10 Foods to Eat When You’re Pregnant
When you’re pregnant, it can be a very exciting time. It may also come with plenty of "helpful" unsolicited advice from family members and strangers alike. But one bit of advice we can all agree on is that during pregnancy, it is very important to maintain a healthy diet.
While you are growing another human being, your body needs plenty of additional nutrients. In fact, it’s not uncommon for women to need an extra 350–500 calories per day during the second and third trimesters. If your diet is lacking in key nutrients, your body will likely feel the difference.
Here are 10 highly nutritious foods to eat while pregnant:
Throughout pregnancy, it’s important to get extra protein and calcium in order to meet the demands of the growing fetus. Dairy products are great because they contain two types of high-quality protein: casein and whey. Dairy products are also the best dietary source for calcium, high amounts of phosphorus, various B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.
Yogurt, particularly Greek yogurt, contains more protein and calcium than most other dairy products. Some varieties also contain probiotic bacteria, which helps support your digestive health 1. Even those who are lactose intolerant may be able to tolerate yogurt, especially probiotic yogurt. However, if you are vegan or don't eat dairy, you may want to take a supplemental form of calcium, such as our vegan-friendly Bone Strength supplement.
This food group includes lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans and peanuts. Legumes are great plant-based sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate (B9) and calcium – all of which are important during pregnancy 2. Folate, or vitamin B9, is very important for maintaining the health of mother and fetus during the first trimester. Lack of folate has been linked with an increased risk of neural tube defects and low birth weight. Luckily, legumes contain high amounts of folate. They are also generally high in fiber, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
Sweet potatoes are very rich in beta-carotene, a plant compound that our body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for healthy fetal development, and pregnant women are often advised to increase their vitamin A intake by 10-40% 3. However, it's better to avoid animal-based sources of vitamin A, which may cause toxicity when eaten in excessive amounts. That's why beta-carotene is a very important source of vitamin A for pregnant women. Sweet potatoes are also full of fiber, which can help reduce blood sugar spikes and improve digestive health and motility.
Salmon is a great source of essential omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial during pregnancy, particularly DHA, which plays a significant role in fetal brain and eye development. Most people tend to be low in DHA, which is found mostly in seafood. But studies have shown that pregnant women who eat 2–3 meals of fatty fish per week achieve the recommended intake of omega-3. Salmon is also one of the few food sources of vitamin D, which is often lacking in our diet, and is needed bone health and healthy immune function. However, if you are vegan, you can get your omega-3s from our Vegan DHA supplement made from algae, and your vitamin D from our Vegan D3 supplement made from lichen.
Eggs contain a little bit of a lot of different nutrients, as well as high-quality protein and fat. Eggs are a great source of choline, which is important for healthy fetal brain development. Low choline intake during pregnancy can increase the risk of neural tube defects in the fetus.4 A single egg contains about 113 mg of choline, which is about 25% of the RDI for pregnant women (450 mg). Eggs also contain lutein, a carotenoid that supports early eye and brain development.
Broccoli and Dark, Leafy Greens
Broccoli and dark, green vegetables like kale and spinach contain many of the nutrients pregnant women need, such vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium. They also have a high fiber content, so they can help prevent constipation 5, which can be a common problem for pregnant women.
Not only are they great to satisfy a sweet tooth, but berries are rich with water, healthy carbs, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Vitamin C is not just important for skin health and immune function, it also helps your body to absorb iron, which you need a lot of during pregnancy as your blood volume increases. Berries also have a pretty low glycemic index, meaning they shouldn’t cause a major blood sugar spike.
Whole grains can help pregnant women meet their increased calorie needs during the second and third trimesters. As opposed to refined grains, whole grains are packed with fiber, B vitamins, and healthy plant compounds. Oats and quinoa are also a great source of protein.
Avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. They also are high in fiber, B vitamins (especially folate), vitamin K, potassium, copper, vitamin E and vitamin C. Not only do the healthy fats help build the skin, brain and tissues of your fetus, but the folate may help prevent neural tube defects. Also, the potassium can help relieve leg cramps,6 a common side effect of pregnancy.
Dried fruit is generally high in calories, but also high in fiber and various vitamins and minerals. Once piece of dried fruit has the same amount of nutrients as fresh fruit, just without all the water. One serving of dried fruit can provide a large percentage of the recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals, such as folate, iron and potassium. Prunes are rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin K and sorbitol. They’re also natural laxatives. Dates are also high in fiber, potassium, and iron.
In addition to a healthy diet, a prenatal multivitamin is always a good idea to make sure you don't come up short on key nutrients. Our Prenatal Multvitamin meets or exceeds recommended minimums for crucial prenatal nutrients like iron, iodine, and the B complex vitamins.
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3. The function of vitamin A in cellular growth and differentiation, and its roles during pregnancy and lactation, 1994;352:187-200.
4. Choline: an essential nutrient for public health, 2009 Nov;67(11):615-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x.
5. A review on the dietary flavonoid kaempferol, 2011 Apr;11(4):298-344.
6. Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects, 2013 May 2.