8 minute read
Pregnancy is the one time in your life when your eating habits directly affect another person… If you’re expecting, it’s time to really take a good look at how you’re feeding your body and your sweet growing babe.
Supplying your own body with a tasty blend of nutritious foods can keep you feeling healthy during pregnancy, pave the way for an easier labor, and a healthier baby!
But you may not feel like eating because the nausea feels like too much to handle…
Or you’re craving all the carbs and sweets you can get your hands on…
It’s so important to make sure you are getting all the nutrition you and your baby need. But with so much conflicting information about diet out there, it can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to choosing the best foods to eat during pregnancy.
That’s why I put together a list of the top 11 nourishing foods you should be eating during pregnancy. These delicious foods will give you and your little one a solid foundation of nutrients that you both need. Let’s take a look!
11 Best Foods To Eat During Pregnancy And Why
1. Egg Yolks
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Eggs are super easy to cook and a great way to get a nutritious start to your day. Eggs are packed with folate and essential vitamins like vitamin A, B12 and B2 that help to keep your skin, eyes, blood, immune system, nervous system, and metabolism healthy while you’re pregnant.
But eggs also help your baby in important ways. They have tons of essential Omega-3 fatty acids — which play an important role in the development of your baby’s brain, nervous system, and vision.
And they also have high amounts of choline, a nutrient that’s crucial for your baby’s brain development. But sadly, 90-95% of pregnant people in the U.S. don’t consume the recommended amount of choline and it is absent from most prenatal vitamins (that’s why we recommend this one! + You can take 20% off when you shop with code SBB20).
So even if you miss being able to have your favorite sunny-side up or over-easy eggs… Whipping up a delicious omelet or scrambled hash is a great way to make sure you’re getting enough of this important nutrient.
2. Dark Leafy Greens
“I’m strong to the finich, ’cause I eats me spinach, I’m Popeye the sailor man!” — Popeye
I don’t know about you… But I always imagine Popeye with his can of spinach when I think of leafy vegetables. He was setting a pretty good example for us, because dark leafy greens like spinach, chard, kale and collards are an important part of a prenatal diet. They are terrific sources of calcium, fiber, vitamin A and C, iron and other important minerals.
But most importantly, they are some of the richest dietary sources of folate — which is critical for your developing baby to prevent neural tube defects which can lead to abnormalities in the brain and spine.
Most people don’t realize that folate can only be found in the foods that you eat. If you’re not consuming enough folate from your diet, you may think your prenatal vitamin has you covered. But surprisingly most prenatal vitamins out there contain folic acid — a synthetic version of folate. Consuming too much folic acid can possibly lead to cancer. Yikes!
Instead, look for a prenatal vitamin that contains the Metfolin brand, or lists “5-methyltetrahydrofolate” or “5-MTHF” on the label to ensure you’re getting the right amount of folate.
3. Cold-Water Fish
If you’re a seafood lover, cold water fish are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids — specifically DHA — to help your little one’s brain and vision development. Look for Wild Salmon, Freshwater Trout, Pacific Mackerel as these have the highest levels of these healthy fats.
These fish are safe to consume while you’re pregnant because they’re low in mercury. But you will want to avoid large, predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish that have high mercury levels.
Aim to eat 2-3 servings of fish each week. I love to pan-fry or oven-bake a delicious fillet for a quick and healthy meal. This makes for a super-easy meal on a busy weeknight!
4. Whole Grains
You’ve probably heard about the importance of eating whole grains and this is especially true during pregnancy. Your body’s main source of energy comes from the essential carbohydrates found in breads and grains.
If your diet is mostly refined grains — like white bread and white rice — you’ll get a quick boost of energy. But your body will be missing out on the sustaining energy provided by the starchy endosperm — which is removed from refined grains. Not to mention all the healthful effects of the fiber, B vitamins, and minerals like iron that come with the bran and germ found in whole grains.
It’s ok to enjoy a delicious croissant or French baguette every once in a while… But try to make sure that at least half of the grains you eat are whole grains. Some examples of whole grains are: brown, black, and wild rice, oatmeal (steel-cut oats are the least processed), quinoa, barley, wheat, wheat berries, corn, and millet.
Dairy is an excellent source of calcium which is essential for building strong teeth and bones in your your little one. In fact, your baby requires such a considerable amount of calcium, if you’re not getting enough from your diet…your body will take calcium from your bones!
