When you first start looking into what you should be eating while pregnant, it seems like everyone wants to tell you what you can’t, or at least shouldn’t, have. It’s not all bad news when it comes to pregnancy nutrition, though. There are many foods that are incredibly good for you to consume as your body works hard to grow your baby, and some of them might surprise, or even delight you.
You might be aware that bananas are a great source of potassium, but did you also know they assist in reducing fluid retention (something you will be becoming very familiar with). Bananas can also help you to sleep, as they contain tryptophan, which is considered an essential amino acid.
Sweet potato is an excellent vegetable to eat while pregnant. Versatile and tasty; you can roast, steam, mash – pretty much cook however you like – this superfood. It is chock full of calcium, vitamin C and betacarotene (natural source of vitamin A, which aids in skin and eye development).
Another great source of vitamin C and betacarotene, strawberries also contain the all-important folic acid. Eating strawberries after consuming iron-rich food boosts your body’s capacity for absorbing iron. Strawberries are also rich in potassium, not to mention being absolutely delicious!
Another great non-dairy source of calcium, broccoli also contains folic acid and magnesium. Magnesium is essential for bone development and helps regulate calcium absorption. Try steaming your broccoli to better preserve these nutrients.
While you may know that eating eggs while pregnant is fine as long as they are well cooked, what you might not know is that eggs are rich in iron, protein and vitamin B12, all essential nutrients for pregnant women. Eggs also contain zinc and selenium, which is an antioxidant and helps to metabolise.
Chickpeas, the main ingredient in the ever-delicious humus, among other meals, are another pregnancy superfood. Rich in calcium, magnesium, zinc and folic acid; they are exceedingly beneficial to consume when expecting.
Sunflower seeds are an excellent snack to keep on hand. Rich in omega-3 and 6 (brain development), magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc and a veritable alphabet of vitamins (A, B, D, E and K); sunflower seeds are well and truly considered beneficial to both you and your baby.
Cabbage and Spring Greens
Both cabbage and spring greens are full of folic acid, and one portion provides you with 25% of the recommended daily intake. Cabbage and spring greens also contain iron, potassium and vitamins C, E and A.
Yoghurt is an excellent (and delicious) source of calcium. ‘Greek’ style varieties contain the least added ingredients, but low fat yoghurt contains the same amount of calcium as full fat. Mix in some delicious seeds, nuts and fruit for an extra-beneficial snack.
Another great snack, dried apricots can be eaten on their own or mixed in yoghurt, trail mix and/or cereals. They are high in iron, and also provide folic acid, potassium, calcium and magnesium. They can also help stimulate bowel activity.
Kidney (and other varieties) Beans
Rich in fibre, and iron, kidney beans (and various other bean varieties) are excellent for pregnant women. Beans are very versatile and can be added whole to many things, or blended up into a paste.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Aside from the fruits and vegetables listed above, you should make sure you are keeping a balanced diet rich in fresh produce while you are pregnant. Fruits and vegetables contain a multitude of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals that are essential to your baby’s development, and to your own health.
Lean Red Meat
Lean red meat is, as long as it is cooked through (well-done) it is more than safe to eat during pregnancy. It is an excellent source of protein, iron, and contains up to nine amino acid components. Other sources of protein that are alternatives to red meat are poultry, fish and shellfish, eggs, milk, cheese and tofu.
Chicken and other poultry products are rich in protein and amino acids. Lean chicken is low in cholesterol, and high in vitamin E, vitamin A, selenium, thiamine and niacin. One cup of cooked lean chicken breast provides your body with 85% of your daily recommended intake of protein. It is important that all chicken and poultry products are cooked thoroughly before consumption.
Whole grains are present in whole meal bread, brown or wild rice, quinoa, barley, popcorn (right?) and buckwheat, amongst a variety of other foods. You can find whole grain alternatives to certain products like cereals, pastas, noodles and processed breads (pita, tortilla, bagel). Whole grains are a good source of vitamin B1, B2, folic acid, niacin, iron, selenium and magnesium, and are as such, understandably an important part of your balanced diet while pregnant (or any other time of your life, for that matter).