So many people are telling women what not to eat when preggers, that they might start to think no food is safe... But we've got their backs, hungry mommas! We care about your nutritional needs, we're sympathetic to those unstoppable cravings, we hear the growls of your rumbling belly and we want the best for your unborn baby...
Although only a tiny percentage of what you eat makes it's way to your womb - it's important to make sure you're getting all the vitamins and minerals you need, to keep baby healthy and strong. Properties of the food you digest will be absorbed into your bloodstream, travel to the placenta and make their way to the baby via the umbilical cord.
It might sound like a lengthy (and slightly disgusting) journey - but even after all that slimy traveling, flavors are still detectable - and baby will begin to form food preferences long before they're born.
It's amazing how keen friends and relatives are to fatten you up during pregnancy. They'll insist, "come on, you're eating for two now"... And while this isn't completely untrue, doctors recommend the average woman increases her food intake by just 300 calories a day. (About six Oreos -- or 28 pickled cucumbers - whichever you'd prefer.)
Of course, while we don't want to dwell on what you should avoid - it's generally best to opt for fruits and veggies over hamburgers and fries, whole foods over processed foods, and healthy starches over refined sugars...
But before you grab your four-wheel deluxe folding shopping trolley (a pregnancy must-have by the way!) and head for the supermarket with this list - it's best to consult with your doctor about your specific dietary needs during pregnancy. Every woman is different, and you can't beat face-to-face personalized recommendations from an experienced professional...
Professionals will probably tell you that in addition to healthy eating, it's important to take a daily multi-vitamin to ensure you’re not missing anything vital - especially if your nauseating food aversions are preventing you from enjoying a varied menu.
In the meantime, we've researched some super healthy, nourishing options that will help boost your energy, strengthen your immune system, protect against disease and provide the best possible start for your rapidly growing little one...
20 Beans, Beans, The Magical Food
Ahh yes, “Beans, beans, the musical fruit - the more you eat, the more you toot! - The more you toot, the better you feel, so eat your beans with every meal!”
Having trouble with digestion? Uncomfortable bloating pains? Constipation can be a problem during pregnancy, thanks to progesterone - which relaxes muscles and causes your intestines to process food more slowly.
But beans are your savior - this protein-packed power-food is a terrific source of fiber and magic medicine for those days when you just can't go...
In addition to getting things moving, they're also a good source of iron, calcium, folate, and zinc. 100 grams of pinto beans can contain as much as 21 grams of protein! That's around a third of what you need for any given day.
So rustle yourself up a hearty five-bean chili and toot your trumpet-bum with pride!
19 Quinoa As An Alternative
Not pronounced Kwin-oh-a, like my Mom says.
This gluten-free, good-for-you grain is not only another excellent source of protein and increasingly trendy snack - it's one of few plant foods to contain all nine amino acids, and various beneficial antioxidants.
Quinoa is a popular alternative for starchy pasta and rice - which can feel like they're literally weighing you down. And while they've been consuming it for thousands of years in South America, many of us in the Northern Hemisphere are still treating Quinoa like an exciting new discovery!
Versatile, easy to cook, and ready in less than 20 minutes; a quinoa salad makes for a fab, nutritionally packed lunch or a filling healthy dinner. The quinoa bandwagon has not long been rolling, so there's still time for you to jump onboard!
18 Can't Survive Without Water
Unfortunately, this one is bad news for your increasingly squashed bladder, but drinking lots of water is extremely important during pregnancy. Not only is it essential to stay well hydrated, water is a natural headache remedy and can boost your immune system.
Urinary tract infections are common among pregnant women because of changes in the urinary tract. And if left untreated, they can be dangerous for both you and your baby.
Drinking more water will dilute your pee which reduces the risk of contracting a UTI.
Dehydration can be a trigger for pre-term labor, so make sure you're drinking around 10 cups per day (more if you're active or living in a warm climate) and never venture too far from a washroom!