Getting enough daily calcium during pregnancy can help ensure your baby reaches a healthy birth weight. Plus dairy has tons of protein, vitamin D, potassium and vitamin A which helps with normal blood clotting, and muscle and nerve function.
Milk, yogurt, hard cheese, cottage cheese, and eggs are all great sources of dairy. Yogurt also has the benefit of healthy probiotics that will help foster a healthy biome and gut while you’re pregnant.
Look for dairy products from grass-fed or pasture-raised animals to ensure the highest levels of fat-soluble vitamins. This will help your body to absorb all those good nutrients!
And remember, during pregnancy, you should only drink pasteurized or ultra-heat treated (UHT) milks. These milks have been heat-treated to kill bacteria and prevent food poisoning. This will help protect you from the serious problems that food poisoning can cause for you and your baby, including premature birth, miscarriage and stillbirth.
6. Healthy Fats
You might have grown up being taught that all fats are bad. But your body actually needs healthy fats! They have a ton of health benefits including improving your heart health and cholesterol.
And during pregnancy, healthy fats are essential for building your baby’s proper brain and eye development.
Some foods that provide healthy fats include nuts and nut butter, seeds, avocados, and healthy oils (like olive, coconut, grapeseed, or sunflower).
It’s ok to splurge and have your favorite dessert from time to time… But it’s a good idea to control your portion sizes of foods high in fat and sugar. And you can always opt to try a healthier version of your favorite treat! Try a delicious chocolate milk shake made with avocado and coconut milk!
This may be a bit of a no-brainer, but I want to stress how important it is to get enough protein in your diet while you’re pregnant!
Protein is critical for ensuring the proper growth of your baby’s tissues and organs, including the brain. Protein is also necessary for your breast and uterine tissue growth during pregnancy. And it even plays a role in increasing your blood supply, which allows more blood to be sent to your baby.
Your protein intake needs increase with each trimester, so it’s important to listen to your body and make sure you an gradually increasing the amount of protein in your diet as you near your due date. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you may need to be extra mindful of how much protein you’re consuming to ensure you’re getting the right amount.
Try to get a variety of types of protein from both plants and animals. Chicken, fish, shellfish, beef, pork, turkey, nuts, legumes, beans, seeds are all excellent sources of protein.
Ahhh, nature’s tasty treats! Strawberries, kiwi fruit, apples, oranges, bananas, mangos, cherries, cantaloupe, pears, grapefruit, plums, nectarines, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries… There are so many options of delicious fruits if you’re craving something sweet while you’re pregnant.
Fruits provide vitamin C, folate, and fiber which are important for you and your baby’s growing bodies. Vitamin C is especially great for promoting wound healing, tooth and bone development, and metabolic processes. Plus, these nutrients can help to relieve some of the common symptoms of pregnancy.
Try making a delicious fruit salad, hearty smoothie or topping a yummy chia pudding with your favorite fruit!
A healthy diet that’s rich in vegetables can help you avoid complications during pregnancy like gestational diabetes and nutrition deficiency. Plus, they are packed with fiber, folate, and important vitamins that both you and your growing baby need!
And with so many tasty vegetables out there — broccoli, zucchini, green beans, asparagus, arugula, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, yellow or orange peppers, corn — the options for delicious meals and snacks are endless!
10. Bone Broth
A nourishing stew or heartwarming soup can be so comforting to help soothe your pregnancy aches and pains…especially when they are made with bone broth! That is why bone broth is one of the nest foods to eat during pregnancy!
And since bone broth is nutrient dense, it’s the perfect addition to your pregnancy diet! Not only is bone broth rich in collagen — which is the most abundant protein in your body — it’s also one of the best food sources of glycine which is the foundation for making your baby’s collagen and DNA. Your little one’s bones, connective tissues, and organs all need glycine to form properly.
Plus, bone broth has amazing benefits for you including boosting your immune system, helping with digestion and your gut health, and building strong bones.
Bone broth is super easy to make on your stove top — or even in your slow cooker! — by simmering animal bones such as pork, beef, chicken, turkey, bison, fish, etc. down into drinkable liquid. I especially love this easy bone broth recipe from Lily Nichols.
