Pregnant? Hungry? Are you looking for a snack that will please your tummy and your baby? You probably hear this often: eating nutritious foods during pregnancy is essential.
We are here to make your pantry a unique place of healthy and delicious food that will give your baby the best start to life.
When building your healthy eating plan, you should focus on whole foods that give you greater amounts of good things you should even when you’re not pregnant, such as:
- vitamins and minerals
- Healthy types of fat
- complex carbohydrates
- fiber and liquids
Below are 13 super nutritious foods for pregnant women to make sure you’re achieving all the nutritional goals for your baby on the road.
The best foods for pregnant women
1. Dairy products
During pregnancy, you need to consume extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of your toddler. Dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt should be on the leaf.
Dairy products contain two types of high-quality protein: casein and whey.
They are the best dietary source of calcium and provide large amounts of phosphorus, B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.
Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, contains more calcium than most other dairy products and is especially useful. Some varieties also contain probiotic bacteria that support digestive health.
If you are lactose intolerant, you may be able to tolerate yogurt, especially probiotic yogurt. Check with your doctor to see if you can test it. A whole world of yogurt smoothies may be waiting for you.
This food group includes lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans and peanuts. Legumes are great plant sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate and calcium – all of which your body needs more during pregnancy.
Folate is one of the most important B vitamins (B9). It is very important for you and your baby, especially during the first trimester and even before.
Every day you will need at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folate, which can only be a challenge to achieve with food. But adding legumes can help you achieve this along with dietary supplements based on a doctor’s recommendation.
Legumes are also very rich in fiber. Some varieties also contain a lot of iron, magnesium and potassium. Consider adding legumes to your diet.
3. Sweet potato
Sweet potato is not only delicious cooked in a thousand ways, it is also rich in beta carotene, a plant compound that is converted into vitamin A in your body.
Vitamin A is essential for a child’s development. Just keep an eye out for excessive amounts of vitamin A of animal origin, such as meat, which can cause toxicity in large quantities.
Fortunately, sweet potato is a rich plant source of beta carotene and fiber. Fiber keeps you fuller for longer, reduces blood sugar spikes and improves digestive health.
Salmon is a welcome addition to this list. Salmon is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids that have a multitude of benefits.
In large quantities, they are found in seafood and help build your baby’s brain and eyes, and can even increase gestational length.
But wait: Have you been told to limit seafood intake due to mercury and other contaminants found in live fish? You can still eat fatty fish like salmon.
Here are fish with a high amount of mercury that are prohibited for pregnant women:
- royal mackerel
- big-eyed tuna
In addition, salmon is one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, which most of us lack. It is important for bone health and immune function.
Eggs are top healthy foods, as they contain little of almost all the nutrients you need. A large egg contains about 80 calories, high-quality protein, fat and many vitamins and minerals.
Eggs are an excellent source of choline, a vital nutrient during pregnancy. It is important in the development of the child’s brain and helps prevent developmental abnormalities of the brain and spine.
One whole egg contains approximately 147 milligrams (mg) of choline, which will bring you closer to your current recommended choline intake of 450 mg per day during pregnancy (although multiple studies are being conducted to determine if this is enough).
6. Broccoli and dark, leafy greens
Broccoli and dark, green leafy vegetables, like kale and spinach, contain as many nutrients you’ll need. Even if they you don’t like to eat, they can often tuck into all sorts of dishes.
The benefits of green vegetables include fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium. They are the riches of green goodness. Vegetables are also associated with a reduced risk of low birth weight.
7. Lean meat and protein
Lean beef, pork and chicken are excellent sources of high-quality protein. Beef and pork are also rich in iron, choline and other B vitamins – which you will increasingly need during pregnancy.
Iron is an essential mineral that red blood cells use as part of hemoglobin. You will need more iron because the amount of blood increases. This is especially important during your third trimester.
Low iron levels during the early stages and mid-term pregnancy can cause iron deficiency anemia, which increases the risk of low birth weight and other complications.
It’s hard to cover iron needs with meals alone, especially if you develop an aversion to meat or if you’re vegetarian or vegan. However, for those who can, regularly eating lean red meat can increase the amount of iron.
