Pregnancy nutrition is top of mind once a woman finds out she’s expecting. But it seems the topic always turns to what women should stay way from – and that’s no fun. For a healthy pregnancy diet, make sure to include these top ten foods (or food groups).
1. Fruits and Veggies:Big shocker here, right? Colorful fruits and veggies are chock-full of vitamins and minerals, making them an ideal part of nutrition during pregnancy. Studies show that women of childbearing age don’t get enough potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A – and needs go up after conception. Because the effect of pesticides on fetuses is unknown, consider buying organic for produce with higher levels of pesticides see list.
–Get in the habit of including fruits and veggies with most of your meals and snacks (2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits daily)
–Choose at least one vitamin C-rich fruit daily
–Aim for one vitamin A-rich veggie daily
2. Calcium Sources: To help you child build strong bones (and maintain your bones!), a healthy pregnancy diet should include 1000 mg/day of calcium.
-Incorporate at least 3 servings of dairy foods including fat-free milk, low fat cheese and yogurt.
–If you don’t do dairy, try these items to get you to your 1,000mg/day.
–If you can’t get 1000mg of calcium from food consider a calcium supplement such as Viactiv chews that contain 500mg/serving (most prenatal MVIs contain small amounts of calcium).
3. Meat Products:Iron deficiency occurs in about 10 percent of women capable of becoming pregnant and increases the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. The most absorbable sources of iron include meats such as beef, duck, lamb and ground beef (get leaner cuts to limit saturated fat). If you don’t eat meat see #4 for more info.
4. Vitamin C Enhancers: You may have heard that vitamin C-rich foods increase the absorption of iron – and it’s true. So include vitamin C foods with non-meat/iron fortified sources.
–Have an orange or cantaloupe cubes with your iron-fortified cereal in the morning
–Add strawberries to your spinach salad
–Include vitamin C-rich veggies with beans at dinner
5. Nuts and Seeds: Pregnancy nutrition should include nuts and seeds which are good sources of vitamin E and magnesium, two nutrients women of childbearing age don’t get enough of. Not to mention they include protein, healthy fats and some fiber too.
–Top salads with nuts such as almonds and walnuts
–Save nuts for snack-time or eat with yogurt (1 serving = a small handful)
6. Beans:Black, kidney, navy, pinto and garbanzo beans are a smart addition to your healthy pregnancy diet. That’s because they are high in fiber, a rich source of antioxidants, and contain much-needed iron, folic acid and protein.
–Eat beans at least twice a week as a tasty side dish or for the main course.
–Make soups or chili with a variety of beans.
–Top your salad with garbanzo or kidney beans.
7. Whole Grains: Nutrition during pregnancy should include plenty of whole grains. Health experts recommend at least three servings a day – make half of your grain servings whole.
–Use whole wheat bread on your sandwiches
–Choose whole grain cereals such as oatmeal and Shredded Wheat
–Experiment with other whole grains including corn (including popcorn), brown rice, wild rice, barley, rye, millet, quinoa, triticale, buckwheat and amaranth.
–For more on whole grain products see The Whole Grain Council’s helpful website
8. Fish and Seafood:DHA found in long chain omega-3 fatty acids is critical for baby’s brain and eye development in utero. That’s why groups like the not-for-profit National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition recommend pregnant women eat 12 ounces of low-mercury fish sources a week. See foods to avoid section for more on fish limitations.
–Include fatty fish that are highest in DHA at least once week — salmon, trout, herring and mackerel.
–Try shrimp, canned light tuna (no more than 6 ounces canned albacore), cod and scallops to help round out your 12 ounces (FDA recommends no more than that).
–Aim for an average of at least 200mg of DHA during pregnancy and lactation (pregnant average only get 80mg). See amounts here.
9. Dietary Supplements:Okay… this isn’t a food. But you want to make sure that if you can’t get certain nutrients from food that you’re supplementing your diet.
–Take a prenatal Multivitamin (MVI) daily that provides at least 27mg of iron and 600 mg of folic acid.
–If you wear sunscreen, aren’t out in the sun, are overweight or have dark skin you may need additional vitamin D. And even though most prenatal MVIs have 400IU, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recognizes that this isn’t enough. Ask your doctor for a vitamin D test to see where you stand.
–Check with your doctor about taking a fish oil supplement containing at least 200mg of DHA if you aren’t able to eat fish. As noted above, DHA is vital during pregnancy and if you aren’t eating fish, you’re not getting enough!
10. Favorite Foods: I always laugh at books that advise pregnant women to avoid foods like cake and ice cream (do they forget how much other stuff we are giving up?). If you’re diet is full of the foods listed above, include your favorite low-nutrition-high-calorie food here and there but make the portion on the small side.
–Have a small piece of chocolate after dinner
–Bring a soft chocolate chip cookie to have after lunch
–Enjoy one scoop of your favorite ice cream whenever you want
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Next Page: 12 Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy (and why)
Previous Page: What Every Woman Should Know Before Getting Pregnant
My Pyramid for Expecting Moms
ADA Position Paper: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy Outcome. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:553-561.
NIH: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron
Consensus Statment: Dietary fat intakes for pregnancy and lactating women. British J of Nutr. 2007.
Denomme, J., et al ., Directly quantitated dietary (n-3) fatty acid intakes of pregnant Canadian women are lower than current dietary recommendations. J. Nutr. 135(2): 206-211, 2005.
AAP: Prevention of Rickets and Vitamin D Deficiency in INfants, Children and Adolescents (2008)