Since an expectant mother is eating for two, it’s very important to eat the right foods during a pregnancy. A pregnant woman needs to eat a balanced diet that can provide the necessary nutrients for building a healthy baby.
For a well-rounded eating plan during pregnancy, an expectant mother’s diet should consist of whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Despite all the food cravings that you will be feeling, you need to make the effort to eat foods that contain the building blocks of life that your growing baby needs.
Hungry? Here a comprehensive list of the best foods to eat while pregnant:
Looking for the superfood that delivers just about everything that a pregnant woman could want? Make eggs a big part of your diet.
Eggs contain nearly all the nutrients that a pregnant woman needs. At about 80 calories, a single large egg is a compact package that offers high-quality protein, fat, and many vitamins and minerals. This includes 6 grams of protein and 44 IU (international units) of vitamin D, a vital nutrient that reduces the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and low birth weight.
Importantly, eggs are a great source of choline, a nutrient that is vital to a pregnancy. Choline is important for the development of a baby’s brain, and helps prevent developmental abnormalities of the brain and spine. With a single serving of eggs, a pregnant woman can receive about 147 milligrams (mg) of choline, about a third of the current recommended daily choline intake of 450 mg.
For a healthy snack full of calcium and nutrition, try incorporating a diet of yoghurt into your pregnancy. Yoghurt greatly benefits bone development as a great source of calcium. It is also a good source of folate, an essential B vitamin (B9) that is vital to a pregnancy especially during the first trimester. A pregnant woman should ideally consume at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folate everyday.
Certain types of yoghurt are excellent for containing probiotic bacteria that benefit digestive health as well as active cultures that help prevent stomach upset and yeast infections. If possible, choose plain varieties of yoghurt that are free of added sugars.
In general, other dairy products like milk and cheese are good to eat during a pregnancy. Dairy products contain high-quality proteins like casein and whey as well as high amounts of phosphorus, B vitamins, magnesium, and zinc. What’s more, they are great ways to allow a pregnant woman to attain her daily calcium requirement of 1000 mg.
Although you may have just had them as a side dish at a sushi restaurant, edamame is one of the best foods to eat while pregnant. This food makes for a great snack that is highly nutritious and simple to prepare.
Per cup (shelled), this Japanese bean offers:
• 18 grams of protein;
• 100 milligrams of calcium;
• 3.5 milligrams of iron; and
• 482 micrograms of folate.
In all, legumes are power-packed foods that are great plant-based sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Aside from edamame, you should also try legumes such as lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and peanuts. Looking for food inspiration? Try black beans in a taco salad, lentil curry, or a hummus spread to go on your whole grain toast.
4. Dark, Leafy Greens
Because dark, leafy greens were important to your health before, they have become doubly important for a pregnant woman. These vegetables contain a whole host of nutrients such as fiber, calcium, and potassium, and are linked to a reduced risk of low birth weight.
One great example of a healthy leafy green to add to your diet is kale. It contains:
• Vitamin C
• Vitamin A
• Vitamin E
• Vitamin K
Not only that, kale is an excellent natural source of folate that pregnant women would otherwise have to get from folic acid, a synthetic form found in supplements and fortified foods.
Try to aim for a daily intake of 400 micrograms before your pregnancy and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy; this will reduce the risk of neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain and spinal cord) as well as premature birth.
5. Sweet Potatoes
If you’ve got a craving for sweet potatoes, then you’re in for a treat! Your body is craving nutrients, and sweet potatoes are full of them! This nourishing root vegetable is rich in beta carotene, a chemical that gets converted into the vitamin A that your growing baby requires. Sweet potatoes have the great advantage of providing vitamin A in a safe way; consuming other sources of animal-based vitamin A (like organ meats) in high amounts may cause toxicity.
As well, sweet potatoes are a rare natural food source of vitamin D. This makes it a plant-based way to boost the calcium absorption necessary to build baby bones and teeth, and keep immune systems strong. In all, a pregnant woman needs to consume about 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D on a daily basis.
And, considering that they are high in fiber, sweet potatoes can alleviate pregnancy constipation, making them one of the best healthy foods to eat while pregnant.
By far, salmon is one of the best foods that an expectant mother can incorporate into her diet. Salmon is full of the DHA omega-3 fatty acids that help build the brain and eyes of your baby, and can help increase gestational length. Omega-3 helps metabolize fat-soluble vitamins like A & E that the body can’t make on its own, and reduces the risk of prenatal depression. Ideally, a pregnant woman should consume about 200 to 300 milligrams of DHA omega-3 on a daily basis.
Salmon also has high levels of iodine, a key pregnancy nutrient that promotes brain and nervous system development in your growing baby. Pregnant women should try to get about 290 micrograms of iodine every day.
Another great benefit of salmon is that it is not high in mercury, especially if you eat wild salmon and not the farmed variety. For other alternatives to salmon, try sardines and herring.
7. Lean Meats
Protein is crucial for a baby’s growth. And for an expectant mother to receive the necessary protein intake of 71 grams, it’s recommended that she eat lean meats such as beef, pork, and chicken.
Besides choline and other B vitamins, beef and pork contain high levels of iron that are an essential nutrient for a pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester.
Iron is needed to make hemoglobin that enables red blood cells to deliver oxygen to your baby. Especially during the early and mid-stage of a pregnancy, an expectant mother needs to double her regular daily iron intake to about 27 mg. If not, she will risk getting iron deficiency anemia that increases risk of premature birth, low birth weight baby, and postpartum depression.
For the best way to absorb iron, plan meals that match iron-rich foods with those that are high in vitamin C such as tomatoes, oranges, or bell peppers. And if you’re not a fan of lean meats, you can supplement your iron intake by eating other iron-rich foods such as dried beans, peas, spinach, or iron-fortified cereals.
And, to be complete, here’s a list of foods that pregnant women should definitely avoid:
• Hot dogs and deli meats
• Unpasteurized juice
• Unpasteurized cheese
• Raw seafood
• Rare meat
• Raw eggs
• Raw sprouts
• High-mercury fish like shark, orange roughy, marlin, swordfish, king mackerel, bigeye tuna and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico
By following these lists, you now have a good understanding of some of the best healthy foods to eat while pregnant!
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