There’s no better time than when you’re eating for two to start improving your eating habits. Good nutrition is key to a healthy pregnancy and eating a variety of vitamins and nutrients throughout each trimester will help both you and your baby grow and develop properly.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t give into your cravings sometimes (if not now, then when?), but try to eat a well-balanced diet – and don’t forget to take your prenatal vitamins, too! Here’s some of the top superfoods to eat when you’re pregnant, and why:
Beans and lentils: Jam-packed with fibre, protein, iron, folate, calcium, and zinc, beans and lentils are a super healthy addition to your diet – especially if you’re a vegetarian or don’t like to eat much meat. Try adding chickpeas, black beans, lentils, or soybeans into your chilis, soups, salads, or pasta dishes.
Lean meat: Protein, iron, B vitamins – lean meats have it all, especially beef and pork. Expectant mamas need a lot more protein and iron to make sure their baby grows and develops properly. When you’re pregnant, your body absorbs iron more efficiently, so it’s extra important to eat more iron-rich foods to ensure you and your baby are getting enough oxygen. Iron will also help you fight against tiredness, weakness, irritability, and depression.
Eggs: A relatively cheap, versatile, and convenient source of protein, eggs are a perfect protein source for moms-to-be. They also happen to be a great source of folate, iron, and choline – an essential nutrient that’s critical to fetal brain development and reduces the risk of neural tube defects. Make sure you eat the whole egg though because choline is only found in the yolks.
Sweet potatoes: Did you know that sweet potatoes have even more potassium than bananas? They’re also full of nutritious fibre, vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, and beta-carotene. That last one is particularly key: beta-carotene is an antioxidant that your body converts to vitamin A, which plays an important role in the development of your baby’s eyes, bones, and skin. Mashed, baked, or French-fried, sweet potatoes are easy to swap in for your usual side dishes.
Fortified orange juice: Downing a glass of OJ in the morning (especially one with added calcium and vitamin D), will give you the same nutrients of a glass of milk, but with hefty doses of vitamin C, potassium, and folate, too. Folate is a necessary nutrient for preventing birth defects in pregnancy, and all that potassium will help keep your muscle function, metabolism, and overall health in check.
Yogurt: Here’s something you probably didn’t know: plain yogurt actually contains slightly more calcium than milk! Add in its essential bone-building nutrients (including protein, B vitamins, and zinc), and it’s the perfect breakfast or snack choice for pregnant mamas when paired with some fruit and whole grain cereal or granola.
Dark green vegetables: Kale, spinach, broccoli, and asparagus – you had to know we’d include these ultimate superfoods. Filled with antioxidants, as well as calcium, potassium, fibre, folate, and vitamin A, these veggies check off so many nutrients that moms-to-be and their babies need.
Salmon: This oily fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids (a.k.a. DHA and EPA), which help to promote your baby’s vision and brain development. You might give your growing babe a real brain boost by having salmon for dinner a couple of times a week: Higher levels of DHA in newborns have been associated with higher IQs, advanced motor skills, and fewer neurological problems later on.
Whole grains: Keep your energy up throughout the day with whole grains such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta. These healthy choices are chock-full of fibre which will also help fight off any pesky pregnancy constipation.
Nuts: Crunchy, convenient, and full of protein, fibre, and healthy fats (including brain-boosting omega-3s!), nuts make for the perfect prenatal power snack. Try noshing on cashews and almonds which are rich in magnesium, an important mineral that reduces the risk of premature labour and helps to develop the baby’s nervous system.