50 Foods Every Pregnant Woman Should Eat
Guys – if you are running out of ideas what to cook or buy for your pregnant partner, check out the following article by Carolyn Friedman.
Most people are already very familiar with the foods to avoid during pregnancy – alcohol, excess caffeine, raw seafood, and the like – but few take pause to think about what they should consume. Experts generally recommend that pregnant women stick with the portions recommended by the USDA’s Food Pyramid guidelines, with specific boosts to certain nutrients such as iron, folic acid, fiber, Vitamin C, protein, calcium, Vitamin A, magnesium, and a few others.
The following is a practical list of foods that contain these nutrients and ought to find their way into a pregnancy diet, even if some of them must be ingested in moderation or within certain parameters: Iron Supplements, Kidney, Beans, Beef, Cereal, Dark Meat Turkey, Chicken, Salmon, Eggs, Peanuts / Peanut, Butter, Oranges, Spinach, Cheese, Yogurt, Milk, Asparagus, Great Northern Beans, Tofu, Bananas, Brown Rice, Almonds, Dried Apricots, Avocados, Whole Wheat, Lamb, Veal, Oysters, Pork, Soy Milk, Pomegranates, Tomatoes, Walnuts, Swiss Chard, Pasta, Apples, Carrots, Pears, Strawberries, Kale, Dried Cherries, Liver, Soybeans, Grapefruit, Broccoli, Oatmeal, Chickpeas, Okra, Sunflower Seeds, Lentils, Pineapple, Portobello Mushrooms.
See below for more information on each food. These are, of course, merely suggestions. The best way for a pregnant woman to figure out what dietary path is right for her always has been and always will be consultation with a healthcare professional. Doctors and nurses are far better equipped to dispense advice based on a woman’s age, possible food restrictions, and overall health, as pregnancies and those experiencing them differ from instance to instance.
1. Iron Supplements
According to the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, normal, healthy pregnancy diets do not usually supply enough iron for the blood of both fetus and mother. Mayo Clinic recommends 27 milligrams a day for pregnant women.
2. Kidney Beans
Mayo Clinic states that 1 cup of boiled kidney beans a day provides pregnant women with 5.2 out of the suggested 27 milligrams of iron. Dry, as opposed to canned or fresh, legumes typically nurture more efficient absorption – a tip which comes straight from the National Medical Library at the National Institute of Health.
Pregnant women should veer towards leaner cuts of beef, which provides valuable proteins and iron necessary for fetal development and healthy blood – among other benefits, of course. Mayo Clinic recommends 3 ounces of beef tenderloin (or equivalent a day, as it provides 3 milligrams of iron per serving.
Cereals, most especially those with added iron and calcium, provide pregnant women with a plethora of important nutrients. Based on statistics compiled by the USDA and expressed by the Mayo Clinic, ¾ of a cup of fortified cereal provides a whopping 18 milligrams of iron a day out of the recommended 27. One cup of cereal with extra calcium offers between 100 to 1,000 milligrams of the suggested 1,000 a day (1,300 for teenage pregnancies. In addition, ¾ of a cup also contains 400 micrograms of folic acid, and Mayo Clinic experts believe that 800 micrograms a day prior to conception, and 1,000 a day following it is the healthiest habit.
5. Dark Meat Turkey
Consuming 3.5 ounces of dark meat turkey provides 2.3 out of the recommended 27 milligrams of iron a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. It is also an excellent source of protein as well.
Pregnant women need around 71 grams of protein a day in order to facilitate fetal growth, and Mayo Clinic states that 3 ounces of chicken breast offers 27.6 grams of this necessary substance. Chicken also introduces valuable iron into a pregnant woman’s diet.
3 ounces of canned pink salmon (bones included provides mother and child alike with 181 milligrams of calcium out of Mayo Clinic’s suggested 1,000 a day (1,300 for teenagers. Purchasing boneless fish reduces the amount of calcium substantially. In addition, 3 ounces of salmon served any style offers 21.6 of the recommended 71 grams of protein a day. However, pregnant women are advised to stay away from uncooked or smoked salmon due to the associated potential health hazards.
While pregnant women must avoid raw or undercooked eggs due to the increased risk of salmonella, the cooked variety makes for an essential addition to their diets. 1 large hard-boiled egg a day involves 6.3 grams of protein out of the suggested 71 and, according to the National Medical Library at the National Institute of Health, also serves as an excellent source of iron. They particularly recommend the yolks.
9. Peanuts and Peanut Butter
Folic acid prevents birth defects affecting the neurological system as well as reduces the risk of premature labor. Mayo Clinic believes women should take 800 micrograms a day prior to conception – if possible, of course – and bump it up to 1,000 after pregnancy is confirmed. 1 ounce of dry-roasted peanuts adds an additional 40 micrograms to a daily pregnancy diet, while 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter contains 8 out of the suggested 71 grams of protein.
