Home » Top 10 Healthy Foods For Pregnancy
The nutritional content of the food you eat during pregnancy should be a central concern for expectant women. As a result, we present this curated list of the top 10 healthy foods for pregnancy to ensure that you have the best experience during this exciting phase.
Naturally, pregnant women require additional nutrients to meet the needs of a growing fetus.
The need for extra calories increases as the pregnancy progresses, and is especially intense during the second and third weeks of pregnancy.
Simply stated, the healthiest pregnancy diets provide vital nourishment to both mother and baby so they can both live safely during pregnancy.
The lack of these key nutrients may have adverse effects on fetal growth and development.
Eating these top 10 healthy foods for pregnancy also ensures that mothers-to-be remain healthy enough to handle the physical and emotional changes occurring in their bodies.
Quick Facts About the Top 10 Healthy Foods for Pregnancy
- Unhealthy eating habits and excessive weight gain may increase the risk of birth or pregnancy complications as well as gestational diabetes.
- Healthy pregnancy weight gain is inevitable. It depends on pre-pregnancy weight, genetics, psychological conditions, and other factors.
- A pregnant woman may increase their daily calories intake by about 350 to 500 calories, especially during the second and third trimesters. She is not eating for two though. Her body just needs it.
- Your body absorbs iron more efficiently when you are pregnant to increase blood volume. Therefore, you should consume more iron-rich foods to make sure you and your baby have enough supply of oxygen so you can both live safely during pregnancy.
Key Nutrients Needed During Pregnancy
Pregnant women require more folic acid, healthy fats, protein, calcium, and iron as compared to those who are not pregnant.
Each of the nutrients found in healthy food for pregnant women is important due to the following reasons;
- Folic acid
A healthy pregnancy requires adequate amounts of folic acid. Folate is an important nutrient (vitamin b6) that helps in preventing neural tube birth defects that may occur in the spinal cord and brain.
However, you may not get the recommended doses of folic acid from a healthy pregancy diet alone.
Therefore, experts advocate for daily vitamin B6 supplements containing 400 micrograms of folate daily, one month before becoming pregnant.
The proportion of folic acid in healthy food for pregnant women should be increased to 600 micrograms daily during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins usually contain these recommended amounts.
Folic acid can be obtained from citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, pastas, breads, fortified cereals, and beans.
Most women can easily access protein-rich foods in their diets.
This important nutrient helps to build vital body organs such as the heart and brain.
Proteins can be derived from fish, eggs, meat, poultry, peas, nuts, and beans.
A healthy pregnancy diet should contain sufficient amounts of calcium. This nutrient is used to build the teeth and bones of your unborn baby.
If pregnant women do not consume adequate amounts of calcium, it will be draw from their natural reserves in their bones and given to the baby.
Calcium consumption should be accompanied by Vitamin D intake to increase absorption, especially in the first several weeks of pregnancy.
Foods rich in calcium include milk, yoghurt, leafy green vegetables, and salmon, among others.
Iron is an essential component of a healthy pregnancy diet. Pregnant women need about double the daily amount of iron needed by unexpectant women.
This is because pregnant women need to make more blood to supply adequate oxygen to both mother and baby.
Low levels of iron can cause anemia.
Vitamin C should also be included in meals to increase iron absorption.
Sources of iron include poultry, fortified cereal, meat, fish, peas, and dried beans.
The Top 10 Healthy Foods for Pregnancy
Here is a list of the best healthy food for pregnant women. These foods should be eaten in combination with others to ensure that you consume a balance of healthy fats, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber.
- Dairy products
The unborn baby inside your body needs additional calcium and protein.
Dairy products make the list of the top healthy diets for pregnant women because they are a good source of valuable proteins, phosphorous, calcium, zinc, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
Yoghurt is uniquely beneficial for pregnant women because it contains probiotic bacteria and high levels of calcium.
Lactose intolerant women may not experience any side effects from consuming yoghurt. Indeed, probiotic supplements reduce the risk of vaginal infections, preeclampsia, allergies, and gestational diabetes.
- Fortified cereal
Your body’s need for additional folic acid and vitamin B6 can be fulfilled by eating fortified breakfast cereal, which is why this food appears on the list of the best healthy pregnancy meals.
Most brands typically contain the recommended 400 micrograms of B vitamins.
The extra 200 micrograms you are required to eat during pregnancy can be derived from various foods, such as black-eyed peas and asparagus.
These include dried beans, lentils, peanuts, soybeans, and peas.
They contain high levels of dietary fiber, iron, folic acid, protein, and calcium, which are required for a healthy pregnancy, especially in the first several weeks.
Consuming inadequate amounts of these nutrients, especially folates, increases the risk of neural tube defects, low birth weight, and susceptibility to disease and infections.
Some legumes also contain high levels of magnesium, iron, and potassium.
Salmon is good source of omega-3 fatty acids. See our list of the healthiest foods in the world.
You should supplement the low levels of these nutrients in your diet by eating salmon.
You should eat enough mega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy because they help to build your baby’s eyes and brain.
