A healthy pregnancy diet will promote your child’s growth and development. During pregnancy, the basic principles of healthy eating remain the same — get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Sound familiar? I thought so. However, there are a few MVP’s when it comes to nutrients that deserve a shout-out. Let’s dive in to look at which nutrients you need most and where to find them!
FOLATE & FOLIC ACID: Prevent Birth Defects
Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects and serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. The synthetic form of folate found in supplements and fortified foods is known as folic acid. Folic acid supplementation has been shown to decrease the risk of premature birth.
How much you need: 400 to 1,000 micrograms a day of folate or folic acid before conception and throughout pregnancy.
- Cereal. ¾ cup (15g to 60g) ready-to-eat cereal contains 100 to 700 mcg – choose an option that’s 50 to 100% fortified
- Spinach. ½ C (95g) boiled spinach contains 131 mcg
- Beans. ½ C (89g) contains 90mcg
- Asparagus. 4 spears contains 89mcg
- Oranges. 1 small orange contains 29mcg
- Peanuts. 1oz dry-roasted contains 27mcg
- Prenatal vitamins. These can ensure you’re getting enough of these essential nutrients. Just make sure it’s a vitamin supplement containing folic acid!
CALCIUM: Strengthen Bones
You and your baby need calcium for strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally.
How much you need: 1,000 milligrams a day; pregnant teenagers need 1,300 milligrams a day
- Cereal. 1C (20g to 60g) calcium-fortified ready-to-eat cereal contains 100 to 1,000mg of calcium
- Juice. 1C Orange Juice contains 349mg
- Milk. 1C skim milk contains 299mg
- Yogurt. 6oz. Low-fat fruit yogurt contains 258mg
- Cheese. 1oz part-skim mozzarella cheese contains 222mg
- Salmon. 3oz contains 181mg
- Spinach. ½ C contains 123mg
VITAMIN D: Promote Bone Strength
Vitamin D also helps build your baby’s bones and teeth.
How much you need: 600 international units (IU) a day
- Milk. 1C skim milk with added vitamin D contains 115 IU
- Fish. 3oz cooked sockeye salmon contains 570 IU
- Juice. 8oz calcium and vitamin D-fortified Orange Juice contains 100 IU
- Eggs. 1 large hard-boiled egg contains 44IU
PROTEIN: Promote Growth
Protein is one of the crucial macro-nutrients for your baby’s growth throughout pregnancy.
How much you need: 71 grams a day
- Cottage Cheese. 1C low-fat contains 28g
- Fish. 3oz canned pink salmon contains 17g
- Poultry. 3oz boneless, skinless, grilled chicken breast contains 26g
- Lentils. ½ C contains 9g
- Milk. 1C Skim contains 8g
- Peanut Butter. 2T contains 7g
- Eggs. 1 large hard-boiled egg contains 6g
IRON: Prevent Iron Deficiency Anemia
Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. During pregnancy, you need double the amount of iron that nonpregnant women need. Your body needs this iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. It will also help with fatigue.
How much you need: 27 milligrams a day
- Cereal. ½ C quick oats fortified with iron contains 20mg
- Meat. 3oz roasted lean beef tenderloin contains 3mg
- Spinach. ½ C contains 3mg
- Beans. ½ C contains 2mg
- Poultry. 3oz roasted dark turkey contains 1mg
- Prenatal vitamins typically contain iron. In some cases, your health care provider might recommend a separate iron supplement.
The more you know:
The iron from animal products (like lean meat!) is most easily absorbed. To enhance the absorption of iron from plant-based sources and supplements, pair them with a food or drink high in vitamin C — such as OJ, tomato juice or strawberries.
Supplements: Talk To Your Doctor
Even if you eat a healthy diet, you can miss out on key nutrients. Taking a daily prenatal vitamin — ideally starting at least three months before conception — can help fill any gaps. Your health care provider might recommend special supplements if you follow a strict vegetarian diet or have a chronic health condition.