When I was 8 weeks pregnant with my first child, my husband and I took a short vacation with his family at the Jersey shore. Although I wasn’t having full-blown morning sickness yet, my stomach felt kind of off and I felt hungry at the same time. So right before we left, I picked up an eggplant parmesan hero and devoured all of it on the drive down.
Suffice to say, I didn’t eat healthy during my pregnancy. Although I ate plenty of fruits and vegetables, I gave myself permission to eat chips, a slice of cake or an extra portion, because heck—I’m pregnant, I reasoned. But that thinking was all wrong and as the number on the scale went up, people would ask me, “Are you sure you’re not carrying twins?”
Through my work as a health journalist, I learned that what you eat during pregnancy really does matter and the second time around, I made it a point to eat healthier.
Sure, pregnancy cravings and food aversions can get the best of you but experts say if you want to have a healthy pregnancy, you need to eat healthy. These 7 superfoods are a good first start.
Scrambled or hard-boiled, eggs are one of the best foods you can eat during pregnancy. Not only are they an excellent source of protein (1 egg has 7 grams), they also have iron and choline which are important for brain development.
Choline is so important, in fact, that the American Medical Association recently recommended pregnant women get more of it in their prenatal vitamins.
This time of year, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are in-season so expect them to be more affordable and delicious than any other time of the year. Since they have vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium, folic acid and antioxidants which build your baby’s skin cells and immune system, they’re one of the healthiest fruits you can eat.
3. Green leafy vegetables
If morning sickness is in full force, you might not have an appetite for veggies but green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, K, iron, and B vitamins which are important for your baby’s brain development and nervous system.
Green leafy vegetables are also good sources of calcium which is important to help your baby develop strong teeth and bones. Two to three servings a day is ideal but if you can’t stomach them, try making a green smoothie or green juice.
4. Iron fortified cereal
Since your blood volume doubles during pregnancy, it’s important to get enough iron so you won’t become anemic. Of course meat is a great way to get iron, but if you’re a vegetarian, vegan or need another source, iron-fortified cereals that have an 80 to 90 percent daily value of iron are good choices.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish like salmon are vital for your baby’s brain and eye development. Eating salmon during pregnancy may also reduce your child’s risk for asthma, a recent study found. Fresh, frozen or canned—salmon is an easy way to get protein in your diet.
You already know the importance of getting enough folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida and one way to get folate itself is by eating quinoa. Quinoa is also a great source of protein, fiber, vitamin B, E and antioxidants and it’s versatile: eat it as a side with dinner or in a fruit parfait for breakfast.
Lentils contain folate, calcium, zinc and amino acids and are also an excellent source of protein and fiber which will satisfy your hunger and ward off constipation. Make a soup, vegetarian stew or throw some lentils in a salad.