Prenatal super foods
THESE powerful eats pack plenty of nutrients to keep mums-to-be and babies healthy through pregnancy – and beyond.
Whether you like them fried, scrambled, hard-boiled or served as an omelette, eggs are the gold standard for prenatal protein. They also happen to be a great source of folate, iron and choline.
Not only are eggs a relatively cheap, versatile and convenient source of protein, they contain choline too. Never heard of that last one?
Choline is critical to foetal brain development and reduces the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. To reap the benefits, you’ll have to eat the whole thing (so forget the egg-whites-only order); choline is contained in the yolk. If your cravings are more for a burger than eggs Benedict, you’re in luck – there’s also choline in beef.
These guys are full of nutritious fibre, vitamin B6, potassium (even more than bananas have!), vitamin C and iron, as well as copper and betacarotene.
Sure, other foods on our list offer many of the same nutrients, but we’re singling out sweet potatoes for their beta-carotene – an antioxidant that your body converts to vitamin A. And as you may recall, vitamin A plays an important role in the development of baby’s eyes, bones and skin. Sweet potatoes are also a great way to meet your iron quota.
Not only do these orange spuds contain iron, they also have copper – a mineral that helps your body absorb iron. So swap in sweet potatoes for your usual sides; they’re great mashed, baked or as French fries.
This crunchy (and convenient) snack is full of healthy fats (including those brain-boosting omega-3s we mentioned earlier), protein, fibre and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Plus, noshing on nuts will help make a dent in the 800mg of magnesium you’re supposed to get now that you’re preggers.
Munching on magnesium-rich foods helps reduce the risk of premature labour and aids in the development of your baby’s nervous system. A quarter cup of almonds contains 98mg of magnesium, so keep a stash in your purse for a convenient prenatal power snack on the go.
Cravings control: If you feel like a bottomless pit these days, try noshing on shelled pistachios. They take longer to eat, giving your body more time to register that it’s full.
Beans and lentils
If you’re not a big meat eater (or one at all), beans and lentils are great sources of protein and iron, as well as folate, fibre and calcium. And beans (especially baked ones) are also bursting with zinc.
Beans boast a bunch of the baby- and mama-friendly minerals found in animal products, so they’re a great option for vegetarian and vegan mums-to-be. Beans are also rich in zinc – an essential mineral that’s linked to a lower risk for preterm delivery, low birth weight and prolonged labour. Beans bother your stomach? Other great sources of zinc include meat, chicken, milk, fortified cereals, cashews, peas, crab and oysters (just don’t eat them raw).
Sure, you know it’s a great source of protein, but lean beef and pork are also packed with iron and B vitamins.
Your body needs a lot more protein now (about 25 extra grammes a day) to help the foetus grow and to ensure her muscles develop properly. Same goes for iron; not getting enough of this mineral can impair your baby’s growth and increase the risk for preterm delivery and low birth weight.
Iron is important for mum, too – it’s necessary for red blood cell formation (to prevent anaemia). During pregnancy, your blood volume increases, so you’ll need to up your iron intake (to around 27mg a day).
Down a glass in the morning to fill up on folate, potassium and, of course, vitamin C.
You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about folate and folic acid (the synthetic form that you get in supplements and fortified foods), and with good reason: It’s a necessary nutrient for preventing certain birth defects early on in pregnancy and for ensuring a healthy pregnancy after that, so try to get about 600 microgrammes a day.
The potassium in orange juice is important for keeping your muscle function, metabolism and overall health in check.
Dark green veggies supply calcium, potassium, fibre, folate and vitamin A.