Upon finding out you’re pregnant the quick realisation comes that you are not only responsible for yourself but also for the precious little life that is building inside of you. What you eat during your pregnancy is very important for your wellbeing and for the optimal development of your baby. As this new life grows inside of you, the common notion “I’m eating for two” can be heard quite often. The truth is you don’t have to eat much larger amounts of food while pregnant. In fact pregnant women only need to increase their calorie intake by about 250 to 300 extra calories a day to provide adequate nutrition for their baby. The recommended weight gain during pregnancy is between 10 and 15 kg and excessive weight gain during this time could contribute to a more difficult birth and other health complications. There are certain nutrients you should make sure you are getting more of while pregnant, and they are contained in the following foods below. Choose your food wisely to have a pleasant and healthy pregnancy!
Pregnant women need higher levels of a B vitamin, called folate (or folic acid if you take it as a supplement). Folate is essential for forming your baby’s brain and nervous system and can prevent common neural tube defects like spina bifida. Since this vitamin is so important in the first four weeks after conception, it is important that women who plan on getting pregnant soon, start supplementing with this vitamin from early on. Lentils are also a great source of protein, iron and vitamin B6. If you are not a big fan of lentils, other foods that contain folate are spinach, asparagus, beans and quinoa.
2. Leafy greens
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, swiss chard and others are loaded with vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamin A, C and K, as well as with folate and minerals, such as calcium. Vitamin A is important for the development of baby’s eyesight and aids in bone and skin growth. Also rich in fiber, greens are great to include in your menu to keep your digestive system working well.
3. Goat Yoghurt
Your baby needs calcium to develop bones and you need to make sure you have enough to keep your bones strong and to help your muscles and nerves function. If there is not enough calcium for both of you, the baby will still take what it needs, but you will be left with potentially weakened bones. The recommended calcium intake for pregnant women is about 1400 mg. I do not recommend relying only on dairy to supply your calcium, as it is acidic and consuming too much of it might actually lead to more calcium loss. But having a cup of real yoghurt (I am Bulgarian after all, and this somehow got even more pronounced during my pregnancy) can actually provide you not only with calcium but also with protein and folate. The active cultures in it can help prevent stomach issues and will help with digestion and nutrient absorption. Choose organic goat yogurt when buying it and stay away from cows yoghurt. Other great sources of calcium are broccoli, collard greens, kale, sea vegetables, tahini (sesame paste) and figs.
4. Seeds and nuts
Chia, flax seeds and nuts are rich in omega-3’s, important nutrient for the baby’s brain development. Many women believe that the only way to get enough omega-3’s is by consuming a lot of fish, but a foetus exposure to mercury, which is found in fish today, can actually result in mental retardation and other problems. If you still want to consume fish, make sure you do not consume more than 300 gr per week, or two meals. If you are vegan or vegetarian, than make sure you supplement your DHA and EPA acids additionally. Nowadays you can find algae-based DHA supplements. Avocado is another great source of omega-3 and it also contains potassium, folate, and vitamin B6. Spread some avocado on a whole grain toast for a great breakfast.
Filled with fiber, protein and vitamin B6, oatmeal will keep you energy high during your pregnancy. Because of its high fiber content oatmeal is also great to prevent a common pregnancy symptom – constipation. Other whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa and whole-wheat pasta are also great food choices during pregnancy.
6. Pumpkin seeds
Adding pumpkin seeds to your diet will help boost your protein intake. They also contain important minerals, such as potassium, calcium and zinc, important for healing. These little seeds are also a great source of magnesium, which aids in the utilisation of carbs, protein and fats as a source of energy. They are also a source of vegetarian iron, which is very important during pregnancy, as the risk of developing iron deficiency anaemia is higher during this time. So if you are vegetarian and pregnant you need to pay special attention to this mineral. Other vegetarian sources of iron include spirulina, spinach, lentils, chickpeas and beans. Combine these foods with foods containing vitamin C, to increase the iron absorption in the body.
First and foremost make sure you consume organic eggs from pastured hens. Even better if you can get them directly from a farmer you know. Eggs contain 12 different vitamins and minerals and are a great source of protein, which is essential during pregnancy. As the baby’s cells are growing at a rapid rate, they need protein as their building blocks. A pregnant women should consume about 75 gr of protein daily, and this can be easily reached, whether you are vegetarian or not. Eggs also contain choline, which is important for the development of baby’s brain and nervous system.
8. Sweet Potatoes
They get their beautiful orange colour from carotenoids, plant pigments that are converted into vitamin A in our bodies. As vitamin A is fat-soluble, consuming too much of it (it is also contained in liver, milk and eggs) can actually lead to toxicity. But the good news with plant based sources is that the body converts only so much vitamin A, as it actually needs. So load up on veggies and fruits that contain this vitamin without any worries. Sweet potatoes also contain folate, vitamin C and fiber. They are super delicious and easy to incorporate into your daily menu.
9. Colourful Fruits and Vegetables
Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables ensures that you get a variety of nutrients. The different colours of the fruits and vegetables is due to their different content of nutrients, phytonutrients and flavonoids. In the later stages of pregnancy your baby can “taste” the food you eat, so with your diet you can already influence the type of foods your baby will accept and prefer later on. Another great reason to eat more healthy foods!
Ok, this is not food, but it is so important, that it had to be on the list. Water is so important in our body, it helps deliver nutrients, acts as a detoxing agent and helps transport toxins away. Drinking plenty of water will keep you hydrated and will also help with overeating. Often we eat more, as we wrongly interpret the signs of our body for hunger, when it is actually calling for hydration. Dehydration during pregnancy can also lead to other not so pleasant symptoms, such as overheating and nausea and even preterm labour. So make sure you drink enough water through the day.