Good nutrition is vital for expecting mothers

If you're pregnant, no doubt you know that getting the right nutrition is crucial to the health of you and your future son or daughter. Getting the right amounts of proteins, vitamins and minerals are important in ensuring that your baby development happens exactly as planned.

Most of us know the basics of eating right: load up on proteins, just say no to refined carbs and sugars, and always eat your fruits and veggies. However, there are a few things that pregnant mothers should keep in mind when they plan their diets.

The proper balance
Many moms-to-be fall for the myth that they're now eating for two, and in a sense, that's true. However, many moms assume that this means they need to eat twice as much in order to ensure their baby's health, and that simply isn't the case. Instead, women should focus on eating more of the right foods. According to the Office on Women's Health, pregnant women often experience deficiencies in calcium, iron and brain-building fats.

Leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale are loaded with iron. So are many meats and types of seafood, according to the American Red Cross. Kale is also high in calcium, as are broccoli and collard greens. Consuming dairy is, of course, one of the top ways to up your calcium intake. Oranges are another calcium-rich food. Finally, good fats, such as those found in nuts and legumes, are essential to your baby's development. Other brain-building fatty foods include olives and avocados.

Folic acid is also a prime concern for women while pregnant. Folic acid is important in preventing certain birth defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Moms-to-be need from 400 - 800 micrograms per day. Foods high in folic acid include dark, leafy vegetables as well as most nuts and legumes. Many women also opt to take supplements.

Foods to avoid
Just as there are certain foods you'll want to eat more of, there are also certain foods you'll want to avoid while pregnant. The American Pregnancy Association recommended that pregnant women avoid eating any type of raw meat, including deli meat. Any fish that may be contaminated with mercury should also be avoided at all costs. Raw seafood and shellfish are also potentially harmful.

Pregnant women must also be careful around dairy. Raw eggs should be avoided due to the possibility of being contaminated with salmonella. Unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses are equally off-limits due to the presence of listeria, which has often been linked to miscarriage.

Most doctors say that pregnant women should also steer clear of caffeine. The drug has been linked to miscarriage in the first trimester and premature birth. Another factor to consider is that caffeine is a diuretic, and can further contribute to bladder problems. If you do choose to drink caffeine, the APA suggested that you limit yourself to 200 milligrams per day.

A word about alcohol
The consumption of alcohol by expectant mothers is a controversial topic. For years the practice has been considered taboo, though several recent studies have shown its effects to be nil in the first trimester, and next to nil throughout the rest of the pregnancy if consumed in moderation. Most doctors will still agree that moms-to-be should avoid the substance, especially hard alcohol, or else limit yourself to no more than one glass of wine per day.

Eating healthy foods is essential for all expecting moms, but sometimes it's easier said than done. If you're worried about your pregnancy diet, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you make the right choices to ensure the health of you and your baby.

What's the hardest part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy diet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.