Eating for Baby
The foods you eat during pregnancy can boost your baby's health and help keep you in tip-top shape through your delivery day. Read on about why these nine super-mama foods made our list (some may surprise you). Plus, learn easy ways to incorporate them into your diet -- we've got you covered for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
It's the best source of DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid that helps grow baby's brain and nervous system. And studies suggest that if you eat lots of fish while pregnant, you can boost your baby's brainpower. Although salmon is low in mercury, a little each day can add up to a lot, so cap weekly intake at 12 ounces cooked -- one 3-ounce serving is about the size of a deck of cards.
Eat: In a whole-grain wrap or pita, in a noodle casserole, in an entree salad
High in folate (only beef liver and fortified cereal contain more), these spears help prevent birth defects including spina bifida. Plus, this green veggie is one of the yummiest available in springtime.
Eat: Chopped and folded into an omelet; sauteed in a stir-fry; diced, steamed, and added to whole wheat pasta primavera
Your reserve of choline, a B vitamin that boosts fetal brain and memory development, gets wiped out during pregnancy -- so getting enough is critical. Luckily, one of the easiest-to-prepare foods is also a top source of choline. Prepare the whole egg, not just the white (which has 4 grams of protein!), because choline lives in the yolk. And eat in moderation: for instance, one hard-boiled egg a day or an omelet made with three egg whites and one yolk.
Eat: Scrambled in breakfast tacos, as batter for a slice of whole-grain French toast, hard-boiled and sliced into a salad
This creamy dairy product is a great source of zinc, a mineral essential for tissue growth and repair. Zinc helps create the bricks of baby's genetic roadmap, namely DNA. Yogurt is also rich in calcium, which helps grow baby's bones and keep yours strong. And it contains friendly probiotic bacteria to ease digestion and boost immunity; look for a label that says "live active cultures" for the most benefits.
Eat: Sprinkled with cinnamon as a dip for fruit, or mixed with chives for a baked potato topping
Protein is a building block for baby's growth, and it repairs your cells as your body changes. During pregnancy, your protein needs increase from 46 to 71 grams daily. Cottage cheese is an excellent, quick source of the nutrient (packing in 15 grams per half cup) -- and it offers some bonus calcium.
Eat: Spread on whole-grain toast, sprinkled with cinnamon; layered with fruit in a parfait; mixed into whole wheat ziti with marinara sauce
If you catch a cold or flu while pregnant, you're five times more likely to develop a serious complication such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Oranges are an ideal source of vitamin C, which increases your immunity. Stick with Florida ones over mandarin -- they pack in three times more C.
Eat: Seedless wedges added to morning muesli, garden salads, and stir-fries
A mild case of bad breath is well worth the benefits of this herb. Garlic cuts your risk of preeclampsia, a serious condition also known as pregnancy-induced hypertension. About a quarter of women with high blood pressure during pregnancy develop preeclampsia, and those who've had it are more than twice as likely to have heart disease later in life.
Eat: In scrambled eggs with tomatoes and spinach, in hummus as a snack, on whole-grain veggie pizza
These nutritional gems are loaded with magnesium, fiber, and vitamin E and also contain a good amount of protein. Plus, recent research shows that children of moms following a Mediterranean diet during pregnancy, including nuts, had a lower risk of developing asthma and allergies.
Eat: In hot or cold cereal, crushed as a coating for fish or chicken, sprinkled onto fruit salad, dipped into melted dark chocolate
They're rich in potassium, which controls your blood pressure, and are bursting with fiber, helping to prevent constipation (often caused by the iron in prenatal vitamins). If you're worried about gassiness, gradually increase your intake. Start with 1/4 cup per meal and work up to the recommended 3-cup-per-week goal. Rinsing canned beans in a colander for at least one minute also helps wash away the starchy stuff that contributes to gas and bloating.
Eat: Mashed as a veggie dip; in hearty soup; in burritos, tacos, and quesadillas
Get Those Nutrients
Now you know which superfoods to add to your cart. But to put a healthy-eating plan into action, you'll need to think ahead just a bit. Use these tips to ensure that the food going into your tummy -- and baby's -- is nutritious and balanced.
Think of each meal as a puzzle. It's not complete unless it contains these pieces: a whole grain, produce, a lean protein, and healthy fat. Even snack-type foods can make a meal when you're pressed for time -- like a mini whole-grain pita with hummus, baby carrots, and fat-free cottage cheese mixed with pineapple; or low-fat string cheese with a handful of whole-grain crackers, an apple, and a golf-ball-size portion of almonds.
Fill Your Cart with Healthy Convenience Foods
Great choices include canned light tuna, low-sodium canned beans, frozen fruits and veggies with no added ingredients, low-sugar and all-natural jarred marinara sauce, instant brown rice and quick-cooking oats, whole corn tortillas, whole wheat wraps and pitas, nonfat yogurt and cottage cheese, whole or chopped nuts, and olive oil-based salad dressings.
Hire a Sitter
If you have little ones at home, schedule an hour or two to head to the market solo. You can even recruit a family member who will cherish some time with your kids. What you'll save in fewer spontaneous purchases will more than pay for the sitter's fee. Choose an off-peak time and bring a list.
Belly Up to the Water Bottle
During pregnancy, your blood volume increases by a whopping 50 percent, and your kidneys don't work as efficiently. Weaker kidneys make it tough for your body to remove excess water, which inevitably leads to puffiness and swollen ankles. But drinking enough H20 can help you cut water retention, stay hydrated, and prevent constipation. The magic number: 2.3 liters, or about 10 cups, per day. Stay on track with these tips.
* Drink a glass as soon as you wake up, and have a full glass or two with each meal.
* Find the temperature you prefer. This will help you drink more.
* If you don't like it plain, add a splash of 100 percent fruit juice, or use frozen juice in ice cube trays to give a little flavor.
Cynthia Sass is a dietitian and author based in New York City.
Originally published in the June issue of American Baby magazine.