12 superstar foods to add to your diet while pregnant
Even if you’re already packing an alphabet’s worth of vitamins and a mother lode of minerals into your daily meals, you might still worry that you’re not taking in enough of the nutritional right stuff — especially if your appetite hasn’t quite gotten up to speed yet, thanks to early pregnancy queasies. Enter, stage left, the “nutritional superstars” — a few familiar faces and a couple of up-and-comers that bring down the house with their performances in the dietary arena. At 11 weeks pregnant, these twelve pregnancy power foods pack an amazing amount of nutrients into just a few bites, making them especially effective when efficiency is a priority (as when you’re too sick to eat much, when you’re gaining weight too fast, or when you’re not gaining quickly enough). Put all of the following “it” foods on your A list:
1. Avocados: Loaded with folic acid (vital to forming your baby’s brain and nervous system), potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 (which not only helps baby’s tissue and brain growth, but may also help with your morning sickness), avocados are a delicious way to get your vitamins. Spread some ripe avocado on your whole grain roll as a healthy substitute for mayo. Keep in mind that avocados are high in fat (though the very good kind) and calories, so heap them on your plate only if you’re having trouble gaining weight.
2. Broccoli: America’s favorite cruciferous vegetable, packed with plenty of vitamins A and C, with a calcium bonus (better to build those baby bones with), as well as baby-friendly folic acid. Toss into pasta or casseroles, stir-fry with seafood or chicken, serve steamed (with or without a vinaigrette), or dunk in dip.
3. Carrots: What’s up, Doc? Here’s what: Carrots are tops when it comes to vitamin A, so important for the development of your baby’s bones, teeth, and eyes. They’re perfect for munching on the go, but they also shred neatly into almost anything (from salads to meatloaf to cakes to muffins). Carrots are also a good source of vitamins B6 and C, and fiber to keep things movin’.
4. DHA eggs: The old egg is still a good egg, delivering a low-calorie, high-protein punch in a tasty little bundle. But here’s news: Science now lets us scramble, fry, or boil better eggs, naturally loaded with DHA, one type of omega-3 fatty acid (the “good fat”) that is a primary component of the brain and retina, and is essential for brain development and eye formation in the fetus. Plus, they taste just like the eggs you’ve always loved.
5. Edamame: These green pods are actually cooked soybeans — and they taste so much better than they sound. Packed with protein, calcium, folic acid, and vitamins A and B, edamame can be scooped up by the handful as a snack (salt them lightly, and you’ll never miss the chips), or tossed into just about anything you’re cooking, from soups, to pasta, to casseroles, to succotash, to stir-fry. They also make a gas-free stand-in for beans. So don’t forget the edamame, Mommy.
6. Lentils: Branch into beans for folic acid and protein, vitamin B6, and iron. Lentils are the most intestine (and spouse) friendly legume and readily absorb a variety of flavors from other foods and seasonings.
7. Mangoes: Sweet revenge for any vegetable avoider, mangoes contain more vitamins A and C bite for delicious bite than a salad. This tropical favorite, also packed with potassium, is especially versatile, a perfect complement to sweet and savory dishes. Blend it into smoothies or soups, chop it up in salsas or relishes, simply scoop and enjoy.
8. Nuts: Nuts are chock-full of important minerals (copper, manganese, magnesium, selenium, zinc, potassium, and even calcium) and vitamin E. And even though they’re high in fat, it’s mainly the good-for-you kind — especially baby- brain-boosting DHA, which is found in walnuts. So in a nutshell, go nuts with nuts (in moderation if you’re gaining quickly, liberally if you’re gaining slowly) and toss them into salads, pasta, meat, or fish dishes, and baked goods.
9. Oatmeal: Here’s good reason to feel your oats (and eat them often). They’re full of fiber, the B vitamins, and iron and a host of other minerals. Fill your breakfast bowl with them, but don’t stop there. You can add oats — and all their nutritional super powers — to pancakes, muffins, cakes, cookies, even meatloaf.
10. Red pepper: A super-source of vitamins A and C, with plenty of B6 in the bargain, a red pepper is one of nature’s sweetest ways to eat your vegetables. Enjoy their sweet crunch as a crudité, with or without dip (they make the perfect take-along snack). Chop them into salsa, slice them into stir-fries and pasta dishes, or roast or grill them (with a little olive oil, garlic, and lemon) and serve them up in sandwiches, salads, or antipastos.
11. Spinach: Rich in folic acid, iron (which you need for all those blood cells, Baby!), vitamin A, and calcium, spinach now comes completely ready to eat in prewashed bags (free of sand). Eat it raw, in a salad (especially one with almonds and mandarin oranges), or as a wilted bed for fish or chicken, or layered in lasagna.
12. Yogurt: Cup for cup, yummy yogurt contains as much calcium as milk — but it’s packed with protein and folic acid too. Blend it with fruit into satisfying smoothies, layer with granola in a breakfast parfait, use it as a low-calorie substitute for sour cream or mayo in sandwich fillings, dips, and salad dressings, or simply spoon it out of the carton (no matter where you’re headed today, a container of yogurt’s always easy to find). And here’s another reason to find culture: The active cultures in yogurt (also known as good bacteria) can prevent stomach upset, as well as yeast infections.
Of course, this A list is just a short list. There are plenty of other nutritional overachievers to choose from, including whole grains of all kinds, seeds (especially omega-3-rich flax), yams and winter squash, apricots, kiwi (one small kiwi contains as much vitamin C as an orange, plus it’s unparalleled for its laxative effects), papaya — and much more.
See more tips for eating well while pregnant.