27 Pregnancy Power Foods

These healthy choices have the nutrients that you and your growing baby need.

Pickled Herring
Photo: artem evdokimov / Shutterstock
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Fortified Breakfast Cereal

Breakfast Cereal

You likely already know that folate is important before conception and during your first few weeks of pregnancy, but your needs for the B vitamin stay high the whole nine months.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises getting 600 micrograms (mcg) daily. Since it's difficult to get that daily dose exclusively through food, experts recommend taking a prenatal vitamin that offers 400 mcg of folate or folic acid (the synthetic version found in most supplements and fortified foods).

Additionally, fortified foods, like breakfast cereal, are an easy way to meet your folate needs since some brands contain as much as 400 micrograms of folic acid per bowl. Foods that are naturally high in folate include asparagus and black-eyed peas.

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Dried Beans and Lentils

Lentil Salad
David Prince

Experts recommend getting at least 60 grams of protein per day during pregnancy. Beans and lentils are an excellent plant-based source, with about 18 grams per cup. They're also high in fiber, which helps to combat constipation.

One cup of cooked lentils is also packed with 358 mcg of folate—more than half your daily requirement. "Add them to rice dishes and salads," suggests Lola O'Rourke, R.D., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association).

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7 Power Foods for a Healthy Pregnancy

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Broccoli is packed with nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy. It contains calcium and folate and is also rich in fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants.

And since it contains plenty of vitamin C, this popular green vegetable will help your body absorb iron when you eat it with iron-rich food, such as whole wheat pasta or brown rice.

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Nonfat Milk

Nonfat Milk

Since most people get too little calcium during pregnancy, drinking more nonfat milk can be a smart move. Each 8-ounce glass supplies about 30% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 1,000 milligrams.

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How to Eat Healthy During Pregnancy: Making a Healthy Lunch

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Bananas are rich in potassium and offer quick energy to fight pregnancy fatigue. "They're also easy on your stomach if you're nauseated," says O'Rourke. Slice them up into cereal or whip one into a breakfast smoothie with yogurt, berries, ice, and a splash of orange juice.

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Lean Meat

Raw Chicken

When you're pregnant, your daily iron needs increase—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 27 miligrams (compared to 18 miligrams when you're not pregnant). So it's essential to include plenty of iron-rich foods now.

"If you don't have good iron stores, you're more likely to feel tired," warns Jo Ann Hattner, R.D., a dietitian in Palo Alto, California. Meat delivers a form of iron known as heme iron that's easily absorbed by your body.

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During pregnancy, your risk of contracting Listeria is greater, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises pregnant people to avoid soft cheese unless it is made with pasteurized milk.

Hard varieties are safest, and cheeses such as cheddar and mozzarella can help meet your calcium requirements. Each slice contains between 120 and 150 milligrams. Cheese is also high in protein.

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Mushroom & Broccoli Omelet
Ann Stratton

Many people 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.

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It's easy to get your day off to an energizing start by trading in your usual morning bagel or muffin for a bowl of oatmeal a few times a week.

Why? Complex carbohydrates like oatmeal keep you satisfied longer. Plus, the oat bran it contains can help lower your cholesterol levels. Instead of buying high-sugar flavored oatmeal, cook up the plain kind and swirl in a teaspoon or two of maple syrup or jelly.

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How to Eat Healthy During Pregnancy: Making a Healthy Dinner

Healthy eating is especially important during pregnancy. Here's what to eat when pregnant.

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Leafy Greens


Spinach has high folate and iron levels, and kale and turnip greens are both excellent sources of calcium. Increase the nutrient value of your salads by passing up traditional iceberg in favor of darker-colored lettuces (the deep colors signal higher vitamin content). You can also add greens to a sandwich or stir them into soups and pasta dishes.

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Whole-Grain Bread

Whole-Grain Bread

By swapping your traditional white bread for a whole-grain variety, you can make sure you're consuming the recommended 28 to 36 daily grams of fiber (scan labels to find a loaf that offers at least 2 grams of fiber per slice). Whole-grain bread also supplies you with a good share of your iron and zinc.

