You know that a healthy diet is important, especially now that you’re expecting. But what does optimal nutrition look like when you’re eating for two? Which foods are most important?
Luckily, you don’t have to wonder any longer. Simply add the following foods to your shopping list to boost your energy levels and promote healthy prenatal development.
1. Greek Yogurt
Lactating mamas will produce several liters of milk each week, which means you should probably be upping your dairy intake. You are what you eat, right? Consuming foods like milk and cheese can also provide your baby with calcium and protein, which support growth.
If you’re lactose intolerant, opt for Greek yogurt. This dairy product contains less lactose than regular yogurt or milk and contains active cultures to aid in digestion and boost gut health. Add berries, granola, nuts, and honey for a satisfying snack.
Speaking of berries, blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, strawberries, and acai berries are some of the best fruits to eat while pregnant. Adding them to your diet will boost your water, vitamin C, and fiber intake to keep both you and your baby healthy and happy.
Berries also contain antioxidants, which can boost the immune system and protect against free radicals. This is especially important for your infant as their antioxidant defense is deficient before and immediately after birth.
Dried fruits like raisins, prunes, and dates are generally high in fiber, calories, vitamins, and minerals, all of which contribute to growth and recovery. Plus, they contain the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit without all the water, allowing you to consume more without feeling so full.
Slice and dice a few dates to use as a salad topping or pasta garnish. You can also use them as a healthier alternative to sweeteners like sugar, molasses, and agave. When all else fails, eat them as a snack with nuts, cheese, and other charcuterie-worthy tidbits.
Dark leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, and kale are especially important for pregnant mamas. Like berries, these vegetables are rich in antioxidants. Plus, their high calcium content can ease joint pain and give tired mothers some relief.
Add kale to salads, stir-frys, omelets, and even smoothies to enjoy a bonanza of green goodness. If you find the raw version a bit rough on the stomach — or tastebuds — try cooking the leaves first.
Chickpeas — or garbanzo beans — are powerful little legumes that can do wonders for you and your baby. In addition to providing an excellent source of folic acid, chickpeas also prevent neural defects and promote proper brain development. They also contain manganese, which supports bone and cartilage growth.
If you already suffer from an iron deficiency, adding chickpeas to your diet may help, too. A single cup provides 2.7 milligrams of iron, which fulfills nearly half your daily requirement. Ultimately, this addition can prevent anemia and renew your energy levels.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Rice, white bread, and pasta all contain simple carbohydrates that can cause your blood sugar to spike drastically. If you’re dealing with pregnancy constipation, filling up on these foods can make matters worse, too. Therefore, it’s best to stick with complex carbs like sweet potatoes.
These tubers are an ample source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and beta carotene. These nutrients can reduce blood sugar spikes, increase satiety and keep you regular. Turn them into fries, hashbrowns, or even toast to reap these and other great benefits.
Fish is one of the best foods to eat while pregnant because it’s an excellent source of protein. Yet, many mothers aren’t sure which varieties are safe because they’re worried about high mercury content — and rightfully so! Seven types of fish, including marlin, swordfish, and bigeye tuna, are all high in mercury and aren’t fit for consumption during pregnancy.
However, there is plenty of fish that you can enjoy up to three times per week, one of which is salmon. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can build your baby’s eyes and brain. Its high vitamin D content also makes it a smart addition to any diet.
Food vs. Supplements
Whole foods provide greater nutrition, fiber, and protective substances than dietary supplements. However, most pregnant mamas have greater nutritional needs than the typical adult. Plus, foods that do contain more nutrients may not be safe to eat. For instance, you could consume about five ounces of beef liver to fulfill your daily choline requirement. However, in doing so, you’ll consume dangerously large amounts of vitamin A, which can poison your baby.
Meanwhile, foods that are safe to eat may contain too few nutrients. For example, you’d have to eat roughly a half dozen eggs or a pound of soybeans to get enough choline. Even without morning sickness, horking down that much food may prove difficult.
Thus, your doctor may recommend prenatal supplements. While they aren’t intended to replace food, they can help you and your baby to get more nutrients. Talk to your health provider to determine which ones will best support energy and growth during this exciting time.