Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy is very important, during this time, your body needs additional nutrients, vitamins and minerals. In fact, you may need 350–500 extra calories each day during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. A diet that lacks key nutrients may negatively affect the baby’s development, thus poor eating habits and excess weight gain may also increase the risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy or birth complications.
Put simply, choosing healthy, nutritious foods will help ensure the health of you and your baby. It will also make it a lot easier to lose the pregnancy weight after you’ve given birth.
Here are 13 highly nutritious foods to eat when you’re pregnant.
1. Dairy products
During pregnancy, you need to consume extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of the growing foetus. Dairy products help meet increased protein and calcium needs. Probiotics may also help reduce the risk of complications. Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is particularly beneficial for pregnant women – It contains more calcium than any other dairy product.
Legumes are excellent plant-based sources of folate, fiber and many other nutrients which the body needs more of during pregnancy. Folate is a very important nutrient during pregnancy, and may reduce the risk of some birth defects and diseases. This group of food includes lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans and peanuts.
3. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which the body transforms into vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for the growth and differentiation of cells in the growing foetus. Furthermore, sweet potatoes contain fiber, which may increase fullness, reduce blood sugar spikes and improve digestive health and mobility.
Salmon is very rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which are important for brain and eye development in the growing baby. Salmon is also a natural source of vitamin D, yet pregnant women are generally advised to limit their seafood intake to twice a week, due to the mercury and other contaminants found in fatty fish.
However, studies have shown that pregnant women who eat 2–3 meals of fatty fish per week achieve the recommended intake of omega-3 and increase their blood levels of EPA and DHA.
Eggs are the ultimate health food, because they contain a little bit of almost every nutrient you need, incredibly nutritious and a great way to increase overall nutrient intake. They also contain choline, an essential nutrient for brain health and development.
6. Broccoli and dark, leafy greens
Broccoli and dark, green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, contain many of the nutrients that pregnant women need. These include fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium. Furthermore, broccoli and leafy greens are rich in antioxidants, benefit the immune system and digestion and due to their high fiber content, these vegetables may also help prevent constipation (which is a very common problem among pregnant women).
7. Lean meat
Beef, pork and chicken are excellent sources of high-quality protein. Furthermore, beef and pork are also rich in iron, choline and other B-vitamins — all of which are needed in higher amounts during pregnancy. However, for those who can, eating red meat regularly may help increase the amount of iron acquired from the diet. Eating foods that are rich in vitamin C, such as oranges or bell peppers, may also help increase absorption of iron from meals.
8. Fish liver oil
Fish liver oil is made from the oily liver of fish, most often cod. The oil is very rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which are essential for foetal brain and eye development Fish liver oil is also very high in vitamin D, which many people do not get enough of. It may be highly beneficial for those who don’t regularly eat seafood or supplement with omega-3 or vitamin D.
A single serving (one tablespoon) of fish liver oil provides 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 (one tablespoon) per day, because too much preformed vitamin A can be dangerous for the foetus. High levels of omega-3 may also have blood-thinning effects.
Berries are packed with water, healthy carbs, vitamin C, fiber and plant compounds.
They generally contain high amounts of vitamin C, which helps the body absorb iron and they may help pregnant women increase their nutrient and water intake.
Berries have a relatively low glycemic index value, so they should not cause major spikes in blood sugar. Berries are also a great snack because they contain both water and fiber. They provide a lot of flavor and nutrition, but with relatively few calories.
10. Whole grains
Eating whole grains may help meet the increased calorie requirements that come with pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters. As opposed to refined grains, whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins, B-vitamins, magnesium and plant compounds.
Tom Brown Plus, Oats and quinoa also contain a fair amount of protein, which is important during pregnancy.
Avocados contain high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids, fiber, folate and potassium. They may help improve foetal health and relieve the leg cramps that are common in pregnant women. Because of their high content of healthy fats, folate and potassium, avocados are a great choice for pregnant women as the healthy fats help build the skin, brain and tissues of the foetus, and folate may help prevent neural tube defects
12. Dried fruit
Dried fruit is generally high in calories, fiber and various vitamins and minerals. They may be highly beneficial for pregnant women, since they are small and nutrient-dense. Just make sure to limit your portions and avoid the candied varieties
During pregnancy, blood volume increases by up to 1.5 liters. Therefore, it is important to stay properly hydrated. Furthermore, increasing water intake may help relieve constipation and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections, which are common during pregnancy.
As an estimate, you should be drinking about 1–2 liters each day. Just keep in mind that you also get water from other foods and beverages, such as fruit, vegetables, coffee and tea.
As a rule of thumb, you should always drink water when you’re thirsty, and drink until you’ve quenched your thirst.
Credit: Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-foods-to-eat-when-pregnant