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Oranges are packed with vitamin C, folate, and fiber. And since they're nearly 90% water, they'll also help you meet your daily fluid needs (skimping on your fluid intake can leave you feeling fatigued).

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Nuts and Nut Butters


Fat is crucial for your baby's brain development and helps you feel fuller longer. Experts recommend replacing some saturated fats (such as those found in meat and butter) with heart-healthy unsaturated fats, like those found in nuts. But because they are high in fat and calories, stick to 1-ounce servings of nuts and 2-tablespoon servings of nut butter.

Some health guidelines used to encourage pregnant people with a history of allergies to avoid nuts during pregnancy to avoid raising their baby's risk of food allergies. However, more current research has found the opposite: that early exposure to nuts and peanuts may lower a child's risk of allergies.

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Soy Foods


It's perfectly safe to follow your vegetarian eating plan while pregnant—as long as you're diligent about getting necessary nutrients such as protein (a health care provider or a dietitian can help you devise a healthy plan). So be sure to include foods like tofu, which packs 10 grams of protein per half cup.

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Dried Fruit

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is a tasty, portable snack that's especially helpful when you're craving something sweet. Choose dried fruits such as apricots, cherries, and cranberries (which can also help to prevent urinary tract infections). Look for varieties with low or no added sugar.

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Grilled Figs with Rum-Infused Ricotta recipe image

There's a whopping 5 grams of fiber in just 1 cup of dried figs. Plus, figs are a great non-dairy source of calcium; one serving contains 241 miligrams—almost a quarter of your daily needs (1,000 milligrams).

And while your teeth may not appreciate the high sugar content, they will benefit from the potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium in figs. These tooth-supporting nutrients aren't just great for your mouth; they are essential to the 32 teeth forming below the gums in your growing baby's mouth.

Figs are also a good source of iron. Iron deficiency can cause anemia, especially during pregnancy. That's because of the increase in your blood volume and growing demands by the fetus for iron to produce millions of red blood cells.

Figs contain about 3 milligrams of iron (about 10% of your daily recommended intake) in 1 cup. The same number of figs will also provide your body with 23 micrograms of vitamin K, which is needed for proper blood clotting and bone formation.

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Classic Mashed Potatoes with Green Onions & Chives

Since chives are often seen as a garnish, they tend to be overlooked. But, these small, mild-tasting green onions are a source of folate, iron, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are a little over 3 micrograms of folate per tablespoon of chopped fresh chives. For proper iron absorption, your body needs vitamin C. Chives give you a little of both—about 1.74 milligrams of vitamin C and 0.05 milligrams of iron per tablespoon.

Plus, your sprinkle of chives has about 1.26 milligrams of magnesium; this mineral can help alleviate constipation, a common symptom during pregnancy.

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Peter Ardito; Styling by Suzanne Lenzer

Leeks are the vegetable equivalent of a super multivitamin-mineral tablet. According to the USDA, they are a non-dairy source of calcium (almost 8 milligrams per quarter cup), which is essential for developing your baby's bones.

One serving of leeks also contains close to 6.24 micrograms of folate and 0.03 milligrams of vitamin B6, which is necessary for your body to metabolize energy from the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in your diet. There's also evidence that vitamin B6 can help alleviate morning sickness.

There's more: In one serving of leeks, there are 6.6 micrograms of vitamin K, 0.29 micrograms of iron, and 3.64 milligrams of magnesium. Vitamin K is needed for proper blood-clot formation and healthy bone growth, and magnesium helps support the baby's normal skeletal development.

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Stuffed Artichokes

Feeling sluggish? Reach for an artichoke. This vegetable is a great non-meat source of iron, an energizing nutrient.

According to the USDA, a medium artichoke (about 1 cup) has almost 1 milligram of iron. There's another energizing nutrient in artichokes: folate. (A medium-size artichoke has 134 micrograms.) Besides helping to prevent congenital disorders, folate helps your body metabolize proteins, the building blocks for the hormones and enzymes that help your body keep going.

During your pregnancy, you may experience constipation, which can be alleviated with some extra fiber in your diet. Artichokes are wonderful sources of fiber, with almost 9 grams each. And they're often recommended to soothe indigestion, another common pregnancy complaint.

