My Favorite Pregnancy Superfoods
Pregnant women often wonder if they are eating the right things for their developing baby. Am I eating enough protein? Does this have too much sugar? Is fish safe to eat? Should I only eat organic products? At no other time in life do we question what we put in our mouths as much as we do when we are “eating for two” - and that's okay.
If you know me, you know I'm not one for making blanket nutrition statements as I prefer to really tailor suggestions to the individual, but I can certainly shed some light on which foods will benefit the majority of pregnant women. Each one of these is a “superfood” in their own right, packing a powerful punch of nutrients that are crucial to mom and baby during this time of incredible growth and development.
Spinach is a great source of folate, which is necessary for preventing birth defects of the midline including spina bifida. Note that folate is the natural form of this B vitamin and folic acid is the synthetic form. Most fortified foods and prenatal vitamins contain folic acid. However, I would encourage you to look for a prenatal that contains the active form of folate (not folic acid) due to the fact that many people have a genetic disorder known as MTHFR (yes, that is the real name) that inhibits the use of folic acid. Look for L-methylfolate on the label. Not just for salads, spinach can be added to smoothies, scrambled in eggs or tossed with pastas and stir frys. The recommended intake of folate during pregnancy is 400-800 mcg/day and ½ cup of cooked spinach contains about 150 mcg.
One of the most perfect foods, eggs are an excellent source of choline, not to mention omega-3 fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins and iron. Choline, a B vitamin, is essential in the prevention of birth defects and plays a key role in your baby’s brain development including improved cognition and memory. But, here’s the thing - you need to eat the yolks, because that’s where all the vitamins and minerals are! Of course eggs are traditionally a breakfast food, but try to think outside the box. Hard boiled eggs make a great snack or go perfect on a salad for lunch. A frittata or quiche can be a nice change of pace for dinner as well! Two eggs per day provides almost 50% of your daily choline recommendation of 425 mg for average women. Keep in mind that choline needs are likely higher than this during pregnancy.
Salmon is one of very few food sources of vitamin D and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats are essential for baby’s brain development and have been linked to improved mood, mental clarity and prevention of post-partum depression (PPD) for mama. Baked or broiled filets are probably the most common way to enjoy salmon, but don’t forget about canned salmon which is a great source of calcium as well. If you and your provider feel comfortable doing so, you can also include smoked salmon
or lox in your diet. Just 12 ounces per week will provide adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Yes, liver. Hear me out. I know many women out there have never had liver before, but I’m telling you, pregnancy is a good time to start! During pregnancy, women have increased blood volume which can lead to iron deficiency anemia. Liver is a really easy way to boost mama’s iron levels without having to take iron supplements, which can be constipating (no thanks). Additionally, liver provides vitamin K2, an often overlooked nutrient that is important for the development of baby’s brain, skeleton and teeth. Liver can be cooked, enjoyed as liver sausage/ liverwurst, or as pate (if you feel comfortable). If you’re reading this and thinking I’ve gone crazy - that there is absolutely no way you are going to eat liver - then maybe you’d try Vital Proteins Beef Liver capsules. Just 4 capsules a day provides adequate iron during pregnancy. If you are eating liver, just 3 ounces two times a week is enough to provide the DRI of 27 mg per day. A couple of disclaimers about liver: choose grass-fed liver from reputable sources if possible, always talk to your doctor or midwife before taking any supplements such as liver pills and pick one or the other; no need to eat liver and take liver pills. In fact, this will provide too much preformed vitamin A, which is unsafe.
Between the morning sickness, cravings and food aversions, eating a healthy, nourishing diet while pregnant can be challenging. I've been there and I get it. Nobody is perfect and so you just do the best you can! If you are already incorporating these foods into your daily diet, great, keep it up! If not, try some of the methods I mentioned above or message me to find out how I can help you.
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