Eating Right for Two: 10 Most Nutritious Foods to Eat During Pregnancy
Even if you’re already packing an alphabet’s worth of vitamins and minerals into your daily meals, you might be worried that you’re not getting the essentials. After all, eating a well-balanced diet gives your baby the nutrients to grow and develop well.
A tip to keep in mind is to eat 300 to 450 more calories in the second and third trimesters respectively. You can also consult your doctor or nutritionist for a personalised diet plan suitable for your own pregnancy.
Here are 10 super nutritious foods to eat during your pregnancy to help make sure you’re hitting those nutrient goals.
During pregnancy, you need to consume extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of your growing little one. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yoghurt should be on the menu.
Aim to get at least 1,000mg of calcium per day. This is essential for keeping your bones and teeth healthy as well as helping your growing baby develop theirs.
If you’re lactose intolerant, try drinking small amounts of milk throughout the day, or opt for yoghurt. Other ways to eat more dairy include cheese or even ice cream. But take note to avoid unpasteurised milk, including goat’s milk, in all dairy products including yoghurt. Soft cheeses like brie or camembert should also be avoided.
Eggs are the ultimate health food since they contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need. A great source of protein, eggs contain a wide variety of vital amino acids and choline, which are necessary for your baby’s brain development. Make sure they’re fully cooked; try scrambling them or making omelettes with your favourite ingredients.
If you’re a vegetarian, you can add chia seeds and flax seeds to your diet.
Legumes like chickpeas, soybeans, lentils and peas provide you with carbohydrates, protein and other essential nutrients. They help lower blood cholesterol levels and keep your bowels healthy. They’re also chock full of protein, B-group vitamins, folate, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium. Add them to your vegetable soups, stir-fry dishes, or as a base for vegetarian burgers.
Adding unsaturated fats—such as nuts—to your diet is essential. One study found that eating 90g of nuts in a week in your first trimester could improve your growing baby’s neurodevelopment. Nuts contain minerals like phosphorus, selenium, zinc, copper as well as healthy fat. Almonds can help reduce babies’ allergies, and lower the risk of preeclampsia while easing constipation. Meanwhile, macadamia nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, proteins and folate, while pistachios are rich in protein, fibre and antioxidants.
Aim to eat three handfuls of nuts in your diet each week.
Salmon and other oily fish help to strengthen your baby. Eat two portions a week.
Eating oily fish, especially in the second half of pregnancy, helps to strengthen your baby. These include salmon, mackerel, trout and herring. Just have two portions a week (smoked options are safe too)—you can have smoked salmon on a whole wheat bagel, grilled, or slathered in pesto.
But if you’ve been told to limit your seafood intake due to the mercury and other contaminants found in high mercury fish, you can still eat fatty fish like salmon. Just make sure to avoid these high mercury fish: swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin and bigeye tuna.
Plus, salmon is one of the very few natural sources of vitamin D, which is lacking for most of us. It’s important for bone health and immune function.
Eat a rainbow of fruits during your pregnancy, as they’re rich in loads of vitamins, fibre and folate. You should strive to eat two cups of fruit, or four small bananas, two cups of 100 per cent fruit or vegetable juice a day. Fruits like pineapples, banana, papaya and avocado are rich in enzymes, which aid in digestion and break down the nutrients in your body, relieving heartburn, gas or constipation.
Green, leafy vegetables
No surprise here: green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, pack in so many of the nutrients you’ll need. Benefits include fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate, and potassium. They’re a bonanza of green goodness.
Try to eat up to three cups every day. If you don’t love eating them, they can often be squirrelled into all kinds of food—blend some spinach into a green smoothie and you won’t even know it’s in there.
Lean meat and proteins
Lean meat like beef and pork provide your baby with protein for his muscles to develop properly.
Aside from being a great source of protein, lean beef and pork also have iron and B vitamins. Doctors recommend getting 75 to 100g of protein so that your baby’s muscles develop properly and for their overall growth. Plus, lean meat supplies a good dose of vitamins B6 and B12. This helps the baby’s tissue and brain growth while helping relieve your morning sickness, maintaining healthy nerves and red blood cells.
For vegetarians, make sure you get enough servings (at least three servings of protein a day. Alternative protein sources include tofu, dried beans, nuts or seeds. Another way to get this protein is to eat one egg or two egg whites, as well as two tablespoons of peanut butter.
Not only is it a great breakfast food, but oats also contain a ton of important nutrients for pregnancy, such as magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium and iron. Of your 27mg daily requirement of iron, you can get 6mg from 100g of oats. Iron is important for your baby’s growth and reduces the risk of preterm delivery, and is necessary for red blood cell formation.
Besides providing you with necessary carbohydrates and calories, oats are also rich in fibre, which help to regulate digestion and improve bowel movement. Another essential mineral oats have is folic acid, which helps to develop your baby’s nervous system and brain
Start your day right with a bowl of oatmeal, fresh fruits and milk.
Drink plenty of water!
Say it with us: Staying hydrated is vital, especially for pregnant women. A rough guideline is to drink about 2.4 litres of water per day. Your body will channel hydration to your baby, so if you don’t watch your water intake, you may become dehydrated yourself.
Increasing your water intake can help to reduce swelling in your feet and ankles, as well as relieve constipation, haemorrhoids and bladder infections, and reduce your risk of urinary tract infections, which are common during pregnancy.
Pro tip: Try keeping a reusable water bottle on hand so that you can quench your thirst throughout the day.
This story first appeared on Motherswork.