If you’re a sushi lover, seaweed shouldn’t be too much of an issue for you. But if the sound of eating seaweed makes you shiver a little bit…hear me out for a sec.
Seaweed is loaded with health benefits. But most importantly, seaweed is the best source of iodine out there. Iodine is an essential trace mineral that your body needs, but can’t produce on it’s own. That means you have to obtain iodine by food or supplements.
Iodine is essential for regulating the hormones responsible for the proper development of your baby’s central nervous system. This is so important for your growing baby!
So try popping a little seaweed into your bone broth recipe — most likely you won’t even taste it!
Getting Started Eating Healthy During Pregnancy
These 11 best foods to eat during pregnancy will give you a solid start to eating the important vitamins and nutrients that you and your growing baby need throughout your pregnancy.
Incorporating a variety of delicious vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other healthy food choices into your daily life will help you to have a smoother pregnancy and will give your baby a strong start in life.
But you may want to learn even more about prenatal nutrition as you prepare for the arrival of your little one…That’s why I want to recommend one of my favorite books: Real Food for Pregnancy.
A Great Read: Real Food for Pregnancy
Real Food for Pregnancy is an amazing resource written by registered dietitian, Lily Nichols. This is the perfect read if you’re looking to learn more about supporting you and your baby’s health through optimal prenatal nutrition.
If you want to know a more in depth why behind which foods to eat during pregnancy, this is the book for you. You won’t ask why these are the best foods to eat during pregnancy again.
I love that it provides an in-depth discussion of how the nutrients you take into your body affects the development of your baby and the risk for complications.
Lily Nichols provides evidence-based information and answers to how you can use food to help manage nausea, heartburn, constipation, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and other symptoms… it will definitely help you feel healthy and radiant during pregnancy!
Putting Your Nutrition Goals Into Practice And Stocking Your Kitchen With The Best Foods To Eat During Pregnancy
It’s great to know the best foods to eat during pregnancy. But, knowing what to do is often different than being able to do it. I know that for me, I had a lot of growth I needed to do to reach my pregnancy nutrition goals. That’s why I really focus on helping moms be proactive and motivated to reach their goals in my birth class Birth Undone.
You learn everything you need to know to have a healthy, simple birth in this course. But what really sets it apart is it’s focus on helping you be proactive about your health during pregnancy. Every week, we host giveaways for things like a years worth of free diapers, Gucci baby shoes, and other cool things you might want when your baby gets here.
You enter the giveaway by eating a healthy meal, doing simple exercises that will help you feel more comfortable and simplify your birth and for finishing lessons within the class and sharing with other mamas in the group. If you need community, want someone to hold your hand and do this with you, come join us!
Cool Tools To Help You Get The Best Foods During Pregnancy
Now that you know what the best foods to eat during pregnancy are – here are a few tools that can help you simplify the meal planning and creating process. I know for me, when I feel overwhelmed with cooking, I don’t eat as healthy as I want. A few tools have really helped me take better care of myself.
1 – Meal Delivery Systems
I love spending some quality time in the kitchen cooking delicious and healthy food – but I don’t always have the time and energy to give. And sometimes, when I do, other things such as my work, or time with my family get left out.
Though I had some reservations about trying premade meals, I found it has really given me back the gift of time. There are tons of meal delivery programs out there. But my favorite for real, high quality food to eat during pregnancy is Real Eats.
They have real food, high protein, lots of veggies and variety. All things we all need in our lives. If you want a delicious, nourishing meal – I highly recommend them.
The first meal I ever tried from them was Keto, Grass-Fed Beef Chili, with a side of garlic cauliflower rice and creamy mushrooms. Needless to say, they became a staple after that! Have you seen what’s on their menu now?
2. Having Groceries Delivered
I didn’t realize how taxing it was to go to the store, navigate up and down the isles, stop myself from a thousand impulse buys while indulging in one or two (all often while pulling little ones along with me) until I tried a month of grocery delivery.
Instacart is another tool I use all the time when meal prepping. It saves me so much time to have someone else pluck what I need off the aisle and deliver them to my door. I use Instacart to keep my house filled with fruit and salads and a few healthy snacks – all without having to make that last minute dash to the store.
They usually have great deals and sometimes even free delivery when you give grocery delivery a try. I’d love to hear what tools you use to get the best foods during pregnancy filling your kitchen.