Junk food – In excess these CAN end up causing complications such as excess weight gain

How to choose the best pregnancy nutrition book

Because pregnancy nutrition is SO important, you want to make sure you get your information from a trusted source. This can be hard to do on the internet because there’s a lot of sketchy information out there.

My best advice is first to make sure that your doctor is in the loop. If you want to try something but are unsure about the safeness of it, ask. I know we don’t always have a trusting relationship with our provider, but if you don’t feel like you can talk to them about something like this – it may be time to consider another provider (I know it sounds harsh but trust is SO important).

Next, if you’re considering purchasing a specific pregnancy nutrition book, look up the author:

  • What credentials do they have?
  • Are they known in their field for pregnancy and/or nutrition?

Anyone with an internet connection can publish a book on Amazon, so you definitely want to be wary of this. I fully vetted all of my recommendations here, and I DO not think you could go wrong with any of these books

Best pregnancy nutrition books

Real Food for Pregnancy: The Science and Wisdom of Optimal Prenatal Nutrition

This is probably one of the most popular pregnancy nutrition books – and for good reason. The author of this book, Lily Nichols, is a Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator. Let’s just say nutritional food is definitely her thing.

She wanted to create a resource that was not outdated the way that many pregnancy nutrition books are today. Side note -this book is an acknowledged resource for Dietitians who are seeking continuing education credits – so you KNOW it’s good.

Real Food for Pregnancy includes information on the benefits of “real food” during pregnancy, why some foods are ESSENTIAL while others are DETRIMENTAL, and lifestyle changes you can make to have a healthy pregnancy. Because she’s an expert in diabetes, she also has a lot of information on managing Gestational diabetes (and has another book on this that we’ll talk about in a bit).

Overall MOST moms loved this pregnancy nutrition book. With over 900 citations, it’s the closest thing you’ll get to an easily digestible textbook. With that said – there were those that felt that the author was pretty extreme in her claims and beliefs and that she was perhaps a little biased.

Truthfully, there is going to be SOME bias present in everything – but overall she seems like a dependable source. It’s probably one of the BEST pregnancy nutrition books IF you’re prepared to make changes to the way you live your life. Get Real Food for Pregnancy HERE.

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Eat This When You’re Expecting, Not That

This pregnancy nutrition book comes from the chief women’s health correspondent for ABC News, Dr. Jennifer Ashton. She’s delivered over 1500 happy babies and definitely knows her stuff.

This book gives trimester-by-trimester meal plans, restaurant guides, and supermarket shopping tips so that you can STAY HEALTHY in pregnancy while eating yummy foods that curb those PREGNANCY CRAVINGS.

Her core mission is to help you with your pregnancy nutrition questions, and make sure that you’re eating for YOU instead of for two. She lets you know what vitamins and nutrients are most important for baby, as detailing what NOT to eat during pregnancy to stave off complications.

She wants to help you have clean energy (because pregnancy is SUPER tiring) and to make practical food choices.  Let’s face it, we all know you’re a busy mama and I’m pretty sure NONE of us have the time/energy to cook fancy and expensive meals every day.

Overall, mamas are happy with their purchase of this book. It’s clear, easy to use, and (as the name implies) fun to read. I’d DEFINITELY recommend giving it a try if you feel lost when it comes to pregnancy nutrition. You can get it from Amazon here.

What to Eat When You’re Pregnant: A Week-by-Week Guide to Support Your Health and Your Baby’s Development

This book is written by Dr. Nicole Avena, who is a neuroscientist and expert in pregnancy nutrition and diet. Doctor Avena helps you understand what you REALLY need in pregnancy because your food choices CAN affect how your baby’s brain develops. She takes the semi-unique approach as a doctor in psychology, and so she has a good understanding of what goes into brain health for a happy and healthy baby.

You’ll learn how certain foods will affect your baby throughout different periods of your pregnancy. Each week you’ll get information on what vitamins and proteins are necessary at that point in pregnancy. It’s a straight-forward and easy read, so it’s definitely worth considering.

Related Reading: Perinatal Mental Health Interview With Dr. Ream 

Overall, the reviews are pretty positive on this one too. Most readers felt that it really helped solidify their understanding of what a body needs during pregnancy, and one reader felt more informed by the author than their own prenatal doctor. Which is generally…. yeah, pretty much terrifying.

There WERE some readers that felt that the author could be condescending at times and that the recipes she included were boring. They also felt she was biased against those who were overweight – while others felt the author was just explaining the risks associated with being pregnant and overweight. Come check out this book here.

Real Food for Gestational Diabetes

This pregnancy nutrition book is another volume by Lily Nichols written specifically for women who have been diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes, and it’s the most thorough guide out there that can help you deal with this disease. This book wants to help you manage your blood sugar and weight in pregnancy without it being a MISERABLE experience.

The author goes over carbohydrates and exercise recommendations based on the latest research, as well as how to reduce the potential need for insulin by 50% (via proper nutrition). You’ll learn the ins and outs of foods that will or won’t increase your blood sugar, and how to customize a meal plan to your own wants and needs. We all have them, mama. 

