While eating a balanced diet is always important, it becomes even more so during pregnancy.
Here are the top 10 foods to help baby and mama grow and feel their best.
1. Water, water, water!
Okay, water is technically not a food, but staying hydrated is super beneficial! It improves blood flow, increases brain power, improves body performance, helps you sweat and poop, and decreases headaches and non-labor contractions (called Braxton Hicks contractions). Water is wonderful, mama.
During pregnancy, aim to drink 10 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
Especially in the earlier months, ginger can help with nausea associated with pregnancy, as well as aid in digestion. Ginger comes in many forms: ginger ale, ginger candy or chews and even ginger tea.
For soothing relief, make your own homemade ginger tea to help keep nausea at bay.
Here's our favorite ginger tea recipe:
Take fresh ginger that has been peeled and cut into a 1-inch cube and steep it in 8- ounces of hot water for about five minutes. Sweeten with a drizzle of honey and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
3. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, a plant compound that is converted to vitamin A in your body. This vitamin is essential for growth and the differentiation of most cells and tissues.
Pregnant women are often advised to increase their vitamin A intake by 10 to 40% (to about 770mcg per day)—sweet potatoes are a great way to do that. They also contain fiber, which may increase fullness, reduce blood sugar spikes, and improve digestive health and mobility.
Try baked sweet potato wedges with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt the next time you need a vitamin A boost (and a delicious snack).
4. Fruit smoothies
Fruit contains vitamin C and fiber, which are important nutrients during pregnancy. Aim to have about 85 milligrams of vitamin C and 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily. Smoothies are a great way to get in enough fruits and veggies; they can help curb your sweet tooth and they pack a more nutrient-rich punch.
For a folic acid boost, add some spinach to your smoothie.
Need inspiration? We are obsessed with this nutrient-dense smoothie recipe!
5. Whole grains
For consistent energy throughout pregnancy (even when you're exhausted), look to the carbohydrates found in whole grains. Whole grain bread can also help with nausea during the early stages of pregnancy. Whole grains also contain fiber, B vitamins, iron and various minerals that refined starches leave out. Depending on your weight and dietary needs, you should consume around 6 to 11 ounces of bread and grains daily.
Examples of whole-grain foods include:
- whole-grain bread
- brown rice
6. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs & beans
They all have protein, B vitamins and iron needed in pregnancy. Your growing baby needs a minimum of 60 grams of protein daily, particularly in the second and third trimester, when they are growing by leaps and bounds. Iron helps carry oxygen to the baby and can reduce symptoms such as swelling. You should consume at least three servings of protein daily.
7. Leafy greens
Leafy greens like spinach, kale and arugula contain folic acid, which can prevent neural tube defects, as well as provide another source for protein. The average pregnant person should consume 400 to 1,000 micrograms of folic acid a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. Also, four or more servings of vegetables are recommended daily.
We love this spinach salad with quinoa, toasted pistachios and cranberries—it's beyond delicious.
Pasteurized dairy is important for promoting strong bones and teeth, blood clotting and muscle and nerve function. Your growing baby will need a considerable amount of calcium for development, so it's important to get enough to keep mama healthy, too. For those between the ages of 19 and 50, you need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day.
A few examples of healthy dairy items include:
- non-fat yogurt
- cheese (pasteurized)
- cream soups
- some green vegetables(such as spinach and kale)
9. Glycine-rich foods
Glycine is an essential amino acid that will help your body build new connective tissue. Your body depends on glycine to help support your stretching skin and growing uterus, and your baby also needs this nutrient to form their DNA. Bone broths and slow-cooked meats are some of the richest sources of collagen and gelatin, which naturally provide glycine. For the mamas who don't eat meat, legumes are also higher in glycine. To get a more accurate measurement of daily glycine intake, talk to your provider.
10. Healthy fats & oils
Not all fats are made the same. Nuts, avocados and olive oil are all great sources of good fats. They promote higher energy levels and cell growth, which can help you function at your best. Fish low in mercury are also a great source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Fats to avoid are saturated or trans fats like butter, margarine, shortening and beef or pork fat.
We love this nutrient-packed recipe by Crystal Karges for getting tons of superfoods in a totally delicious way:
Mediterranean chickpea salad
Ingredients for the red wine vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 large lemon, juiced
- 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp. dried basil
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- Ground pepper to taste
Ingredients for salad
- 2 14-oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 3 medium avocados, cubed
- 1.5 lbs. tomatoes, chopped
- 1.5 lbs. cucumbers, chopped
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, or dill), finely chopped
- optional add-ins: cooked chicken, crumbled pasteurized feta cheese, sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Add all vinaigrette ingredients to a small bowl and stir gently to combine.
- Add the vinaigrette to the bottom of four glass jars.
- In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and chicken and cheese (if using).
- Divide evenly between the jars, top with fresh herbs and seeds (if using), and seal with an airtight lid.
- Store in the refrigerator. When ready to enjoy, shake or stir well and serve!
Set yourself up with gear designed to make healthy eating a breeze. Here are some of our favorite products to do that:
Minimal design to elevate the everyday. This triple-walled, vacuum-insulated bottle comes with a removable infuser and sleek loop cap and makes it beautifully simple to hydrate no matter where the day takes you. Keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 14.
When filled with your favorite loose leaf tea, this stainless steel infuser delivers the perfect pot. It also pulls triple duty when packed with herbs and spices for making stock, or mulled drinks. A kitchen staple if ever we've found one.
Bamboo store and go containers
Food storage never looked so stylish. These 100% leak-proof store and go containers are made from FSC-certified bamboo fiber with food-grade silicone lids. Serve up a side dish or salad, pop the lid on the leftovers and it's ready to pack for lunch the next day. Suction the lid to the bottom while in use to keep it from slipping or while storing to keep it from getting lost.
The taller version of our steel fruit basket, the sides help corral and keep fruit secure. The open design helps prevent bruising and damage to the fruit and adds a touch of style to the kitchen or tabletop.
Shore Magic is made of one pure ingredient – hydrolyzed marine collagen from sustainably sourced wild fish skins, free of additives and synthetics.
We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy.
A portion of this article is excerpted from The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama.