- August 18, 2020
- Michael Allibone
- Posted in Resources
From food aversions to cravings, first-time moms quickly learn that food plays a major role in their pregnancy. During the first trimester, food may even make you feel physically ill thanks to morning sickness. No matter what you want or don't want to eat, it's important to remember that everything you consume affects your growing baby.
As a first-time mom, you want to make sure you're getting the best nutrition you can. To help take the guesswork out of what to eat, we've found nine of the best foods to give you and your baby exactly what you both need to be healthy and strong.
The next time you and your growing little one need a snack, consider giving one of these nine nutritious and delicious foods a try.
1. Dairy Products
Have you been craving ice cream during your pregnancy? That may not be such a bad thing. According to an article in the Journal of Family Health Care about bone health during pregnancy, you and your baby need plenty of calcium and Vitamin D. Ice cream is one source, though you may want to choose a less sugary option.
When hunger pangs strike, a quick, healthy snack is a great idea. For first-time moms, hard cheeses make a great dairy option. Hard cheeses are a good choice because they have protein to keep you fuller, longer. They also contain calcium and healthy fats.
2. Lean Meat
Some first-time moms experience an intense aversion to meat. This isn't unusual during pregnancy. But for those who can eat it, lean meat like chicken, lean cuts of beef, and pork provide much-needed iron.
According to an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, iron is especially important while you're pregnant. This is because iron helps your red blood cells carry oxygen to you and your baby. You'll need even more iron during pregnancy because of your increased blood volume.
When you have low iron, your body can't make enough hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells (RBCs) that carries oxygen to the rest of your body. When hemoglobin or RBC counts are low, it results in a condition called anemia.
Anemia can make you feel weak and tired, which is no fun during pregnancy. This condition can also increase the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight.
3. Dark, Leafy Greens (and Broccoli)
Kale, spinach, and other dark, leafy greens are packed with vitamins and minerals that expectant mothers and their babies need. They have vitamins A, C, K, and E, as well as calcium, iron, fiber, and folate. Folate is a B vitamin that protects against birth defects.
Broccoli isn't leafy, but it falls into the dark green vegetable category. It offers many of the same vitamins and minerals as leafy greens. This makes broccoli the perfect nutrient-dense veggie for first-time moms who don't feel like eating a salad.
According to a Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology article, your baby needs omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s promote good brain and eye development. The only way to get omega-3s is through diet, and seafood is an excellent source. Unfortunately, pregnant women are limited in the amount of fish they can consume.
Still, fish is a great source of omega-3s, so pregnant women should try to eat some when they can. Just be sure to avoid fish with high levels of mercury as these may give your baby neurological damage. The American Pregnancy Association recommends low-mercury seafood such as shrimp, cod, salmon, catfish, tilapia, and canned, light tuna.
Believe it or not, legumes are a fantastic source of plant-based nutrients. According to a Clinical Diabetes article, legumes have a wealth of vitamins and minerals including iron, folate, and fiber, which are essential for a healthy pregnancy.
Legumes are also rich in protein and calcium. This makes them a great non-dairy option for first-time moms who are lactose intolerant. Lentils, beans, peanuts, and chickpeas (hummus, anyone?) are easy to incorporate into any diet.
Not only are eggs inexpensive and readily available, but they also contain many of the nutrients you need during pregnancy. One nutrient that eggs have in abundance is choline.
According to an article in Cholesterol on the health benefits of eggs, choline is important in two ways during pregnancy. It helps with your baby's brain development and may also help prevent neural tube defects.
Best of all for hungry first-time moms, eggs cook up fast and there are countless ways to make them. Boiled eggs can be made in advance so you have them at the ready!
Fruit is a great food to eat during pregnancy, but berries are especially good because they're high in antioxidants like vitamins C and E. The high fiber content of berries helps fill you up and keep you regular, making them an ideal snack for pregnant women.
Remember the importance of iron in preventing anemia during pregnancy? Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, and berries have it in abundance. So go ahead, first-time moms, enjoy those berry smoothies!
Avocados are having a moment, and for good reason. According to an article in Nutrients, avocados are a great source of healthy fats, B vitamins, and vitamins K, E, and C. They are also a great source of folate and potassium, which are much-needed but often under-consumed nutrients during pregnancy.
Surprisingly, avocados have more potassium than bananas! This is great news for first-time moms with preeclampsia since potassium can help lower blood pressure.
9. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are inexpensive, readily available, and a great source of fiber. This can help you feel full and satisfied. They are also rich in Vitamin A. According to an article in Nutrients, vitamin A helps your baby grow and develop properly and promotes good eyesight. It's especially near the end of your pregnancy when your baby is growing a lot.
However, be aware that consuming excessive amounts of vitamin A in early pregnancy can be dangerous. Your baby's cardiovascular and central nervous systems may not form properly, and spontaneous abortion may occur.
Many first-time moms quickly realize that cravings for junk food during pregnancy are a fact of life. Fill your fridge with the nutritious foods on this list, and you'll always have healthy options on hand for when cravings strike. A well-balanced diet full of nutrient-dense foods will keep you and your growing baby happy and healthy.
Do you have a favorite nutritious food to eat during pregnancy? Let us know in the comments below!
- American Pregnancy Association. (n.d.). Mercury Levels in Fish. American Pregnancy Association. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/mercury-levels-in-fish/
- Basu, A., et al. (2010). Berries: Emerging Impact on Cardiovascular Health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(3), 168–177. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068482/
- Campbell, M. (2018). List of Dark Green Vegetables. SFGate. https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/list-dark-green-vegetables-3872.html
- Comerford, K., et al. (2016). The Role of Avocados in Maternal Diets During the Periconceptional Period, Pregnancy, and Lactation. Nutrients, 8(5), 313. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4882725/
- Greenberg, J.A., Bell, S.J., Ausdal, W.V. (2008). Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy. Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology, 1(4), 162–169. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19173020
- Kuang, H., et al. (2018). The Impact of Egg Nutrient Composition and Its Consumption on Cholesterol Homeostasis. Cholesterol. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6126094/
- Lowdon, J. (2008). Getting Bone Health Right from the Start! Pregnancy, Lactation, and Weaning. Journal of Family Health Care, 18(4), 137–141. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18754554
- Maia, S.B., et al. (2019). Vitamin A and Pregnancy: A Narrative Review. Nutrients 11(3): 681. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6470929/
- National Health Service. (2018.) Are Hard Cheeses Safe to Eat During Pregnancy? National Health Service. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/are-hard-cheeses-safe-to-eat-during-pregnancy/
- Polak, R., Phillips, E., Campbell, A. (2015). Legumes: Health Benefits and Culinary Approaches to Increase Intake. Clinical Diabetes, 33(4), 198–205. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4608274/
- Scholl, T.O. (2005). Iron Status During Pregnancy: Setting the Stage for Mother and Infant. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 81(5):1218S–1222S. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15883455
- Yan, L. (2016). Dark Green Leafy Vegetables. Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center. https://www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/dark-green-leafy-vegetables/
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