Combining foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges or peppers, along with foods rich in iron can also help increase absorption.
Berries contain a lot of goodness in their tiny packages like water, healthy carbohydrates, vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants.
Berries have a relatively low glycemic index value, so they should not cause large jumps in blood sugar.
Berries are also an excellent snack, as they contain both water and fiber. They provide a lot of flavor and nutrition, but with relatively few calories.
Some of the best berries you eat pregnant are blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, strawberries and acai berries. Check out this blueberry smoothie for inspiration.
9. Whole grains
Unlike their refined counterparts, whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins and plant compounds. Imagine oats, quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries and barley instead of white bread, pasta and white rice.
Some whole grains, such as oats and quinoa, also contain a fair amount of protein. They are also ideal for pregnant women who often lack B vitamins, fiber and magnesium.
Add whole grains to any meal.
Avocado is an unusual fruit because it contains a lot of monounsaturated fatty acids. They also contain a lot of fiber, B vitamins (especially folate), vitamin K, potassium, copper, vitamin E and vitamin C.
Due to its high content of healthy fats, folate and potassium, avocado is an excellent choice during pregnancy.
Healthy fats help build your child’s skin, brain, and tissues, and folate can prevent neural tube damage, developmental brain and spinal abnormalities such as spina bifida.
Potassium can help relieve leg cramps, which is a side effect of pregnancy in some women. In fact, avocados contain more potassium than bananas.
11. Dried fruits
Dried fruits mainly contain a lot of calories, fiber and various vitamins and minerals. One piece of dried fruit contains the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit, only without all the water and in a significantly smaller form.
One serving of dried fruit can provide a large percentage of the recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals, including folate, iron and potassium.
Prunes are rich in fiber, potassium and vitamin K. They are natural laxatives and can be of great help in relieving constipation. Dates are rich in fiber, potassium, iron and plant compounds.
However, dried fruits also contain large amounts of natural sugar. Be sure to avoid candied varieties that contain even more sugar.
Although dried fruits can help increase calorie and nutrient intake, it is usually not recommended to consume more than one serving.
12. Fish liver oil
Fish liver oil is made from fatty liver of fish, most often cod. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for fetal brain and eye development.
Adding fish oil can help protect against preterm birth and may favor fetal eye development.
Fish liver oil is also very rich in vitamin D, which many people do not have enough of. It can be very useful for those who regularly do not eat seafood or do not add omega-3 or vitamin D.
One serving (1 tablespoon or 15 milliliters) of fish oil gives more than the recommended daily intake of omega-3, vitamin D and vitamin A.
However, it is not recommended to consume more than one serving per day, as too much prepared vitamin A can be dangerous for your baby. Highe levels of omega-3 can also have effects on blood thinning.
Low-mercury fish such as salmon, sardines or canned light tuna can also help you achieve your omega-3 goals.
We all need to stay hydrated. Especially pregnant women. During pregnancy, blood volume increases by about 45 percent.
Your body will channel hydration to your baby, but if you don’t watch your water intake, you may become dehydrated yourself. Symptoms of mild dehydration include headache, anxiety, fatigue, bad mood and decreased memory.
Increasing water intake can also help relieve constipation and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections, which are common during pregnancy.
General guidelines recommend that pregnant women drink about 80 ounces (2.3 liters) of water per day. But the amount you really need varies. Talk to your doctor for a recommendation based on your specific needs.
Keep in mind that you also get water from other foods and drinks, such as fruits, vegetables, coffee and tea. Try to keep a reusable water bottle handy so you can quench your thirst throughout the day.
Include these foods in the diet for a healthy pregnancy
Your growing baby is just waiting to extract all those nutrients from a well-rounded diet plan of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats. Also, use these foods even if you are already breastfeeding your baby in pregnancy.
There is a whole world of delicious options that provide you and your baby with everything you need. Keep your health care team informed of your diet choices and let them guide you according to plan with all the necessary supplements.
This list should be a good start to a healthy, well-fed pregnancy.
See also the best free apps for pregnancy and baby development.