Pregnancy changes your belly size, body weight, emotions, and, most importantly, your nutritional requirements and food consumption.
As a mom-to-be, you have probably been inundated with advice about foods to avoid—and how much to eat—ever since you let the cat out of the bag and announced you’re going to have a baby.
“You’ll be eating for two now. Get those extra calories to feed your baby!“
“No seafood for you!”
“It’s time to go cold turkey on caffeine!”
“Make sure you keep your weight in control.”
While people may have your best interest at heart when “educating” you, separating fact from fiction and myths isn’t easy for first-time moms.
With the reality of pregnancy setting in, you may feel this urge to go all gung-ho on nutrition and start thinking about all the ways you may not be able to eat as you did before. This, combined with all that unsolicited advice and the unusual food cravings and aversions you experience due to hormonal changes, can easily get to your head and add to the maternal psychosocial stress.
Simplifying Nutrition during Pregnancy: Adopt a Balanced Diet
Eating a well-balanced diet that includes healthy foods is all you need to focus on to ensure you and your baby get all the nutrients you need for the next nine months.
Healthy food choices increase your chances of delivering a baby with a healthy birth weight and reduce the risk of birth defects. That said, some unfortunate women face the consequences of medical negligence during childbirth after doing everything they could to keep themselves and their babies healthy. The onus for this is solely on medical professionals.
Enter Nutritional Superstars: 5 Foods That Will Help Ensure a Healthy Pregnancy
Eggs are essential for pregnant women, especially during the first trimester. Being a low-calorie food, they are easy to digest and can help keep you full to prevent overeating and maintain a healthy weight.
More importantly, eggs are an excellent source of protein, essential for your baby’s overall growth and development. It helps build and maintain muscles, bones, and organs.
Eggs are also rich in choline—one whole egg contains 147mg of this essential nutrient that helps support your baby’s brain development and helps prevent neural tube defects.
Bonus tip: try poached eggs or omelet for breakfast, and spinach feta wraps for lunch to keep things interesting.
Lean Meat and Proteins
Lean meats like chicken, beef and pork are packed with high-quality protein and choline, iron, and other B vitamins, which are required in more significant quantities during pregnancy.
Low iron levels during the first half of pregnancy can cause anemia and increase the risk of low birth weight and other complications.
You can make a delicious and healthy stir-fry with lean chicken or turkey, vegetables, and your favorite spices. Try hard-boiled eggs and a piece of whole wheat toast for a quick and easy protein-packed snack.
Bonus tip: try combining iron-rich foods with those containing high levels of vitamin C to boost nutrient absorption.
Since pregnant women need to get the extra punch of calcium and protein, dairy products should be a staple in your diet.
In addition to being an excellent calcium source, dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese contain zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. They are also rich in casein and whey, two high-quality proteins that can help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Bonus tip: incorporate Greek yogurt that contains probiotic bacteria into your pregnancy diet to improve your digestive health.
Dark, Leafy Vegetables
From spinach and kale to collards and broccoli, leafy greens are genuinely a “superfood” for pregnant women because of their high vitamin and mineral content.
These nutrient-rich foods contain a range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are beneficial during pregnancy. Thanks to the high amounts of folate, they support the development of your baby’s neural tube. Furthermore, they contain vitamins A, C, and K that help promote healthy eyesight, bones, and blood.
Leafy vegetables are also a great source of fiber, which can help maintain regular bowel movements and control blood sugar levels throughout pregnancy.
Dark, leafy vegetables can be enjoyed in many ways during pregnancy. They can be sautéed, steamed, or stir-fried for a quick and easy side dish. Alternatively, you can add them to soups, stews, salads, and casseroles for an extra punch of nutrition.
Bonus tip: if you’re not a fan of the taste of these veggies, you can always blend them up in a smoothie or juice.
Salmon is another healthy and delicious option for pregnant women to include in their diets.
Its omega-3 fatty acids content is known to improve infant brain and nervous system development and reduce the risk of preterm birth. Salmon is also high in protein and other essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, calcium, and iron.
Most importantly, unlike swordfish, bigeye tuna, and marlin, salmon doesn’t contain high mercury levels. These high-mercury fish are usually the reason people advise limiting seafood intake during pregnancy.
In addition to the health benefits, salmon is a delicious food to enjoy during pregnancy. You can enjoy it; however you like—grilled, pan-seared, or baked. You can also add it to a salad or sandwich.
Bonus tip: when choosing salmon, try looking for wild-caught salmon instead of farmed salmon, as it is typically higher in vitamins and minerals like zinc, calcium, and potassium. Also, consider removing the skin before consuming salmon to minimize pollutant and contaminant exposure.
Pregnancy is a time of great joy and change, but it can also bring anxiety and uncertainty, especially regarding healthy eating.
Thankfully, many delicious food options are guaranteed to give you and your baby all the nutrients needed to stay fit and healthy. It is recommended to incorporate dairy products, eggs, leafy vegetables, lean meat, and salmon into your diet, among other healthy foods, to ensure a smooth, well-nourished pregnancy. The essential vitamins and minerals in these foods will help you meet your increased nutrient needs.
Also, don’t forget to drink enough water to prevent dehydration as your blood volume increases during pregnancy.
That said, it’s okay to allow yourself the occasional indulgence. If you crave something like ice cream, go ahead and eat it—make sure to balance it with healthier foods on this list.