Nutrition: healthy habits now that you’re eating for two
Getting the right nutrition while you’re expecting is one of the most important ways to give your
baby a healthy start. Here are 10 foods we at Westchester Health Pediatrics recommend to
make sure the two of you are getting the nutrients you need.
In addition to more than 12 vitamins and minerals, eggs contain plenty of protein which is
essential for pregnancy. Your baby’s cells are growing at an exponential rate, and every cell is
made of protein. Plus, as a pregnant woman, you need protein too.
Eggs are also rich in choline, which promotes your baby’s overall growth and brain health and
helps prevent neural tube defects. Some eggs even contain omega-3 fats, important for both brain
and vision development. While eggs are high in cholesterol, they’re relatively low in saturated fat
(only about 1½ grams per egg). If you’re a healthy woman with normal blood cholesterol, you can
eat 1-2 eggs a day; if cholesterol is a concern, substitute egg whites for whole eggs.
Not only is salmon rich in high-quality protein, it’s also an excellent source of omega-3 fats. And
unlike some other fish, salmon has low amounts of mercury which can be harmful to your baby’s
developing nervous system.
Because your gastrointestinal tract slows down when you’re pregnant, you need to make sure
you’re getting enough fiber. Did you know that beans contain the most fiber of all vegetables?
Navy beans, lentils, black beans, pinto beans and chickpeas are all good choices. Beans are also
important sources of protein, iron, folate, calcium and zinc.
4. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and fiber. Like beans, they’re
inexpensive and versatile. And you can’t beat that snazzy orange color!
5. Popcorn and other whole grains
Yes, popcorn is a whole grain! Whole grains are important in pregnancy because they’re high in fiber and nutrients, including vitamin E, selenium and phytonutrients (plant compounds that protect cells). Other whole grains include barley, buckwheat, corn, oats, quinoa, rice, rye and wheat.
Walnuts are one of the richest sources of plant-based omega-3s and make a great on-the-go snack. They’re also a good source of protein and fiber.
7. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt typically has twice the protein of regular yogurt, yet any kind of yogurt is a great source of calcium, making it a very important pregnancy food. If you don’t get enough calcium while pregnant, the limited amount you have will go to your baby, depleting the calcium in your bones (which can lead to osteoporosis later in life). Making sure you take in enough calcium will help protect your own bones while helping your baby develop healthy bones and teeth.
8. Dark green, leafy vegetables
Spinach, kale, Swiss chard and other green leafy vegetables are loaded with vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K, as well as the all-important folate. They’ve also been found to promote eye health.
9. Lean meats
Meat is an excellent source of high-quality protein, especially lean meats that are 95-98% fat free. Avoid deli meats and hot dogs because of a small risk of passing on bacteria and parasites (such as listeria, toxoplasma or salmonella) from the meat to your baby.
10. Colorful fruits and vegetables
Go for color! Eating plenty of green, red, orange, yellow, purple and white fruits and vegetables ensures that you and your baby will get a variety of nutrients. Not only does each color group provide different vitamins and minerals, but during the later stages of pregnancy, your baby “tastes” the foods you eat through the amniotic fluid. This means that exposing your baby to a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables in the womb will increase the chance that he/she will eat and enjoy those flavors later on.