Trying to figure out what to eat during pregnancy, can be confusing. This is especially daunting for a first-time mom-to-be.
Things start to change. Everyone around suddenly becomes a caregiver and always has an opinion about what you should and shouldn’t be eating, and how much you need to be eating.
This is mainly because it is common knowledge that maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy is very important.
Nutritionists believe you might require as much as 300 to 500 extra calories per day during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.
Deficiency in essential nutrients may negatively affect the baby’s development and increase the risk of birth complications.
Simply put maintaining a healthy eating habit will help ensure the health of your baby and you.
Here are 10 nutritious foods to eat during pregnancy:
1. Dark leafy green vegetables
Dark leafy green veggies are the number one food to eat during pregnancy. Dark leafy greens such as broccoli, pumpkin leaf (ugu) and spinach are rich in folate a type of vitamin B that helps the production of neurotransmitters. They contain many of the nutrients that pregnant women need. These include fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium.
Furthermore, these dark leafy greens are rich in antioxidants. They also contain plant compounds that benefit the immune system and digestion.
2. Lean meats
During pregnancy, your daily iron needs double, so it’s important to include plenty of iron-rich foods now. If you don’t have good iron stores, you’re more likely to feel tired. Meat delivers a form of iron that’s easily absorbed by your body.
Lean meat sources such as chicken, beef, and turkey are packed with choline and protein, is also essential for your baby’s brain cell development.
Oily fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel, tuna, and Salmon are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for healthy fetal development
READ MORE: Tips to Eating Healthy during pregnancy
Many women develop aversions to meat while pregnant. Eggs are an excellent alternative protein source, since they contain all the essential amino acids your body needs, says Hattner. There’s nothing better for a quick dinner than an omelet with lots of chopped vegetables and a bit of cheese. If cooking aromas make you feel sick, hard-boil a batch of eggs to keep on hand in the refrigerator: Eat them whole for grab-and-go breakfasts and snacks, or chop them up into green salads.
5. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are very rich in beta-carotene, a plant compound that is converted into vitamin A in the body.
Vitamin A is essential for growth, as well as for the differentiation of most cells and tissues. It is very important for healthy fetal development.
Pregnant women are generally advised to increase their vitamin A intake by 10–40%.
Foods like sweet potatoes are beneficial in the course of pregnancy because of their high nutritional content. This nutritious root is rich in Vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and folic acid and are high in fibre too.
6. Whole grains
Eating whole grains during pregnancy may help meet the increased calorie requirements that come with pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters.
As opposed to refined grains, whole grains are packed with fiber, vitamins and plant compounds. Oats, barley, corn, and rice contain nutrients that are essential for a healthy development.
Legumes are considered a ‘super’ food as they provide fiber, folate (B9), protein, iron, and calcium, all of which the body needs more of during pregnancy.
Walnuts are one of the richest sources of omega 3 fatty acids; a chemical compound known for optimizing brain function for developing babies.
This essential fatty acid (omega 3 fatty) are used in making cell membranes of neurons and help with neurotransmitter function.
They’re packed with vitamin C, folate, and fiber, and since they’re nearly 90 percent water, they’ll also help you meet your daily fluid needs (skimping on your fluid intake can leave you feeling fatigued).
During pregnancy, blood volume increases by up to 1.5 liters. Therefore, it is important to stay properly hydrated. The fetus usually gets everything it needs, but if you don’t watch your water intake, you may become dehydrated.
Symptoms of mild dehydration include headaches, anxiety, tiredness, bad mood and reduced memory.
Furthermore, increasing water intake may help relieve constipation and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections, which are common during pregnancy.
General guidelines recommend drinking about 2 liters of water per day, but the amount you really need varies by individual.
READ MORE: 6 Pregnancy Tips for First -Time Moms
What you eat during pregnancy affects your energy and well-being. It may also directly affect the health and development of your baby.
Since calorie and nutrient needs are increased, it is very important that you choose nutrient-dense, healthy foods. Gaining weight during pregnancy is normal, but it is important to gain it the healthy way. This benefits you, your baby and your health after the pregnancy. This list should be a good start towards a healthy, well-nourished pregnancy.