Protein is crucial for your baby's growth and for your health.
During pregnancy, you are indeed eating for two. It's not that you can eat as much as you want, but that baby's development is completely dependent on your health. So it's important to keep up with a wholesome, nutritional diet, and one of the most important nutrients you need to get is protein.
You use protein, either from animal or vegetable sources, in every critical function of the body. Not only is it the building block of life (every cell in the human body actually has protein), it also is necessary to break down food for absorption, to carry oxygen around your body, to grow hair and nails and to protect against viruses (to only name a few). Pregnant and nursing moms should get about 71 grams of protein per day -- approximately 25 grams more than those who aren't pregnant or breastfeeding. If you don't eat enough protein, you may end up gaining more weight, have a hard time keeping your blood sugar levels on track and be more prone to illnesses. So now is the time to up your protein game -- not only will it be good for baby, it will fill you up and provide you with energy.
Here are 5 ways pregnant and nursing moms can increase their protein intake.
Cook with Greek Yogurt. This is particularly great for women who are craving carbohydrates. Cooking or baking with Greek yogurt is a nutritiously savvy way to rev up protein intake. Not only is it a healthy fat, but it also provides a lot of protein. In fact, 6 oz of some varieties contain up to 12-14 grams of protein. Choose the plain 2% for the healthy fat benefit as well.
Eat plant protein. If you're a meat eater, proteins from animal products are great. But it's important to vary what you eat as much as possible. So switch it up with seeds, nuts, nut butters and legumes, which are all great sources of protein that are also loaded with disease fighting phytonutrients/antioxidants, cholesterol-lowering fiber and are naturally low in cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium.
Opt for lean meats. When shopping for meats, make sure to choose cuts that don't have visible fat. This will help minimize the amount of saturated fat you are getting, as well as keep your cholesterol in check. Skinless chicken breast, tenderloin and sirloin beef cuts, and pork and lamb tenderloin are all great lean meat options. To keep them as lean as possible, you can grill, bake, poach or broil them.
Drink smoothies. In the early stages of pregnancy when everything feels blah, smoothies are an excellent way to obtain dietary nutritional variety -- especially if you are dealign with morning sickness, appetite loss or nausea. Add protein powder from brands like KURA to not only get protein (18g per 40g packet), but also boost your Omega-3s and probiotics intake -- all essential for your growing belly.
Say yes to eggs! Consuming eggs (cooked through of course!) is a great way for vegetarians to get their protein on. You can eat them on their own, make an egg salad, put them in sandwiches or even adding them to your favorite recipes. Regardless of how you choose to eat eggs, you will increase your consumption of protein, iron and essential amino acids.
Increase fish intake. Eating fish provides protein and DHA - both highly beneficial for your baby. The latest guidelines continue to suggest that expecting women eat two to three servings, or 8 to 12 ounces, of lower-mercury fish every week. Here's an easy to read chart on eating fish.
Bonus tip: If you maintain an active lifestyle throughout your pregnancy, you may require more than 71 grams per day. Here's a protein calculator from Mommi Health. When in doubt, consult your physician or a Registered Dietitian to ensure you're on the right track.