Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy is very important. During this time, your body needs additional nutrients, vitamins and minerals. In fact, you may need 350–500 extra calories each day during the second and third trimesters. A diet lacking in key nutrients may negatively affect the baby’s development. Poor eating habits and excess weight gain may also increase your risk of gestational diabetes and pregnancy or birth complications.
Put simply, choosing healthy, nutritious foods will help ensure the health of you and your baby. It will also make it a lot easier to lose the pregnancy weight after you’ve given birth. Here are highly nutritious foods to eat when you’re pregnant.
During pregnancy, you need to consume extra protein and calcium to meet the needs of the growing fetus. Dairy products contain two types of high-quality protein: casein and whey. Dairy is the best dietary source of calcium, and provides high amounts of phosphorus, various B vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is particularly beneficial for pregnant women.
It contains more calcium than most other dairy products. Some varieties also contain probiotic bacteria, which support digestive health. People who are lactose intolerant may also be able to tolerate yogurt, especially probiotic yogurt. Taking probiotic supplements during pregnancy may reduce your risk of complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, vaginal infections and allergies.
This group of food includes lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, soybeans and peanuts. Legumes are excellent plant-based sources of fiber, protein, iron, folate (B9) and calcium — all of which your body needs more of during pregnancy. Folate is one of the B vitamins (B9). It’s very important for the health of the mother and fetus, especially during the first trimester.
However, most pregnant women are not consuming nearly enough folate. This has been linked with an increased risk of neural tube defects and low birth weight. Insufficient folate intake may also cause your child to become more prone to infections and disease later in life. Legumes contain high amounts of folate. One cup of lentils, chickpeas or black beans may provide from 65–90% of the RDA.
Furthermore, legumes are generally very high in fiber. Some varieties are also high in iron, magnesium and potassium. Legumes are great sources of folate, fiber and many other nutrients. Folate is a very important nutrient during pregnancy and may reduce the risk of some birth defects and diseases.
Sweet potatoes are very rich in beta-carotene, a plant compound that is converted into vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A is essential for growth and the differentiation of most cells and tissues. It’s very important for healthy fetal development. Pregnant women are generally advised to increase their vitamin A intake by 10–40%.
However, they are also advised to avoid very high amounts of animal-based sources of vitamin A, which may cause toxicity when eaten in excess. Therefore, beta-carotene is a very important source of vitamin A for pregnant women. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene. About 3.5–5.3 ounces (100–150 grams) of cooked sweet potato fulfills the entire Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
Furthermore, sweet potatoes contain fiber, which may increase fullness, reduce blood sugar spikes and improve digestive health and mobility.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which your body transforms into vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for the growth and differentiation of cells in your growing fetus.
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