As a citrus fruit, oranges serve as an amazing source of Vitamin C, which the National Medical Library at the National Institute of Health declares as one possible means of increasing iron absorption. Mayo Clinic also states that 1 small fruit involves 30 micrograms of folic acid. 6 ounces of fortified orange juice tacks on an additional 200 to 260 milligrams of calcium as well.
Like citrus fruits, the National Medical Library at the National Institute of Health claims that spinach and other leafy greens can help strengthen the body’s absorption of iron by up to 3 times the normal rate. ½ a cup of spinach plays host to 100 micrograms’ worth of folic acid, 3.2 milligrams of iron, and 120 milligrams of calcium.
1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains 28 grams of protein, and 1.5 ounces of part-skim mozzarella offers pregnant women 275 milligrams of calcium. Both nutrients ought to form the cornerstone of a pregnancy diet to ensure that both mother and child remain healthy, and it is a wise idea to avoid unpasteurized cheese.
Another excellent and indispensible source of calcium, 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt provide 415 milligrams of the nutrient essential to fortify bones, teeth, and the circulatory, nervous, and muscular systems. Should a fetus receive an insufficient amount of calcium from its mother, it will begin leeching off its mother’s skeleton instead – rendering her far more susceptible to potentially devastating cracks and breaks.
Pregnant women who can drink milk should do so on a daily basis, as 1 cup of the skim variety involves 306 milligrams of calcium and 8.3 grams of protein. Because of these properties, milk ought to be considered a part of every pregnant woman’s regular intake.
Mayo Clinic states that 4 boiled asparagus spears offer pregnant women 85 micrograms out of the recommended 1,000 (800 prior to conception of folic acid needed in a day.
16. Great Northern Beans
Dried beans stand as an excellent source of both folic acid and protein, with ½ a cup of the Great Northern variety containing 90 micrograms of the former.
For pregnant women on staunch vegetarian or vegan diets, tofu makes for a viable enough replacement when it comes to adding protein and magnesium. The various brands of Mori-Nu, for example, contain between 4 and 6 grams per 3 ounce serving. Tofu, fortunately, is a versatile enough ingredient to be enjoyed in a wide variety of ways.
Considered a heart-healthy hallmark of sensible eating, 1 400 milligram Chiquita Banana offers pregnant women 15% of the Food Guide Pyramid’s recommended daily amount of Vitamin C, 12% of fiber, and 20% of Vitamin B6. All of these nutrients help keep a mother and her unborn child healthy and strong throughout all three trimesters.
19. Brown Rice
National Medical Library at the National Institute of Health touts that pregnant women ought to ingest 350-400 milligrams of magnesium a day, and brown rice and other whole grains prove an excellent source. The USDA particularly praises them as a valuable conduit for folic acid as well.
According to the Almond Board of California, one ounce of almonds– or approximately 23 nuts – contains 6 grams of protein, 76 of magnesium, 3.5 of fiber, and 75 of calcium.
21. Dried Apricots
Dried apricots provide pregnant women with a reliable source of magnesium as well as dietary fiber and Vitamin A. The fruits offered by Tierra Farms, for example, contain 13% of the recommended daily allowance for dietary fiber and 60% of Vitamin A in only one 6 ounce serving.
Not only do avocados contain 2% of the Food Pyramid’s recommended daily value of iron, 4% of the potassium, 8% of the folate, 4% of the fiber, and 4% of the Vitamin C, but the California Avocado Commission also praises its status as a “nutrient-booster.” Consuming an avocado helps the body facilitate the absorption of alpha and beta carotene and other fat-soluble nutrients
23. Whole Wheat
As with brown rice, whole wheat in all its various and sundry applications works wonders for pregnant women needing massive amounts of folic acid to help their babies avoid birth defects.
For pregnant women unable or unwilling to consume beef – or those living in regions where cow are a scarcity – lamb provides them with an acceptable alternative. Rich in iron, protein, and zinc, Ohio State University Department of Nutrition researchers consider 1 lean lamb chop to contain 25-39% of the Food Pyramid’s recommended daily allowance for zinc.
Like lamb, one 3 ounce lean roasted leg of veal offers pregnant women (without ethical concerns regarding its consumption, of course around 25-39% of the Food Pyramid’s recommended daily dose of zinc. Other cuts, however, do not alwas necessarily yield such fruit. However, a chat with the doctor is advised to ensure exactly how much of the nutrient he or she believes is appropriate in each individual case.
