May 19, 2024

Pregnancy hormones and gnawing hunger can be a crazy combination. You’re always looking for a snack to lift your mood and keep your baby happy. Ice cream, waffles, and pretzels all sound enticing, but are they anything more than just empty calories?

When choosing the best foods to eat during your pregnancy, you want to go with nutritional superstars that pack a lot of vitamins and minerals in just a few bites. It’ll give your baby a healthy start to their life. 

Plus, if you’re struggling with quick weight gain (or no gain), nausea, and deficiencies, it’s all the more important to include nutrient-dense foods in your diet. But what are they? Let’s take a look.

Foods Rich in Folic Acid

Folic acid is a B vitamin crucial for cell growth and development. In pregnant women, folate helps to form the neural tube, which develops into the baby’s brain and spinal cord. And so, getting enough folic acid during pregnancy is a must. A deficiency in folic acid can lead to severe congenital disabilities, such as spina bifida or anencephaly. 

Don’t worry; if your doctor detects the deficiency in time, you and your baby shall be safe. But if you feel your case was handled negligently and it led to a birth injury, you can hire a birth injury attorney to help you secure compensation.

Pregnant women should get at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folate daily.

However, getting enough folic acid from diet alone is not always easy. So, many pregnant women take prenatal vitamins that include folic acid. Plus, it’s easier to absorb the vitamin in this form, 85% vs. 50%.

Foods high in folic acid include:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli)
  • Aquatic foods (salmon, mackerel, oysters)
  • Fortified cereals and grains (oatmeal, barley cereal)
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Liver

Foods Rich in Iron

Iron is a mineral that is crucial for the production of hemoglobin (Hgb). Hemoglobin is an oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. Since pregnant women need to make more blood for the baby, they require extra iron — 27 milligrams (mg) daily.

Iron helps to prevent anemia caused by a deficiency in red blood cells. Anemia can cause fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and paleness. It can also cause low birth weight or premature delivery.

Good sources of iron include:

  • Organ meats (liver, heart)
  • Seafood (clams, oysters, sardines)
  • Legumes (soybeans, chickpeas, lentils)
  • Dried fruits (prunes, raisins)
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals

For a one-dish meal, you can make delicious tofu stir-fry, grilled chicken with honey, or a veggie omelet with spinach and tomatoes!

It’s also important to note that consuming foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits or bell peppers, can help the body absorb iron more efficiently. So, squeeze some lemon juice on top of those grilled salmon fillets!

Foods Rich in Calcium

Calcium instantly reminds us all of healthy bones. And pregnant women need it to help the baby build theirs. It’s also important for muscle contraction, nerve function, and heartbeat regulation. Experts recommend pregnant women get 1000 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily. Deficient women may face osteoporosis or preeclampsia in the future.

Pro Tip: To boost your calcium-absorbing powers, include vitamin D in your diet. It will help your body absorb calcium from food more efficiently.

Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium. Just one cup provides up to 450mg or almost half of the recommended daily value (DV)!

Further, the active cultures in yogurt are beneficial for preventing the bane of pregnant women – yeast infections.

So, drizzle some honey on top of Greek yogurt with fresh berries for a delightful breakfast. Or make a smoothie. You can also use yogurt as a dip or dressing for baked food items.

Other great sources of calcium include:

  • Sardines (canned in oil)
  • Dark leafy veggies (spinach, kale)
  • Canned salmon
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Tofu
  • Soybeans
  • Almonds
  • Cheeses (cheddar, mozzarella)
  • Figs

Foods Rich in Protein

Protein is often called the building block of life, and for a good reason! It’s a macronutrient essential for the growth and repair of cells in the body. It also helps make antibodies for the baby’s immune system and increases milk production for breastfeeding. 

Pregnant women should consume 71 grams of protein per day. That’s slightly more than the daily recommended value (RDI) for non-pregnant women.

If you don’t have enough protein or calories in your diet, the baby won’t get enough of it either. It can lead to low birth weight and reduced postnatal growth.

Good sources of protein include:

  • Fish and seafood (shrimp, tuna, salmon)
  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, chia seeds, cashews)
  • Beans and legumes (soybeans, lentils, black beans)
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Protein powders
  • Tofu
  • Quinoa

Some yummy ideas include tuna salad sandwiches, smoked salmon wraps, and Greek yogurt with berries. Or try out a quinoa bowl with grilled veggies or a black bean burger.

However, if you decide to get your protein, be mindful of other nutrients. For example, if eating canned tuna, opt for low-sodium versions to reduce your salt intake.

If you’re still unsatisfied, try snacking protein-rich snacks like almonds, pistachios, hummus, celery, or Greek yogurt with granola.

Final Thoughts

Pregnant women need a lot of energy, nutrients, and calories to keep them going during their journey. Essential nutrients like calcium, iron, and proteins help women recover and prepare for breastfeeding after childbirth.

But that’s not an exhaustive list! Pregnant women need other essential micronutrients like zinc, magnesium, fiber, and Omega-3 fatty acids to stay healthy.

So, consult your doctor or nutritionist and make sure to include the right foods in your diet for a safe and healthy pregnancy.