Pregnancy is tough enough without having to worry about something as seemingly straightforward as food. Eating for two can be quite a task when you consider the responsibility. Add to that an abundance of conflicting information, and it’s easy to see why it causes so much stress, enough to make you want to give up and reach for the nearest bag of chocolate. Fear not, because these nine foods will do the trick without making you feel like you’re on some sort of wacky diet.
Tell me a yolk- Some doctors recommend that expecting mothers avoid eggs altogether, but if your primary caregiver has okayed it, they’re one of the healthiest foods around. Eggs contain 12 vital vitamins and minerals (including the tough-to-find but absolutely crucial selenium), high-quality animal protein which makes life easier for both you and your unborn child, choline to promote foetal growth and prevent birth defects, and omega-3 fatty acids for development of the brain and eyes.
Gone fishing- Fish is good. Oily fish is better. Salmon is just about the best. Rich in protein that’s easily assimilated by the body, salmon is a particularly excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. As mentioned earlier, these chemical compounds promote healthy development of the foetus, but they can also give your mood a much-needed boost. Just when the hormones are surging completely out of balance, a piece of seared salmon with crispy skin could be the difference between pleasant and grumpy, all without any risk of mercury poisoning.
Bean there, done that- There’s such a staggering variety to choose from here: fava beans, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils or black-eyed peas (not the musical group). They all contain more fibre and protein than any other vegetable, and while we’ve already mentioned twice that protein is going to play a significant role in mother-baby nutrition, fibre is also going to have a job to do. With pregnancy comes a slower gastrointestinal tract, which can cause constipation or haemorrhoids. With a healthy dose of fibre, you can do your extra bit to stay comfortably regular.
Sweet potato of mine- Carotenoids are pigments that the human body converts into vitamin A. They’re what give carrots and beets their distinctive colours, and they do the same for sweet potatoes. Remember: consuming too much straight-up vitamin A from animal sources like liver and milk can be a problem (even dangerous), but carotenoids are fair game because the body only uses what it needs when it’s needed. Sweet potatoes are also a boon for diabetic mothers-to-be because this lovely root vegetable is very low in harmful sugars.
Pop, pop, poppin’ on heaven’s door- Whole wheat, brown rice, unrefined pasta... and popcorn? Not many people are aware that popcorn is a whole grain, which almost always leads to a pleasant surprise. High in fibre and nutrients like vitamin E and selenium, popcorn is also incredibly low in calories, so you can enjoy as much as you’d like without worrying about weight gain. Just don’t go overboard with the butter and salt when you make a bowl (or three). Other excellent choices for whole grains include quinoa and oatmeal.
By the Greeks- With twice the protein value of plain yoghurt, the Greek variety can give you a huge boost (unless you happen to be lactose intolerant). Not consuming enough calcium when you’re pregnant can deplete the supply in your bones. As with any dairy product, Greek yoghurt can be incredibly helpful in restoring you to tip-top bone health. Enjoy it in smoothies and milkshakes, with freshly cut fruit and muesli, or by itself with just a wee bit of honey.
Eat your greens- Spinach, lettuce, gongura, kale, broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, Swiss chard, arugula... if it’s green, leafy and absorbs salt all too easily, go for it. Green veggies are a good source of folate, vitamin K (potassium), and other nutrients that can be tough to get in adequate quantities. Remember to avoid cabbage as it causes gas and flatulence that you can do without.
Lean machine- Lean meat is the single best source of quality animal protein, far outstripping even oily fish and eggs as the top dog in the game. Just make sure you buy wholesome product with as little fat on it as possible, choosing organic and free-range options when available. Red meat needs special care, because while pork and beef can provide you with much-needed choline, they need to be especially lean 95-98% free of fat.
Somewhere over the rainbow- It’s quite simple, really. Vibrantly coloured fruits mean antioxidants galore, which you’ll need in order to keep your body fit for the rigours of pregnancy. Blueberries, strawberries, bananas, kiwifruit, papaya, watermelon... the more vivid and colourful, the better. – Ashwin