Oysters and other shellfish pose something of a risk to pregnant women due to concerns over mercury levels. However, canned, baked, broiled, and steamed oysters are far safer than those served raw, and the braver diners will latch onto one more route towards getting 40% or more of the recommended daily value of zinc in their diet.
The very same Ohio State University Department of Nutrition study also proved that 3 ounces of braised pork tongue provides 25-39% of the recommended daily value of zinc as well. Other cuts, however, generally fall within the 10-24% range. Pork is also an excellent source of protein.
28. Soy Milk
Pregnant women with a lactose intolerance issue or vegan lifestyle may want to explore soy milk as a viable alternative to securing the necessary calcium and protein for the healthiest possible term. According to the soy milk manufacturers Q’Tessence, their unsweetened product contains 7 grams of protein, 80 milligrams of calcium, and 1.4 milligrams of iron per serving.
This popular super food has experienced something of a trendy resurgence lately, mostly due to its fantastic antioxidant properties. Men’s Fitness ran an article about the celebrated pomegranate, discussing how it contains 16% of the Vitamin C and 10% of the potassium needed in a day as well as 10 grams of fiber for every 1 cup.
According to Gary Ibsen’s Tomato Fest farm, these internationally enjoyed, antioxidant-laden fruits also come packed with Vitamins A and C, calcium, and potassium – all nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy.
The California Walnut Commission celebrates these beloved tree nuts for their numerous healthful benefits. Pregnant women and their unborn children receive 4.6 grams of protein, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 0.9 milligrams of iron, 47 milligrams of magnesium, 0.9 milligrams of zinc, and 132 milligrams of potassium for every 30 grams of the actual edible part of the nut.
32. Swiss Chard
In addition to aiding the body in absorbing iron and other minerals, Swiss chard and its fellow leafy greens are also excellent sources of many nutrients necessary for healthy pregnancies. According to the University of Illinois, 1 cup of the chopped leaves hosts 3 grams of protein, 102 milligrams of calcium, 4 milligrams of iron, 960 grams of potassium, 32 milligrams of Vitamin C, and 15 micrograms of folate. It also contains 151 of the 320 milligrams of magnesium suggested by the University of Maryland Medical Center as the ideal daily intake for pregnant women. This dietary essential helps ensure normal organ formation and function.
Prevention Magazine states that 1 cup of cooked whole wheat macaroni yields 3.9 grams of fiber and 7.5 grams of protein. The Wheat Foods Council considers enriched and whole wheat pasta alike as valuable sources of folic acid, with the former containing 184 grams per cup and the latter at 46 grams per cup.
University of Illinois handily provides information on all the health benefits related to apples. An amazing fruit for the pregnant and non-pregnant alike, a fresh, medium-sized, uncooked, and unpeeled apple provides 4 grams of dietary fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber alike, 10 milligrams of calcium, .25 milligrams of iron, 8 milligrams of Vitamin C, and 4 micrograms of folate. Peeling the skin off robs the food of most of its Vitamin C, however, so pregnant women are advised to wash the apple as is before eating it to the core.
Carrots surge with beta carotene, with only a half-cup serving providing a body with 4 times more than the recommended daily intake. Beta carotene converts itself into Vitamin A upon digestion, and the National Institute of Health statistics posit that pregnant adult women need around 2,565 International Units a day, while pregnant teenagers should take in around 2,500. University of Illinois states that one ½ cup of cooked carrots provides a staggering 19, 152 IU of Vitamin A acquired through the metabolizing of beta carotene. This valuable nutrient helps stimulate cellular and brain growth in everyone – not only fetuses and infants.
Pregnant women need plenty of fiber and Vitamin C to keep themselves and their , and pears provide them with one juicy route of acquisition. According to Pear Bureau Northwest, 1 medium-sized pear provides consumers with 24% of the dietary fiber and 10% of the Vitamin C recommended for a non-pregnant individual’s daily intake.
Many people do not realize that strawberries actually contain more Vitamin C than citrus fruits. University of Illinois outlines their benefits to everyone – not only pregnant women. 1 cup of sliced fresh strawberries contains 44.84 IU of Vitamin A, 29.38 micrograms of folate, 44.82 milligrams of potassium, 16.60 milligrams of magnesium, 0.63 milligrams of iron, 23.24 milligrams of calcium, 3.81 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of protein, and a startling 94.12 milligrams of Vitamin C.
Another dark, leafy green, Kale is considered an excellent source of fiber, Vitamin A, calcium, and beta carotene – among others. All of these, however, are entirely necessary nutrients for pregnant women.
39. Dried Cherries
1/3 of a cup of unsweetened, dried, and pitted cherries from Payson Fruit Growers boasts 25% of the Vitamin A, 6% of the calcium, 15% of the iron, and 12% of the dietary fiber needed in one day in the life of a non-pregnant individual. While this is only representative of one brand, of course, it highlights how valuable these fruits are to those eating for two as well.
