Eating can be a lot of responsibility especially when you are eating for two.
During pregnancy, it is important to increase your intake of lean protein, mineral, vitamins, and fiber as they are essential for the proper growth of the baby.
Expectant mothers need between 350 to 500 additional calories every day during the 2nd and 3rd trimester.
However, as a pregnant woman, they are some foods that you need to avoid. Some of these foods like sprouts, undercooked eggs or under-pasteurized juice can increase the risk of salmonella or E. coli (1).
Consumption of a healthy diet during pregnancy is very vital to the growth and development of your baby.
A healthy diet also is essential for your mind and body.
Here are the best foods for a healthier pregnancy. However, you don’t actually need to eat them all, just pick your favorite and available ones to give your pregnancy a nutritional boost.
Let’s get started.
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on Earth. They are a rich source of protein, in addition to more than 12 vitamins and minerals (2).
During pregnancy, your baby’s cell is growing at an exponential rate and protein is essential in cell formation. Also, you as a mother have your own protein needs.
Eggs are also a rich source of choline, an essential nutrient needed to promote your baby’s brain health and prevent neural-tube defects (3) In addition, some eggs contain omega-3 fats which are important for the development of both brain and vision of your baby.
Furthermore, when eating eggs, ensure that eggs are thoroughly cooked before eating to prevent Salmonella infection (4)
Avocado has numerous health benefits and can aid in pregnancy due to its rich nutritional content.
They are rich in folic acid which is essential in the development of your baby’s organs and can help prevent neural defects (5, 6). Also, they are rich in iron which can help prevent iron deficiency anemia in pregnant women (7)
Avocados are also packed with vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, E and K as well as fiber which can help boost digestion, an additional benefit to pregnant women.
Salmon is rich in high quality omega-3 fatty acids and protein which are good for the brain development of your baby (10).
Unlike mackerel, shark, and other fishes, salmon is extremely low in mercury and is generally safe for expectant mothers (13).
In addition, salmon also contains mineral and vitamins such as B12.
Note: Salmon is considered to be safe for pregnancy but you shouldn’t exceed two servings weekly to avoid ingesting too much mercury.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes get its orange pigmentation from a plant pigment called carotenoids which are converted to vitamin A in the body.
This vitamin is important for the growth of your baby as it helps in the development of a healthy heart, central nervous system, eyes, lungs, and kidneys.
It is also beneficial for women who are due to deliver as it helps in postpartum tissue repair, combat infections and supports your immune system. In addition, it contains vitamin B6 which can help reduce nausea and vomiting, two common side effects of pregnancy (15).
They are also a rich antioxidant food which helps mop up free radicals from your body.
Black beans, pinto beans, lentils, chickpeas just to mention but a few are a great source of proteins, fiber, and minerals such as copper, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
Zinc is important in cell division, tissue growth and DNA construction in the baby.
Phosphorus along with calcium is essential for your baby’s teeth and bone development (18). During pregnancy, fiber could become an integral part of your diet.
When you are pregnant, the motility of your gastrointestinal tract is slow, putting you at a risk of hemorrhoids and constipation. Fiber can also help get rid of these intestinal disorders.
As such, it is recommended that pregnant women should consume up to 30 grams of fiber each day (19).
Not also forgetting the protein capacity of beans which could serve as a great alternative for vegans and vegetarians during pregnancy.
6. Lean Meat
Lean meat is an excellent source of quality protein, B vitamins, and iron.
As mentioned earlier, proteins help in the formation of your baby’s cells while iron is essential in your blood formation as well as that of your baby (20).
Also, meat may provide some healthy fat which will enable you to metabolize fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) (21).
You should incorporate protein-rich foods into your diet as they can also stabilize hunger and control blood sugar levels.
As such pregnant women should consume a minimum of 75 grams of protein every day (22).
Note: When buying lean meats stay away from fatty connective tissues and red meat. Also, avoid deli meats or hot dogs unless they steamed hot. By so doing there is a little risk of passing bacteria and parasite such as salmonella or listeria from the meat to your baby.
7. Whole Grains
During pregnancy, whole grains are very important because they are rich in nutrients such as vitamins B1, B2, niacin, folic acid, fiber, iron, and magnesium (23).
Also, the complex carbohydrate in whole grains provides a steady source of energy during pregnancy.
These complex carbs are broken down into simple sugar molecules then transported to your baby through the placenta (24). The vitamins in whole grains are also important for your baby’s development.
Incorporate grains in rice, cereals, and bread into your diet during pregnancy for these benefits.
Walnuts, peanuts, and lentils are packed with vitamins and minerals (such as manganese, selenium, copper, magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamin E) as well one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Selenium is a component of the enzyme system responsible for protecting your cells from free radical damage (25).
Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to the proper development of your baby’s brain cell.
9. Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, asparagus, and spinach are very important during pregnancy. These green leafy vegetables are a rich source of folate (folic acid).
Taking an adequate amount of folate can aid in preventing birth defects in your baby’s brain and spine (28).
It is recommended that you start taking folate if you are planning on taking in since birth defects normally occur within the first 4 weeks of pregnancy (29).
These green vegetables are also a rich source of manganese, potassium, iron, and fiber.
Potassium is essential in preventing high blood pressure during pregnancy making leafy green vegetables a great choice in your diet.
10. Dairy Products
Dairy products especially Greek yogurt are very nutritious especially during pregnancy (30).
Greek yogurts are a rich source of vitamins A and C as well as calcium which is essential for proper growth and development of your baby’s bones and teeth.
In addition, Greek yogurt can also help you in weight management as it contains less sugar and curbs hunger (32).
Note: During pregnancy, you shouldn’t consume unpasteurized milk or soft cheeses, as they may lead to listeria bacteria infections associated with miscarriage and illness in newborns.
Controlling your diet during pregnancy is very vital for a healthy pregnancy and the health of your baby.
Incorporating foods rich in vitamins, mineral, proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrate are essential for your pregnancy.
These foods will help you and your baby grow healthy and strong also preventing any birth complications. Want more? Here are 10 Brain-Boosting Foods to consume often.