Now that you’re pregnant, you’re not only thinking about your health but also the health of your growing baby. The basic principles of healthy eating during pregnancy remain more or less the same – getting plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats.
There are key nutrients, however, that are important for both you and your baby’s health during pregnancy. Here are some must-eat foods during that protect your health and ensure adequate nutrients you’ll need for your baby’s development.
Rich in fiber and an array of nutrients including vitamin E, selenium, and iron, consuming wholegrains is crucial for pregnancy. During pregnancy, you need fiber more than ever to keep your digestive system running smoothly. In addition to curbing constipation, a higher intake of fiber can help prevent glucose intolerance which may lead to gestational diabetes – diabetes during pregnancy.
Work wholegrains into your diet. Have oatmeal for breakfast, brown rice with lunch, and whole wheat bread with dinner. You can even have popcorn as a snack!
Besides being rich in fiber, all beans provide key nutrients for pregnancy particularly iron, folic acid, calcium and zinc. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen in your blood to your tissues. If you don’t get enough iron, you might be fatigued and more susceptible to infection and your baby might not grow as much as he should.
Black beans, fava beans, broad beans, chickpeas and lentils – with so many beans to choose from it’s easy to incorporate them in your diet. Have fava beans for breakfast, incorporate black beans in your salad, and grind lentils to make a soup, or blend chickpeas to make hummus.
Having citrus fruits during pregnancy provides you with Vitamin C which is essential for the growing baby. Getting adequate amounts of this vitamin helps your body absorb iron, which is a key mineral during pregnancy. Vitamin C is abundant in many citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, grapefruit and kiwifruit.
Include at least one citrus fruit each day. Consider adding tangerines to your cereal and oatmeal in the morning, as well as oranges to salads and a squeeze of lemon juice on top of beans and green leafy vegetables.
Omega-3s are healthy fats that are essential nutrients for health and development. They’re good for your baby’s brain, eyes, and central nervous system which is why it’s important for pregnant women. The only way to get omega-3s is through your diet, because your body can’t synthesize them.
Salmon is an exceptionally good source of omega-3 and a great source of protein and calcium. It’s also relatively low in mercury, a compound that can be harmful to your baby’s development. But even for salmon, the FDA recommends no more than 12 oz. of seafood per week. A deck of cards makes a good equivalent for a 3 ounce serving size of fish.
With slightly higher calcium than milk, yogurt in a great calcium rich source. Calcium helps your bones stay intact while supporting your baby in developing strong bones and teeth. It also supports circulation, muscles, and the nervous system. If you don’t get enough calcium from your diet, the calcium will get depleted from your bones and go to your baby.
To save on calories and unhealthy saturated fat, choose low-fat or non-fat yogurt. Make a breakfast parfait with yogurt, use it to thicken soup, or combine it with fruits to make a smoothie.
Green leafy vegetables
The deep color in dark leafy greens such as spinach, romaine, kale, and mint indicates they are loaded with nutrients. Leafy greens contain the vitamins A, C, K and folic acid and the minerals calcium, iron, and potassium. Due to their high fiber content, these vegetables may also help prevent constipation.
Increase the nutrient value of your salads by passing up traditional iceberg in favor of darker-colored lettuces. You can also add greens to a sandwich or prepare them as a side dish to your meals.
By Racha Adib