First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! You’re no doubt excited — and maybe a little scared. You might be feeling overwhelmed and confused as to how to take care of yourself in the best way possible to ensure your baby enters the world healthy. And as you know, it all starts now, which means the foods you eat during pregnancy play a major role in the health of your precious little thing.
Let’s take a look at the healthiest foods for you and your baby during pregnancy. By eating right, not only will you be nourishing your own mind and body, you’ll also be supporting your baby’s development and future well-being.
Foods to eat during pregnancy
Salmon is hands-down one of the best foods to eat while pregnant. Of course, you’ll want to make sure it’s wild-caught rather than farm-raised to ensure you’re getting the highest quality available. But, once you’ve made that a priority, you can eat fresh, frozen, or even the canned variety.
Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which we all need to eat more of —especially when we’re pregnant. The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA help build the brains and eyes of your baby. What’s more, salmon also contains vitamin D — another nutrient that’s essential for the health of you and your baby’s skeletal and immune systems. Aim to eat 2 servings of wild-caught salmon each week for optimal benefit. But don’t overdo it: seafood often contains trace amount of mercury, which can be dangerous in high quantities. Limit all seafood consumption to no more than 2 servings per week.
Eggs should be a staple in your pregnancy diet. They’re so good for you and baby because they contain many nutrients you need during this time. Eggs contain choline, which plays a major role in brain development. If you’re not getting enough choline in your diet, your baby is at greater risk of low brain function and neural tube defects. Treat yourself to an omelet each morning, or add hard-boiled eggs to your favorite salads. To ensure you’re getting the recommended daily dose of choline, you’ll want to eat 4 eggs each day.
Legumes should be an essential part of your pregnancy diet because they’re excellent plant-based sources of iron, calcium, protein, fiber, and folate. Folate, also known as B9, is especially important for you and your baby during the first trimester because folate deficiency can lead to neural tube defects, as well as lower birth weight. What’s more, some studies show a link between low folate during pregnancy and greater disease and infection risk later on in the baby’s life. So, you’ll want to eat a cup or more of lentils, black beans, or garbanzo beans each day to ensure you’re getting optimal amounts of folate for you and your child.
The beta-carotene in sweet potatoes, which turns into vitamin A, is necessary for fetal development. It contributes to cell and tissue growth, as well as cell differentiation. This means you’ll want to have fun roasting, baking, and mashing sweet potatoes every day! The recommended daily amount for pregnant women is 3.5-5.3 ounces.
Dark, leafy greens
All pregnant women need vital amounts of iron, potassium, folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, and fiber. Luckily, broccoli and all those dark leafy greens are ripe with these vitamins and minerals. Kale, spinach, collard greens, and broccoli are the veggies you need to eat daily.
Some studies show a link between optimal consumption of these antioxidant-rich veggies and a decreased risk of low birth weight. Make soups and salads, roast kale for kale chips, and create whatever other culinary masterpieces come to mind with these nutrient-dense vegetables.
You and your growing child need good sources of protein from foods such as chicken, beef, and pork. Beef and pork also contain choline, iron, potassium, and B vitamins — all of which mommies-to-be desperately need.
Iron is super important during your third trimester, and you’re going to want to consume lots of it to support the increase of your blood volume. To prevent anemia, premature delivery, and low birth weight, substantial amounts of iron in your diet are necessary. To further increase iron absorption in the body, eat vitamin c-rich veggies like bell peppers with your meat.
Dark berries like blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are full of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. They’re the perfect nutrient-rich snack for pregnant women as they’re packed with water and nutrients, while remaining low in calories. Add berries to smoothies, protein shakes, salads, and desserts. These skin and immune supporting treats should be eaten every day!
These fruits are unique in that they contain monounsaturated fatty acids, and an unusually high content of healthy fats. These healthy fats help build your baby’s brain, skin, and various tissues. Avocados also have lots of fiber, vitamin K, B vitamins like folate, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin E, and copper. Add avocados to smoothies, omelets, and salads. Guacamole’s also a great pregnancy treat for you and baby!
You’re going to need to up your calorie intake during pregnancy — especially during your second and third trimesters. Whole grains are the perfect foods to do this. They are full of B vitamins, magnesium, fiber, and various plant compounds, which are seriously lacking in their refined counterpart. Whole grains like quinoa and steel-cut oats even contain protein, so make them a regular part of your pregnancy diet.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy
Cutting unhealthy foods out of your diet is also important during pregnancy. Make every effort to cut sugars and processed foods from your diet, as they do nothing for the health and development of a fetus.
Fish that contains high levels of mercury should also be avoided because mercury is a toxin that can adversely impacts the kidneys, immune and nervous systems. Fish high in mercury include king mackerel, marlin, shark, swordfish, tuna, bluefish, and grouper.
Alcohol is a no-no during pregnancy, as are raw sprouts, raw eggs, raw dairy, and raw or undercooked meats. Unpasteurized juice should also be avoided. Caffeine should be limited, as it easily impacts the fetus, and clean water should be consumed regularly. You’ll also want to make sure all produce is washed to decrease the risk of bacteria and parasitic contamination.
As you can see, it’s important to eat right during your pregnancy. Have fun taking care of yourself, and know that everything you put into your body directly affects the health of your growing baby.
At OB/GYN Associates of Alabama, our goal is to make your pregnancy as healthy and stress free as possible. Our physicians provide comprehensive services ranging from basic ultrasound to high-risk obstetrical care for women with diabetes and hypertension. Contact us to schedule an appointment!