Pregnancy Superfoods

By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

A healthy pregnancy eating plan provides the right mix of nutrients for you and your baby. Once the second trimester starts, increase your daily calorie intake to about 330 more than prior to pregnancy, and eat 450 more calories during the third trimester than you do when not pregnant. Here are some top pregnancy foods to help you spend your calories wisely.

Fortified Eggs

Eggs supply the best type of protein because they include all of the amino acids, the raw materials, for baby’s development. Eggs are also a source of more than twelve vitamins and minerals, and supply choline, a compound that may help to head off birth defects early in pregnancy.

Fortified eggs, such as Eggland’s Best, provide even more of what’s good about eggs, including twice the brain-building omega-3 fat, twice the vitamin D, three times as much vitamin B12, and 10 times the vitamin E of regular eggs.

Have eggs a varieties of ways, including in omelets and frittatas, salads and sandwiches, and whole-grain French toast. Hard-cooked eggs make a nutritious snack, too.

Beans

Legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, black beans, and soybeans, supply fiber, protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and the B vitamin folate, which helps prevent certain birth defects. In addition, beans are delicious, versatile, and a relatively inexpensive source of nutrients, including protein.

Munch on cooked edamame (soybeans) in the pod. Include a variety of beans in chili, soups, stews, salads, and pasta dishes. Puree a can of cooked beans and add it to soup.

Fish

Fish harbors high-quality protein, B vitamins, the mineral selenium, and omega-3 fat. Some fish, including king mackerel, swordfish, shark, and tilefish, should be avoided during your childbearing years because they contain higher levels of mercury, which is harmful to a baby’s developing neurological system.

Enjoy safer seafood, including shrimp, salmon, canned light tuna, and pollock, grilled or broiled or in salads and sandwiches at least two times a week for a total of 12 ounces.

Greek Yogurt (plain low-fat or fat-free)

Greek yogurt contains about double the protein of regular yogurt. It’s also a source of calcium, B vitamins, and zinc. Flavored Greek yogurt may be high in sugar, so start with plain yogurt and sweeten it to your liking. If you don’t like the consistency of Greek yogurt, use it in recipes.

Have a cup of Greek yogurt with a small amount of fruit preserves or honey, fresh or dried fruit, or crunchy whole-grain cereal. Make fruit and vegetable smoothies with plain Greek yogurt, and use it instead of sour cream on baked and white sweet potatoes and in quick bread recipes.

Milk

Milk contains bone-building calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D that you and your baby need every day. Milk is also a good source of protein, vitamin A and an array of B vitamins.

Sip flavored or plain milk. If you don’t like milk “straight up” blend it with fruit for a delicious smoothie. Enjoy milk on a bowl of whole grain cereal or microwave oatmeal with milk instead of water.

Whole Grains

Grains supply carbohydrate that’s converted to energy to fuel your body and your growing baby’s. Whole grains have more fiber and other nutrients than highly processed grain products. Whole grains that are fortified with folic acid (the synthetic and highly-effective form of folate) and other B vitamins, iron, and zinc are healthy choices.

Include oatmeal for breakfast or snack, use whole-grain breads for sandwiches, munch on popcorn and whole-grain crackers for snacks, and substitute quinoa and wild rice for pasta at dinner.

Avocado

Avocados are a source of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, as well as folate, vitamins C and K, and fiber. Plus, creamy avocados are delicious!

Enjoy avocados as guacamole, in salads and sandwiches, and as a garnish for black bean soup. Or slice a medium avocado in half lengthwise, remove the seed, sprinkle with some salt and eat it with a spoon directly from the shell.


About the Author

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian, a writer, and mother of three. She has worked at the Joslin Diabetes Center and the American Heart Association, and for seven years counseled children and adults about healthy eating and disease prevention at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston.

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