The majority of readers loved this resource because it’s an invaluable book on a topic that is hard to get good (and accurate) information on. I’m certainly NOT saying that your doc doesn’t know what they’re talking about – but they’re often rushing you through “WHAT” you need to do without explaining “WHY” (or even “HOW”). This author does that for you. 

There were some people who felt that there were not enough recipes or food recommendations, or felt that she was a little biased. You can find this pregnancy nutrition book here on Amazon.

Related Reading: What is Gestational Diabetes Mellitus

Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide

If you’re a vegan mama-to-be, this could be the perfect book for you! Veganism can be especially hard during pregnancy because you may have a harder time meeting the pregnancy nutritional guidelines. It’s still doable but it’s a stretch, which is why Sayward Rebhal wrote this book.

It provides quick and straightforward answers to all of the questions a vegan needs to know throughout pregnancy. From pregnancy nutrition (like choosing a brand for your vitamins – it gets overwhelming!) and choosing cruelty-free vitamins, all the way to having a vegan BABY SHOWER – this book has it all.

The Vegan Pregnancy Survival Guide is written in a fun and upbeat voice so that you feel like you’re connecting with a girlfriend who just happens to know a lot about veganism and pregnancy. The book itself is pretty short – only 116 pages. While that may FEEL like a bad thing – it makes the book a lot easier to carry around and reference if you need it.

Overall, MOST readers liked this book. It’s definitely tailored more to the beginner vegan, but more experienced vegans may get something out of it as well. Readers found it was light-hearted, a quick read, and contained a lot of really important information. 

The readers who didn’t like it felt that it was too short, too vague, and too beginner-esque.

Homemade Smoothies for Mother and Baby

This book is PERFECT for the mom-to-be that wants a lot of smoothies in her diet. With over 300 healthy fruit and greens smoothie recipes, you could have a different smoothie for EACH DAY of pregnancy (and still have plenty of unused pages).

The nice thing about this book is that it is not just tailored to pregnant moms. Many of the recipes are perfect for when you’re nursing, or to share with baby. Some of the recipes claim to do things like help with morning sickness, increase your iron count, and optimize your breast milk production.

It also has tips for transitioning baby from milk to solids, as well as ways you can disguise healthy veggies for toddlers and older kids (which unfortunately a LOT of us end up needing someday).

There aren’t a lot of reviews for this book, but the ones that exist are positive. People liked that the author went in-depth on how to use sizes and ratios to make an excellent smoothie, and also provided a breakdown of smoothie types based on the issues you may have (like morning sickness).

Gestational Diabetes Cookbook

This cookbook is another invaluable resource for mama’s dealing with Gestational diabetes. It is written by a registered dietitian that owns a private practice. In this book, you’ll find plenty of nutritional and dietary modifications that can allow you to manage your Gestational diabetes, while still being able to eat the things you WANT to eat.

There are 100 recipes in this book, and it also contains information on simplifying meal planning and creating grocery lists jam-packed with nutrition. Nutritious groceries, that is, not the list itself. The meals are balanced and carbohydrate-controlled, along with helping you maintain your normal blood sugar levels.

This is another one that doesn’t have a whole lot of reviews – but the ones it does have are positive. One pregnant mama who says she’s a big foodie AND has had Gestational diabetes twice states that she and her family love the recipes and that she even learned something about Gestational diabetes, despite being fairly well-versed in it.

Related Reading: 5 Important Signs to Call Your Doctor When Pregnant

100 Healthiest Foods to Eat During Pregnancy

This pregnancy nutrition book is more like a reference guide – so if you decide to get it keep that in mind. One of the authors (there are two of them) is a nationally known board-certified nutritionist and expert on dieting. He’s a popular speaker for both academic and consumer events and has appeared on many stations like CNN and ABC. The other author is a nutritional scientist and teacher. They both have a LOT of evidence-based knowledge on what certain foods can do for our bodies.

The book is split into sections for each trimester, as well as what foods to eat during postpartum and breastfeeding. There are facts in each chapter, along with info on what nutrients and vitamins are necessary for any given stage of pregnancy.

Most readers enjoyed this book when it was used for reference during pregnancy. The book can get redundant because it does include a lot of the same information throughout (like when a certain veggie may be considered a superfood in more than one chapter). Find out more about it here.

Related Reading: 10 Ways to Relieve Constipation During Pregnancy

Wrapping up pregnancy nutrition books

Understanding nutritional needs can be a little overwhelming, and a pregnancy nutrition book can definitely help reduce that overwhelm. I hope that you found a book that fits you and your lifestyle, because there’s plenty of options.

Happy baby-making, mama!

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Liesel Teen, RN-BSN

Liesel Teen

BSN, RN, Practicing Labor and Delivery Nurse

As a labor and delivery nurse, I’ve spent countless hours with women who felt anxious — even fearful — about giving birth. I want you to know it doesn’t have to be that way for you!

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