Pregnancy and food are deeply intertwined. Most expectant women have strong feelings about food, though those feelings may range from revulsion to adoration as the pregnancy progresses.
Women need about 300 extra calories a day to support a growing baby. Whether those 300 calories seem like a lot to get down or not nearly enough, here is a list of five foods that can make eating during pregnancy exciting. These foods pack a nutritional punch to help your baby grow, and they are also high in flavor to keep mom happy.
If eating your greens isn’t part of your regular diet, pregnancy is a great time to make a change. Spinach and kale are packed with vitamins and contain lutein. Lutein is important for vision, and some research indicates lutein consumption during pregnancy can help vision development in fetuses. Kale is full of vitamins A and C and contains folic acid, calcium and potassium. Folic acid helps to prevent some birth defects, while calcium helps build bones and potassium can help reduce water retention. Throw these greens in a dinner salad or a healthy green smoothie to start your day.
Pregnant women are advised to stay away from fish that are high in mercury, like swordfish, mackerel and tilefish. But there is no need to avoid delicious seafood entirely. Salmon contains the omega-3 fatty acid DHA and helps build the baby’s brain, nervous system and eyes. It may also help prevent preterm labor and preeclampsia. Eat up to 12 ounces of fish each week, but steer clear of fish that is high in mercury.
Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more vitamins and minerals your baby will get. Certain legumes, like chickpeas, lentils, black beans and soybeans, are high in fiber, protein, iron, folate, calcium and zinc. Prenatal vitamins include folic acid, and many foods are fortified with it as well. Lentils, however, naturally contain nearly 25 percent of the recommended daily amount of folate. Eat a variety of beans in soups, chili or as a side dish.
A developing fetus needs calcium to grow healthy bones. If the baby doesn’t get the needed calcium from mom’s diet, it will get it from mom instead. Pregnant women need at least four servings of dairy or calcium-rich foods each day. Milk, cheese and yogurt are good sources of calcium and have the added bonus of vitamins and minerals like magnesium and A and B vitamins. These foods are also a good source of protein. Enjoy a variety of low-fat dairy options, but steer clear of soft or unpasteurized cheeses like brie, camembert, roquefort, feta, gorgonzola, quest blanco or quest fresco. These cheeses can contain listeria, which could harm the baby.
Carnivores will be happy to know that meat can be part of a healthy pregnancy diet. Red meat is high in protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins. Enjoy lean steaks like a sirloin cut and add lean ground beef to pasta, tacos and many other dishes. If you want to indulge in a cheeseburger, don’t feel too bad. Just keep it to a single patty and try to keep it low in fat if possible. Meat goes with just about anything, so pair it with some other great foods like beans, greens and cheese for a delicious, protein-packed salad. Although meat has many beneficial nutrients, it should be consumed in moderation and with care. Pregnant women should ensure all meat is fully cooked, so wait till after the baby arrives to chow down on a rare steak.
Eating right during pregnancy can be difficult. Whether the mom-to-be is fighting cravings constantly or she is waiting till after the baby arrives to enjoy food again, adequate nutrition can be a battle. The right foods can help knock down hunger and give the baby the vitamins and nutrients it needs to grow strong and healthy.