Growing Strong – Supporting Healthy Pregnancy with Nutrition
Pregnancy is an incredible feat. All it takes is a combination of genetic material and nine months of gestation before a new living, breathing person is on the earth.
But those nine months are critical. Developing babies need nutrients if they are going to grow into strong, healthy babies, and it’s up to the mother to provide those. A balanced diet is even more important during this time. Fetuses need protein for muscle development, calcium for bone growth, and a variety of vitamins and minerals for their nervous systems’ health.
So how can the mother incorporate all these nutrients without taking supplements for everything?
Supplements are part of prenatal care, especially folic acid and vitamin D, but experts recommend that mothers get as many nutrients as possible from food. Pills are expensive and too much of some (especially iron) can actually be toxic for the fetus. Plus, naturally-occurring nutrients are more easily absorbed.
This is not an exhaustive list, but each of the following foods contain several of the necessary vitamins and nutrients and are easy to incorporate into a balanced diet.
Eggs – Eggs are a good source of protein and healthy fats that can be scrambled, hard-boiled, or cooked however you want. The yolk contains a lot of choline, which is important for a baby’s neural development and defense against disorders.
Sweet Potatoes – The famous Thanksgiving side dish is packed full of fiber and other nutrients (including more potassium than bananas!), but one of the most important things is the beta-carotene, as that gets converted into vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a strong role in developing and strengthening a fetus’ eyes, bones, and skin.
Nuts – Pistachios, almonds, peanuts, chickpeas, you name it. Nuts are full of protein that make them a good, filling snack, and also have high levels of folate and magnesium depending on what kind you choose. Most nuts also have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Beans/Lentils – Beans are a great vegetarian source of protein and iron and have folate and, in some cases, high levels of zinc. Zinc is actually more important for the mother, as it helps her carry the baby to term and might ease the length of labor.
Lean Meats – For the non-vegetarians out there, meat is one of the best sources of filling protein and iron. Some meats, especially beef and pork, have good levels of B-vitamins and choline.
Salmon – Fish is another good source of protein, and salmon boosts high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that help a baby’s brain develop. Salmon is a good fish choice because its also low in mercury.
Dark, Leafy Greens – Broccoli, kale, spinach, etc. The vegetable super foods are full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamin A, potassium, and more.
Dairy – Dairy products, especially yogurt, are one of the best sources of calcium and are not shy on protein either. Yogurt also has a good number of probiotics to support a healthy digestive system.
Oatmeal – Oatmeal and other whole-grain foods are full of fiber and have many more nutrients than refined oats or white bread. It’s easy to find oatmeal that’s fortified with B-vitamins, folic acid, and iron.
Water – Hydration is always important, but during pregnancy, your blood volume increases, so it’s important to drink more so your blood can filter all the nutrients the baby needs. It also helps with constipation and nausea.
Orange Juice – Orange juice, like regular oranges, are a great source of folate, potassium and vitamin C that boosts your immune system and helps your baby absorb iron.
Tea – Most blends of tea have a bunch of nutrients you’d find in some foods, but you shouldn’t brew a cup without checking if the tea contains caffeine, which is dangerous to drink when pregnant. You can read more about tea and pregnancy here.
We wish you a happy and healthy pregnancy!