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Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Muscle repair is part of the healing that occurs regularly in your body during pregnancy. As your uterus grows, your back, abdominal, and hip muscles stretch in new ways. With sufficient protein in your diet, these muscles will be better armed to keep up with their new tasks.

Adding pumpkin seeds to your diet can help boost your protein intake; according to the USDA, there are 8.5 grams of protein in every ounce. In addition, these tasty seeds also contain sodium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and many other minerals involved in muscle health and hydration. One of the most important minerals required for healing is zinc, and you can get 2.17 milligrams in just 1 ounce of pumpkin seeds.

A 1-ounce serving of pumpkin seeds also contains 156 milligrams of magnesium, which helps speed your ability to use carbohydrates, fats, and proteins as energy sources. Pumpkin seeds are also a vegetarian source of iron, with about 2.29 milligrams per ounce.

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Homemade Tahini Sauce in Bowl With Sesame Seeds on Wooden Table

A paste made from sesame seeds, tahini contains all of sesame's nutrients, including healthy oils called omega-6 fatty acids. An ounce of tahini contains 2 grams of fatty acids required for proper cell integrity and healthy nervous and immune system function.

Proper development of your milk glands, placenta, and uterus also depends on sufficient levels of healthy fats in your body. Tahini is also a good source of thiamin, phosphorus, copper, and manganese, all key to your baby's healthy development.

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Basil pesto
Dmytro Mykhailov/ Shutterstock

Basil is a pregnancy superfood. This fresh herb is a good source of vitamin E, riboflavin, and niacin; plus, it's an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.

Basil is also packed with iron, which is vital for keeping your energy levels up; calcium, which is essential for strong bones and teeth; and folate, which is vital for many processes, including fetal cell growth and division. (One tablespoon of basil has 2 micrograms of this B vitamin.) Whenever possible, choose fresh basil because it contains more of these nutrients than dried basil.

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Pickled Herring
artem evdokimov / Shutterstock

Pickled herring contains 0.24 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 0.16 grams of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) per ounce, giving it a high concentration of fish oil. Plus, as a small, cold-water fish with low levels of such contaminants as mercury, it's a no-brainer when you're pregnant.

A 2018 Cochrane Review found that consuming foods containing omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA), such as fish, during pregnancy may reduce the incidence of preterm birth. However, that same study found it may also increase the incidence of post-term pregnancy.

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Lucas Zarebinski

Sweet, sticky, and packed with sugar, molasses is not the type of food you want to start spooning onto every dish. But molasses has a few hidden nutritional gems, including magnesium, manganese (1 tablespoon of molasses offers 48 miligrams—almost 15% of your daily needs), and vitamin B6.

Manganese is an essential mineral that plays a role in normal bone development, and that's important for your growing baby. In addition, vitamin B6 plays a role in your sodium-phosphorus balance, which determines how much water you have in your body. And potassium is another mineral involved in water retention.

Molasses has about 290 milligrams (about 10% of your daily needs) of potassium and 0.13 milligrams (about 7% of your daily requirements) of vitamin B6 per tablespoon.

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Red Bell Peppers

Red Peppers

One red bell pepper delivers 142 milligrams of vitamin C—more than twice as much as an orange! The nutrient is famous for keeping the immune system in fighting form, a benefit that's particularly helpful in pregnancy, which can cause kinks in your immune system.

Vitamin C's antioxidant powers may also promote fetal brain development and help your body absorb much-needed iron. So power up a stir-fry or salad with bell peppers, stat.

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Sweet Potatoes

Honeyed Sweet Potatoes

Whether baked, roasted, or mashed, just one small tuber delivers 577 micrograms of vitamin A, which is more than 75% of your day's requirements! Plus, sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber (even more so with the skin on) and energizing complex carbs that fill you up for relatively few calories.

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Yogurt in bowl
Robyn Lehr

Just 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt earns you 173 milligrams of calcium—that's almost 20% of your daily calcium requirement. In addition, yogurt contains probiotics, which promote healthy gut bacteria.

A 2018 PLOS Medicine study found that getting enough probiotics during pregnancy may reduce your baby's risk of developing eczema or other allergies later in life. Go for the plain varieties and sweeten with some fruit, cinnamon, or ginger.

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