by Rachel Lucke, MS, CNS, LDN, Licensed Nutritionist
Healthy eating while pregnant is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. But it can be a challenge for women who suffer from nausea that makes food unpalatable or fatigue that makes cooking a daunting task. Add to that the confusion over what healthy eating even means and what’s really safe to consume while pregnant, and you’ve got one overwhelmed mama who just wants to order pizza.
Focusing on a few nutrient-dense superfoods that are tasty and easy to prepare can help simplify your diet while boosting your intake of key nutrients essential for a healthy pregnancy. Here are six of my favorite superfoods for pregnancy.
Wild Sockeye Salmon
Get the canned stuff, with bones and skin. The canning process softens bones so they’re entirely edible, plus full of calcium, a mineral that’s especially important while your baby’s skeleton is developing. Wild sockeye salmon is lower in contaminants, like mercury, than other fish, so it’s a better option than canned tuna. It’s also higher in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is crucial for your mood and for baby’s developing brain.
Dark Leafy Greens
Full of folate, iron, and calcium, dark leafy greens like kale and spinach might not be a popular pregnancy craving, but it’s worth finding ways to get them into your diet. Blend a handful into your morning smoothie or satisfy a salty craving with dehydrated kale chips.
You’ve probably heard that B6 can help with first trimester nausea. Blackstrap molasses gives you a good dose of it, along with magnesium that can help with constipation and leg cramps, plus iron and calcium. Stir a tablespoon into a cup of hot water in the morning for a bittersweet coffee replacement.
Take good care of your thyroid—which can suffer postpartum and make weight loss a challenge—by getting selenium from brazil nuts. A serving of just one or two nuts gives you a good dose, along with iron and other minerals.
Red Kidney Beans
An excellent source of protein and fiber, beans will keep you moving—in both digestion and energy. Red kidney beans also have iron, folate, and B1, which helps convert all those carbs you’re eating into energy you can use. Add them to a salad or make some chili in a crockpot. You can even add them to a smoothie!
The quintessential superfood, sweet potatoes give you vitamins A and B6, plus a good dose of fiber. Add them to chili for some sweetness to offset the spice. You can quickly cook them in the microwave, or even indulge in some sweet potato fries.
The keys to successful healthy eating during pregnancy are to keep it simple and find a few foods that work for your lifestyle while packing a nutritional punch. Your nutritional needs are unique. Consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner for individualized recommendations.