However, your consumption of sea food should be limited to twice a week due to the potentially high levels of mercury and other contaminants.
Salmon is also a natural source of vitamin D that helps in improving your immune function and bone health.
- Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are among the best healthy foods to eat during pregnancy because they contain many of the important nutrients required by expectant women.
Citrus fruits, tomatoes, honeydew, grapefruits, broccoli, kale, spinach, and Brussel sprouts are good examples.
- Lean meat and eggs
Poultry, fish, meat, eggs, and tofu are excellent sources of protein, zinc, iron, and other nutrients, making them among the top healthy diets on the planet.
Proteins is a builder nutrient that helps your baby to build new tissue for muscles, organs, and bones.
However, pregnant women are advised to avoid raw or undercooked meat and eggs, unless they are of the Red Lion Standard.
Moreover, eggs contain a little bit of every essential nutrient, including vitamins, minerals, fat, protein, and the much-needed calories.
They also contain choline, which helps in brain development and health promotion.
Surprisingly, over 90 percent of pregnant women do not consume recommended amounts of choline, which may increase the risk of neural tube defects and decreased brain function.
One egg can provide up to 25 percent of the recommended daily intake (or 113 mg) of choline.
Bananas are among the most excellent sources of potassium, with the exception of avocados, thus making them among the top 10 healthy foods to eat during pregnancy.
They also help to fight off pregnancy fatigue and to relieve nausea.
Proper hydration is important for a healthy pregnancy to support the increase in blood volume.
Signs of dehydration include anxiety, headaches, bad moods, anxiety, and reduced memory.
Drinking plenty of water during pregnancy also helps to relieve constipation as well as the risk of urinary tract infections (UTI).
Health guidelines endorse drinking two liters or 68 ounces of water daily, although the actual amount varies from one person to another.
The rule of thumb applies in this case; drink water whenever you feel thirsty and drink till you quench the thirst.
You should eat avocados often during pregnancy.
Unlike most other fruits, avocados contain an unusual concentration on monounsaturated fatty acids and high in dietary fiber, vitamin K, C, and E, B vitamins, and potassium.
They can help to build the skin, brain cells, and other tissues in your baby, as well as preventing neural tube defects.
The nutrients contained in avocados (especially potassium) also help to relieve leg cramps in some pregnant women.
- Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a good source of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in your body.
Vitamin A helps in the growth and differentiation of body tissues and cells.
Women should increase their intake of vitamin A by about 10 to 40 percent during pregnancy.
At the same time, they should avoid excessive consumption of animal-based vitamin A sources.
This makes sweet potatoes an excellent source of this vital vitamin. Indeed, 100 to 500 grams (or 3.5 to 5.3 ounces) of cooked sweet potatoes provide the recommended amount of your daily vitamin A intake.
They also have adequate amounts of dietary fiber, which improves digestion, prevents constipation, increases satiation, and controls blood sugar spikes.
- Starchy foods
This cluster of the healthiest foods on the planet includes foods such as bread, polenta, potatoes, pasta, yams, and rice, among others.
They contain high levels of carbohydrates, which provide the much-needed energy during pregnancy.
Experts recommend opting for whole grain versions due to their high concentrations of dietary fiber.
Eating whole grains during pregnancy may also help women to meet their need for extra calories.
Foods such as quinoa and oats have adequate amounts of protein needed during pregnancy.
Demystifying the Myths About Healthy Pregnancy Diets
General guidelines have progressively reduced the weekly allowable amounts of alcohol for pregnant women.
The unborn baby in your womb has extremely limited ability to process alcohol.
Therefore, excessive exposure can undermine fetal development, which is why some doctors advise pregnant women not to drink alcohol all together.
Given that no research has shown any positive effects of alcohol on either mother or fetus, we would recommend avoiding drinking during pregnancy to prevent the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.
Excessive consumption of caffeine during pregnancy increases the risk of low birth weight, miscarriage, and subsequent health problems.
Caffeine is present in numerous foods, including coffee, energy drinks, sodas, tea, and chocolate, as well as particular brands of flu and cold medications.
You should consult your doctor before taking any medicines during pregnancy.
Your daily intake of caffeine should not exceed 200mg. An ordinary mug of instant coffee contains about 100mg of caffeine.
Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain
Typically, women inevitably gain weight during pregnancy.
Healthy pregnancy weight gain is normal and inevitable. Let no one deceive you otherwise!
While the actual weight gained varies from one person to another, a woman whose BMI is about 18.5 and 24.9 will gain about 11.4 to 15.9 kilograms (25 to 35 pounds) during the entire pregnancy.
Weight gain also depends on age, physical and psychological health, and fetal development.
Inadequate or excessive weight gain may undermine the health and well-being of both mother and the unborn baby.
More importantly, overweight women should avoid using pregnancy as a weight loss mechanism since babies are not made from excess body fat.
Such women will also gain about 12 to 25 pounds when they get pregnant.
I hope this info will help someone. Feel free to leave a comment below or to suggest any suitable additions to this list of the top 10 healthy foods for pregnancy!