Written by: Julia Bumpus, MS, RDN, LDN

 

Although pregnancy seems like a great time to eat for two and really indulge, but it’s actually more important than ever to optimize nutrition. Believe it or not, research suggests that healthy eating in the first 1000 days of life may be the most important1.This is known as nutritional programming.  This starts with pregnancy and goes until baby’s second year.  Loading up on fast food and junk food may not provide all essential nutrients needed to optimize baby’s growth and development. It is always acceptable to enjoy your favorite foods, but here are some nutrient-dense options that provide essential nutrients your baby needs most:

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great source of calcium and protein. Calcium is essential for muscle, heart and nerve development, blood clotting and enzyme activity1. Without adequate intake, your body leaches calcium from your bones to provide for the baby. Greek yogurt, as opposed to regular, contains a higher protein content.  Most Greek yogurts have at least 12 grams in a 5-ounce portion. Pregnant women need at least 75 grams of protein per day to support the rapid growth of the baby.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a whole-grain superfood for everyone, but it can be especially useful for the pregnant ladies due to its soluble fiber content. A hormone released during pregnancy has the unfortunate side effect of causing constipation.  Soluble fiber can help regulate your bowels. Oatmeal also contributes B vitamins and minerals, and it is easy on the stomach when feeling queasy.  Lastly, oatmeal is a great vehicle for consuming other healthy foods likes nuts, seeds and fruit.

Broccoli

Broccoli contains important nutrients including vitamins A, C and calcium. Vitamin A helps build healthy skin, bones and eyes1. It also helps with cell multiplication during this time of rapid growth1. Vitamin C is essential for tissue repair, growth and wound healing1. Broccoli is also a good source of soluble fiber, which we know is helpful for that pesky constipation.

Peanut Butter

Calorie-dense foods like peanut butter come in handy when you are trying to maintain or increase your food intake but are limited by pregnancy side effects. For most women, the first trimester brings nausea and other aggravating symptoms, like heartburn, indigestion and gas. These symptoms may make it difficult for some women to reach their nutrient needs. While the first trimester does not require significantly more calories than usual, it can be difficult to get your baseline amount due to these symptoms. The later stages of pregnancy, however, do require an additional 200-500 calories1. Peanut butter’s high fat content means you get more calories for a smaller portion.  Most of the fat in peanut butter is the healthy kind, so there is no need to worry. Peanut butter can also be a good source of protein, especially for vegetarian or vegan mothers to be.

Chia Seeds

During pregnancy, your baby relies on your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. These are necessary for proper brain and eye development1.  Aim to eat around 1.4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids every day2. Just 1 oz of chia seeds packs 5.1 grams.  Try adding to oatmeal, Greek yogurt or smoothies.

Spinach

Spinach is great for its folate content which is one of the most essential vitamins in the first trimester. Folate is necessary for neural tube development which prevents birth defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly3.

Omega-3 Eggs

Fortified eggs are a compact source of many important nutrients. Brands like “Eggland’s Best” have fed their chickens special feed to enhance the nutritional quality4.  A fortified egg contains 7 grams of protein, 125 mg of Omega-3, and important vitamins D, E, B12, B2 and B5. Eggs are versatile and a quick and easy snack for when your energy levels are low in the first trimester.

 

 

References:

  1. What to expect when you are expecting. 5th Copyright 2016.
  2. Avance Pregnancy Handout
  3. https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/folic-acid/
  4. https://www.egglandsbest.com/product/classic-eggs

Erin Decker is an RDN working at the North Raleigh and Central Raleigh offices. She enjoys running, visiting local breweries, and snuggling with her dog, Lottie. She is passionate about promoting a healthy lifestyle in a non-judgmental environment.