Falling pregnant is one of the most exciting and important milestones in one’s life. However, many women find that eating for two, and ensuring that you are eating the best for your baby is a little nerve wracking.
Take the guess work out of your pregnancy diet and make sure to put these highly nutritious foods on top of your grocery list.
1) Fatty Fish: Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies and Herring
One of the most important proteins to include in your diet during a pregnancy is any one of the fatty fish. These fish are high in Omega 3 essential fatty acids which your body cannot manufacture on its own. It has to be received from an outside food source.
Whilst eating these fish is extremely beneficial to all of us, pregnant woman in particular benefit from increasing their intake of omega 3’s (1):
- The risk of prenatal depression is reduced
- Improved absorption of fat-soluble vitamin A and E
- Important for the development of the babies central nervous system (brain and spinal cord)
- Important for the infant’s eye development in the womb
Pregnant women should aim for at least 2-3 portions of (well cooked) fatty fish per week to reach their omega 3 intake goals.
Most people do not need an excuse to include this delicious fat in their daily diet. Pregnant women, however, get a big green light to up their intake of avocado.
Avocados are loaded with important minerals and vitamins which all contribute to a healthier pregnancy and baby. Avo’s contain a healthy dose of folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C and potassium as well as healthy delicious fats.
You might have heard that supplementing with folate prior to falling pregnant is important but it remains important during pregnancy as well. The folate in the avocado is extremely important for the development of the babies organs as well as bones. The good news is that just half a cup of avocado is equivalent to the necessary daily dose of folate required during pregnancy.
Eggs are truly one of mother nature’s perfect food sources. Eggs not only supply a powerful dose of protein, they also contain an essential nutrient-Choline. Choline is just as important as folate in terms of the development of the babies brain and spinal chord, as well as protecting against neural tube defects.
In fact, a recent study has found that choline may be particularly important during the 3rd trimester of a pregnancy (2). The choline may play an important role in affecting the areas of the brain which are responsible for memory and learning ability (3).
Unfortunately, eggs have received bad press over the years in terms of raising bad cholesterol. However more current research has disproved this claim, so have no fear and start eating eggs on a daily basis.
Eggs are not only perfect breakfast foods. Keep hard boiled eggs ready to go for a quick, highly nutritious protein snack when you are feeling peckish.
4) Greek Yoghurt
Yoghurt, and especially Greek or Bulgarian yoghurt is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to meeting your daily calcium and protein needs.
Maximising bone health for both the fetus and mother begins with an adequate intake of calcium throughout the pregnancy. Your daily calcium intake is vital in determining the skeletal and bone mass of the fetus (4). Not ingesting enough calcium and vitamin D throughout your pregnancy can in fact, have a detrimental effect in reaching peak bone density later in life (5).
An added advantage to regularly consuming Greek yoghurt is the probiotic bacteria present. These probiotics are extremely helpful in maintaining or correcting your gut bacteria and improving your digestive health.
Greek yoghurt can be enjoyed with fresh fruit as a delicious afternoon pick me up or added to a smoothie for a quick morning breakfast.
5) Lean Meats
One of the main unseen changes that woman go through during their pregnancy is an increase in the volume of their blood. This increase in the amount of blood circulating is not without side effects.
Many women complain of fatigue as the levels of iron in their blood drops. Iron is vital for the functioning of red blood cells in bringing oxygen to all the cells in the body. The danger of this drop in iron is that low levels of iron are also a risk factor for premature delivery as well as a low birth weight (6).
One of the easiest ways to increase and sustain the iron levels in your blood is to increase the amount of lean, unprocessed protein products you eat. Beef, pork, chicken, turkey, game, and ostrich are all good sources of protein and great sources of iron.
An important tip to remember when consuming iron rich meals is to include a food or drink which is high in vitamin C. Think tomatoes or orange juice. The vitamin C helps to increase the absorption of iron (7).
Finally, to maximise iron absorption avoid any caffeine containing drinks as the caffeine can interfere or block the absorption of the iron (8).
6) Last but Not Least, Water
This may not be a food but it is equally if not more important than good nutrition. As mentioned above, when you are pregnant your blood volume increases by up to 1.5 litres (9). It is obviously then essential to maintain adequate hydration levels. Here’s where water and proper fluid intake becomes important.
Not only to ensure that you do not become dehydrated but also as a step to prevent the commonly experienced pregnancy constipation.
Start by drinking 1 cup of water or fluid every 90 minutes to ensure that you are kept hydrated over the course of the day.
Research has proven that what you eat during your pregnancy can have a big effect on the immediate and future health of your infant. Whilst the responsibility may be daunting, choosing which foods to eat whilst you are pregnant doesn’t have to be difficult. Start with the foods mentioned in this article and continue eating fresh unprocessed foods as often as possible. Your body and your baby will thank you.