Pregnant? Hangry? Are you looking for a snack that will make your tummy and baby happy? You probably hear it a lot: Eating nutritious foods is essential during pregnancy.
We’re here to make your pantry a one-stop-shop for delicious, healthy foods that will give your baby the best start in life.
When developing your healthy diet, you’ll want to focus on whole foods that give you more of the good things you would need when you’re not pregnant, such as:
- vitamins and minerals
- healthy types of fat
- complex carbohydrates
- fibers and fluids
Here are 7 super nutritious foods to eat when you’re pregnant to make sure you reach those nutritional goals.
1. Dairy products
During pregnancy, you need to get more protein and calcium to meet the needs of your growing toddler. Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt should be on the register.
Dairy products contain high quality protein of two types: casein and whey. Dairy products are the best dietary source of calcium and provide high amounts of phosphorus, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.
Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, contains more calcium than other dairy products and is particularly beneficial. Some varieties also contain probiotic bacteria, which help in digestive health.
You can also tolerate yogurt, especially probiotic yogurt if you are lactose intolerant. Check with your doctor if you can test it. A whole world of yogurt smoothies, parfaits and lassi could be waiting for you.
This food group includes beans, chickpeas, lentils, peanuts, peas, and soybeans (that is, all kinds of fabulous recipe ingredients!).
Legumes are great plant sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate, and calcium – which your body needs most during pregnancy.
One of the most essential B vitamins (B9) is folate. This is very important for you and your baby, especially during the first trimester and even before.
You will need at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day, which can be a challenge to achieve with food alone. But adding legumes can help you get there with supplementation based on your doctor’s recommendation.
Legumes are also very high in fiber. Some of its varieties are also high in iron, magnesium, and potassium. Consider adding legumes to your diet with meals like black beans in a taco salad, hummus on whole grain toast, or lentil curry.
3. Sweet potatoes
In a thousand ways, sweet potatoes are not only delicious cooked but they are also rich in beta-carotene, a plant compound that in your body is converted into vitamin A.
For the development of the baby, vitamin A is essential. Beware of excessive amounts of animal sources of vitamin A, such as organ meats, which can cause toxicity in high amounts.
Fortunately, sweet potatoes are an abundant plant source of beta-carotene and fiber. Fiber keeps you full for longer, reduces spikes in blood sugar, and improves digestive health (which can really help if pregnancy constipation does occur).
For a delicious breakfast, try sweet potatoes as the base for your morning avocado toast.
Smoked on a whole wheat bagel, toasted teriyaki, or topped with pesto, salmon is a welcome addition to this list. Salmon is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids which have a host of benefits.
These are found in high amounts in seafood and help build your baby’s brain and eyes and may even help increase the length of gestation.
But wait: have you been told to limit your seafood intake because of the mercury and other contaminants found in mercury-rich fish? You can still eat fatty fish like salmon.
Here are the mercury-rich fish to avoid:
- king mackerel
- bigeye tuna
- Gulf of Mexico Tilefish
Plus, salmon is one of the very few natural sources of vitamin D, which most of us lack. It is important for healthy bone and immune function.
These amazing edible eggs are the ultimate health food because they contain a little bit of almost all the nutrients you need. A large egg contains around 80 calories, high quality protein, fat, and many vitamins and minerals.
Eggs are a great source of choline, an essential nutrient during pregnancy. It is important in the development of the baby’s brain and helps prevent abnormalities in the development of the brain and spine.
A single whole egg contains about 147 milligrams (mg) of choline, which will bring you closer to the current recommended choline intake of 450 mg per day during pregnancy (although more studies are underway to determine if this is sufficient) .
Try them in spinach feta wraps or in a chickpea scramble.
6. Broccoli and dark leafy greens
No surprise here: Broccoli and dark green vegetables, like kale and spinach, have as many nutrients as you’ll need. Even if you don’t like to eat them, they can often be incorporated into all kinds of dishes.
Benefits include calcium, fiber, folate, iron, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. They are a godsend of green goodness.
Adding servings of green vegetables is an effective way to pack vitamins and fight constipation from all those fibers. Vegetables have also been linked to a reduced low birth weight risk.
Try mixing spinach into a green smoothie and you won’t even know it’s in there.
7. Lean meat and protein
Lean beef, pork, and chicken are great sources of high-quality protein. Beef and pork are also high in iron, choline, and other B vitamins – all of which you’ll need in greater amounts during pregnancy.
An essential mineral is iron used by red blood cells as part of hemoglobin. More iron will be needed by you as your blood volume increases. This is especially important during your third trimester.
Low iron levels in early and mid-pregnancy can cause iron deficiency anemia, which increases the risk of low birth weight and other complications.
With meals alone, it can be difficult to meet your iron needs especially if you develop an aversion to meat or if you are a vegetarian or vegan. However, for those who can, eating lean red meat regularly can help increase the amount of iron you get from food.
Pro tip: Pairing foods high in vitamin C, such as oranges or peppers, with foods high in iron can also help increase absorption.
Toss vitamin C-rich tomato slices on this turkey burger or make this steak and mango salad.