March of Dimes declares that liver is actually rather dicey for pregnant women, who may still eat it provided they consume the organ in miniscule doses. As one of the best sources of Vitamin A available – not to mention iron and protein – the 27,000 IU for beef and 12,000 IU price tag may lead to birth defects. However, more research needs to be done for an official confirmation or denial of this. Until then, infrequent and small amounts of liver may provide useful Vitamin A bombs, though consultation with a healthcare professional will likely yield a clearer picture of how much should be considered acceptable.
National Soybean Research Laboratory at University of Illinois states that ½ a cup of cooked yellow soybeans contain around 14.3 grams of protein, and the green pods (edamame around 11.1. Both are also excellent sources of fiber, with 6 grams per cup. However, removing the outer hull does reduce some of the health benefits. Almost any soy product involves a generous amount of protein, most especially tofu.
According to the USDA, ½ a cup of raw grapefruit – no matter the pulp color – contains 1066 IU of Vitamin A, 39.6 milligrams of Vitamin C, 9 milligrams of magnesium, 160 milligrams of potassium, and 14 milligrams of calcium. The Wheat Foods Council also praises grapefruit juice as a recommended source of folic acid, with 23 DFE per cup.
Broccoli contains 2.4 grams of dietary fiber, 2.3 grams of protein, 49 milligrams of Vitamin C, 53.3 nanograms of folic acid, and 89 milligrams of calcium – all nutrients necessary to stimulate fetal growth and keep a mother-to-be healthy throughout her pregnancy. All nutritional statistics courtesy of University of Illinois.
½ a cup of original, unflavored Quaker Oats without add-ins provide the pregnant and non-pregnant both with 15% of the dietary fiber, 5 grams of the protein, and 10% of the iron needed in a day. While allowances shift when a woman is with child, that still does not change the fact that oatmeal remains one of the better menu items for her to consider.
Also known as garbanzo beans and serving as one of the main ingredients of the popular hummus dip (which pregnant women may enjoy as a healthy snack, Purdue University considers chickpeas a great source of protein and dietary fiber, and Wheat Foods Council ranks it as one of the best sources of folic acid. Cooked chickpeas and pinto beans both provide between 140 and 145 DFE of folic acid per ½ cup.
According to the Wheat Foods Council, cooked okra provides 37 DFE of folic acid for pregnant women hoping to prevent birth defects. University of Illinois offers even more nutritional information on these valuable plants. In addition to the folic acid, okra also contains 2 grams of dietary fiber, 1.52 grams of protein, 460 IU of Vitamin A, 13.04 milligrams of Vitamin C, 50.4 milligrams of calcium, 256.6 milligrams of potassium, and 46 milligrams of magnesium as well.
47. Sunflower Seeds
½ a cup of dry-roasted sunflower seeds offer pregnant women 152 DFE of the folic acid (information courtesy of Wheat Foods Council necessary for a healthy, stable pregnancy. 1 ounce of Planter’s brand sunflower seed kernels contains 12% of the recommended daily value for dietary fiber, 4% of the calcium, and 10% of the iron. They also come laden with 23% of the total fat, and ought to be consumed in moderation as a result.
Wheat Foods Council places cooked lentils as offering 180 DFE per cup, making it the best source of folic acid for pregnant women. Beyond that, however, the USA Dry Peas, Lentils and Chickpeas (a resource validated by the USDA praises it as a viable meat replacement for women with both voluntary and involuntary dietary restrictions. ¼ of a cup of lentils also provides the pregnant with 8 grams of protein, 14% of the recommended daily allowance of iron as dictated by the Food Pyramid, and 2% of both the calcium and Vitamin C.
Pregnant women needing Vitamin C, manganese, and folic acid to help nurture their unborn child should consider pineapple as one possible route towards supplying these nutrients. Wheat Foods Council lists it as one of recommended sources of folic acid, with 23 DFE per cup of juice. And Maui Pineapple Company states that two slices of their fruit offers 100% of the Vitamin C needed in a day as well as significant amounts of manganese. NB: some agencies discourage the consumption of pineapple in early pregnancy as it is thought to cause contractions in some women - scientific evidence on this point is conflicting. Our advice – if in doubt, leave it out.
50. Portobello Mushrooms
Along with lentils, portobello mushrooms serve as a meat replacement for those with strict dietary restrictions or vegetarian or vegan diets. Prevention Magazine lists these hearty fungi as containing 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 778.03 milligrams of potassium, and 0.23 milligrams of manganese.
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By Carolyn Friedman