17 All That Green Stuff
As a child, I was so often told, "Batman eats broccoli" by my Mom (which I don't ever think she proved...) But given his muscular physique, and ability to fly - we'd guess, at the very least, he's pretty into his leafy greens.
Okay, so, you might not be up for fighting crime while growing a human - but your body is doing such miraculous things that you're certainly worthy of superhero status!
Broccoli contains tons of Vitamin C. Spinach is full of Vitamin A, Magnesium and Iron (Remember Popeye!) and Kale is your Folate friend. Folate is hugely important in pregnancy, as a daily dose of it will help to protect against birth defects of your baby's brain and spinal cord.
So load your plate with these heroic nutrients and eat like a champion!
16 Decadent Berries
With our spindly fingers and opposable thumbs, humans have aptly evolved for foraging in the undergrowth... This is no accident. Berries have shown themselves to be some of the healthiest foods on the planet, and the good news is that these days, you don't need to go rummaging in the woods to find them.
An excellent snack for grazing on, many berries are said to have anti-cancer properties and incorporating this fruit into your regular diet can also improve heart health.
Blueberries are referred to as the antioxidant powerhouse and have been said to reduce the risk of cataracts, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, glaucoma, and peptic ulcers.
They're also blue - which is nice.
Blackberries have been said to slow and even stop the formation of tumors in the oral cavity, strawberries decrease the proliferation of liver cancer cells, and cherries contain melatonin - which will help you sleep.
All sounds like berry good news to me!
15 Figs Are Not Just For The Privileged
Feeling like you need an aphrodisiac in your life? (You're already pregnant, so... why not?)
Perhaps one of the less exotic passion-potions, figs have a variety of benefits for pregnant women. High in vitamins B1, B2, B6, and K, they promote bone density. There is the same amount of calcium in half a cup of figs as there is in half a cup of milk. They also contain a significant amount of potassium which can help lower blood pressure.
Pop some in your porridge, melt them in a toastie, sprinkle some on your salad or simply enjoy them on their own.
The fig tree is a symbol of fertility, abundance, and sweetness - so you can think about how magnificently relevant your choice of healthy snack is.
14 Garlic Does More Than Give Bad Breath
More than just a vampire and mosquito repellent, this pungent member of the extended onion family is said to have been recognized for its medicinal properties for over 500 years. To this day, garlic is used to help with a number of conditions linked to the heart and blood system. It can assist in preventing hardening of the arteries and lowers your risk of heart attack.
Despite it's debatably mood-killing odor; because garlic helps with blood flow, it's also said to benefit the sex organs of both men and women - so if you're looking for a creative new way to seduce your partner
why not suggestively graze on a bag of figs and raw garlic cloves to get each other going...?!
Garlic is also said to have antiseptic properties and can fight infections, so if you have a tick-bite that's gone a bit fungal - you could crush a few cloves over it and rub them in... Another attractive image.
13 Dark Chocolate, For Real
Eating a little bit of dark chocolate every day is actually extremely good for both you and your baby. Women who consume it regularly are around 70% less likely to develop preeclampsia - which can have serious consequences for you and your growing baby as it can cause premature delivery.
Additionally, dark chocolate has been said to improve cognitive function. That's right - chocolate makes you clever! Numerous studies have been done that link chocolate consumption and intelligence. It improves abilities to learn, focus and remember. Note that to really reap the benefits, the darker the chocolate the better.
Properties in cocoa can also help to regulate blood pressure - and as it raises endorphins and serotonin levels, it is also said to relieve stress and even make babies happier!
Do you need any more reasons? No? Right. I had you at "chocolate"...
12 Oats Are Small But Powerful
Those three bears were onto something with their porridge! Because of their high amount of calories and complex carb-content, oats make for a great start to the day. They're filling and will fuel you with all the energy you need.
Oats can provide you with a healthy amount of potassium, selenium, and calcium - which can strengthen baby's tooth formation.
The B vitamins in oats help to keep mucus membranes healthy, while Vitamin E is an effective antioxidant which will reduce free radical damage and enhance that pregnancy glow!
Additionally, oats will give you 10% of your daily iron requirement and are yet another good source of folic acid, which will help to avoid a number of fetal disorders.
Gynecologists list oats as a top 10 pregnancy food, but as with everything on this list, don't overdo it - they're rather calorific.
11 Whole Grains Over Refined
Remember the Atkins-diet fad? Well, throw that out the window, because here's your permission slip to load up on carbs! Although commonly thought of as just a carb, whole grains are another substantial source of protein and contain enough fiber to keep things moving.
Yep, so we've already covered some of the specific whole grains you should be gorging on - like quinoa and oats... but this is a broad category and the short story is - all of them are good. But the important thing to remember is that you're looking for whole grains. If we tell you to consume some Barley, we're not suggesting you partake in a fine Scotch.
Eating grains in their natural, unprocessed state is where you will gain the most nutrients. Refined grains can contain any number of potentially harmful additives.
Some grains have the added bonus of boosting oxytocin levels during labor, which can be a natural method of helping to speed things up.
10 Avocados On Toast, Anyone?
Also known as the "Alligator-Pear", these delicious fruits contain 20 different vitamins and minerals and are a healthy source of monounsaturated fatty acids. That's the good fat.
Rich, creamy and versatile, avocados enhance the absorption of nutrients from the body, help to protect against osteoarthritis and contain high amounts of folate and potassium -
both of which are important to aid fetal growth and development.
This must-eat food for pregnant women is also said to help fight morning sickness - so don't resist the avocado-toast craze and have some for breakfast!
9 Lentils Can Go With Anything
If you're pregnant during the cold winter months, then a chunky lentil soup will certainly warm your cockles!
With around 15 grams of protein per cup, lentils are a great way to stock up on essential nutrients for you and your baby. Just one cup of cooked lentils will give you 50% of your required daily folate intake. They're also rich in iron and full of fiber, and beneficial B vitamins.
Incorporating lentils into your regular diet can also help lower blood sugar, decrease the chances of developing Atherosclerosis and combat fatigue - giving you more energy to prep your nest ready for baby's arrival.
A healthy alternative to minced meat, lentils are great in a lasagna, shepherds pie, bolognaise, or chili. Also fab in a wrap, taco, curry, stew or salad...
8 Fruit In All Its (Dried) Forms
If you have any concerns about the potential of developing gestational diabetes or anemia - alleviate your worries by munching on prunes... They can satisfy your sweet tooth but are actually low in sugar.
They can also help regulate nerve impulses and metabolic functions and are fabulous for the skin of both you and baby.
Dried apricots have been known for their medicinal benefits for centuries, and when consumed in moderation, are an excellent addition to your weekly food intake. Rich in calcium and folic acid - dried apricots are also said to help with lactation once the baby is born. But don't eat too many. The concentration of nutrients in dried apricots is so high that you only need a small amount to really reap the benefits.
7 Tofu Is Not Just For Vegans
Although it's not recommended to consume more than two servings (one serving = half a cup) of soy products per day, adding a little tofu to your weekly shopping list is a rather good idea for multiple reasons...
Pregnant women are at increased risk of developing blood clots, and tofu has been proven to reduce that risk. Blood clots during pregnancy are most common during the first three months, or in the six weeks after giving birth.
Tofu is an excellent source of omega 3's, high in calcium and protein, and unlike meat, it doesn't contain any bad cholesterol. It also contains manganese and copper - both of which are essential minerals for a healthy pregnancy. The combined properties of tofu can maintain bone strength and even tighten sagging muscles!
Yes, tofu does fall into the processed foods category - but as far as convenient processed foods go, this one's all right!
6 Almond, Make It Into A Butter
Almond butter lowers cholesterol and combats cardiovascular disease. It contains more calcium than peanut butter, and with fewer calories than it's dairy-based equivalents, it will help to keep off those excess pregnancy pounds.
It's another good source of iron for your baby, and the levels of Vitamin E in Almond Butter will reduce the chances of your little one suffering from asthma.
Use almond butter to make tasty dips and salad dressings, to make a creamy soup or to spread on your whole grain bread.
5 Apples And Bananas
An apple a day keeps the doctor away!
Here's another one that can reduce the odds of your baby developing asthma. Rich in antioxidants, and an excellent constipation reliever, apples also have anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce swelling, particularly in the feet.
Apples can also help with pain from pressure and cramping that pregnant women experience as their womb expands and their body changes. Apples are particularly beneficial in the first few months of pregnancy as they can alleviate morning sickness symptoms.
Bananas are packed with fiber and potassium and perhaps surprisingly - also calcium and protein. They too can help relieve nausea and are a filling option to satisfy hunger pangs.
4 Potatoes, Please! Make Them Sweet!
Great news! Sweet potatoes can protect against the effects of aging! (Not that that's an issue for your fetus right now...)
Combatting the appearance of wrinkles and improving skin elasticity, this root vegetable (not actually a potato at all, technically)
contains powerful free-radical destroyers that will help to protect a youthful you!
And because of their high fiber content, they can help relieve discomfort caused by bloating or hemorrhoids.
So pop one in the oven, top it with almond butter and serve it alongside a lentil and veg stew.
3 Chia Seeds Are Not Bird Food
Chia Seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, iron and calcium and are hugely beneficial to the health of both you and your developing baby.
Aztec warriors supposedly ate chia seeds to improve their energy levels and endurance. Their name translates as "strength" in the Mayan language. It was believed that eating just a handful of seeds would sustain them for an entire day. But as fiber-rich and protein-packed as they are, these days, we recommend you eat a bit more than just a few chia seeds in the morning!
A metabolism booster, that can help reduce the risks of cervical and breast cancer as well as improving your dental health - they're also beneficial to the growth of strong bones and muscles for your developing fetus.
2 Milk From Various Sources
The main reason milk is promoted to pregnant women, is owed to its high calcium content, and Vitamin D - which help to build and repair muscle tissue.
It's said that if you consume 150ml of cow's milk per day while pregnant, you're children are likely to be taller and weigh more. Although this is often promoted as being a good thing, skeptics among us might question if this is down to increased hormones and steroids that are debatably present in dairy - that and the fact that cow's milk is intended to turn baby calves into 400lb cows...
If you're on the fence about dairy, or lactose intolerant (as an increasing number of people are) then
there are plenty of milk alternatives to choose from that will still provide you with the calcium and Vitamin D you need.
Almond milk is fortified with the essential (and often claimed to be elusive) Vitamin B12, while also containing a string of other important nutrients and minerals.
Unlike dairy and soy milk, almond milk contains a limited amount of phosphorous which is good news for your kidneys.
1 Carrots Are Timeless
Rabbits eat them and they can see in the dark! ...Crazy though it may sound, there is actually some truth to the idea that eating carrots can improve your eye-sight. And not just yours - they can also be hugely beneficial to the developing vision of your unborn baby.
The high levels of Vitamin C in carrots are an immune-system booster and can play a part in protecting the body (and your baby) against infection.
Eating carrots regularly is also believed to lower your chances of contracting gestational hypertension and Vitamin K, found in carrots, can help reduce the risk of bleeding later on in pregnancy.
For optimal nutritional benefits, snack on carrots raw... like the happy bunny that you are.
Sources: WebMD.com, BabyCenter.ca, Healthline.com, MomJunction.com, FitPregnancy.com, HealthEating.sfgate.com, NutriousLife.com, JustParents.co.uk, LiveScience.com, NutrionValue.org, MedicalNewsToday.com, LiveStrong.com