Pregnancy Superfoods: 12 quality foods to include
By Annemarie Aburrow RD
By Annemarie Aburrow RD
Some foods are simply super! Super healthy and packed full of quality nutrients. The ‘superfoods’ in this article have been selected for their fantastic nutritional content. Including them in your diet will help keep you healthy and provide your baby with quality nutrients to support his/her growth.
Oats – a great source of energy, fibre and vitamins. They have a low glycaemic index (GI) to keep you fuller for longer and less likely to snack between meals. Try porridge or granola.
Berries – just a handful of strawberries contains half your daily vitamin C requirements – perfect for those increased needs in the third trimester. Berries also contain beta carotene, potassium, antioxidants and fibre.
Wholemeal / granary bread – a great source of energy, iron, calcium and B vitamins. Choosing higher fibre varieties will keep you fuller for longer and help remedy constipation. They’re often fortified with extra folic acid so check the label of your usual brands.
Oily fish – e.g. salmon, pilchards, mackerel and tuna steak contain essential omega-3 fatty acids. These fats have lots of health benefits for mum’s heart and immune system, and for baby’s developing brain and nervous system. They’re also a great source of protein and iron, containing similar amounts to red meat. Eat oily fish at least once a week but no more than twice a week.
Lean red meat – an excellent source of protein, iron, zinc and selenium. Try to include red meat at least once a week during pregnancy. If you’re vegetarian you can still get your protein and iron from eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, lentils, Quorn and tofu.
Dried fruits – a good source of iron and calcium to help prevent anaemia and keep your bones healthy. Just 2 dried figs provides the same amount of calcium as ½ a glass of milk. Packed full of fibre, they’ll help keep pregnancy constipation at bay. Include a variety e.g. prunes, dried apricots, dried cranberries.
Pulses & lentils – kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and baked beans are great sources of protein for veggies/vegans or women wanting a meat alternative. They’re an excellent source of iron – 4 tablespoons of cooked lentils provides 4.5mg of iron, almost 30% of your daily needs. They also contain calcium, zinc and folic acid. Hummus (made from chickpeas) makes a healthy dip for pitta bread, breadsticks and veggie sticks.
Broccoli & other green leafy veggies – a good source of folic acid for those extra third trimester requirements. They also contain calcium, magnesium (essential for bone development) and iron. Steam veggies instead of boiling them to preserve all that quality nutrition.
Breakfast cereal – a bowl of cereal with milk is a great source of energy to give you a boost when you’re feeling tired or unable to cook. Cereal is also a good snack choice typically containing around 200kcal, which is the just the amount of extra calories you need in the third trimester. A 30g serving of fortified cereal provides 15-35% of your daily pregnancy folic acid needs (first trimester requirements should be met by the inclusion of folic acid supplements). A 30g serving also provides 20-40% of your iron and 30% of your calcium requirements. Check that your usual brands are fortified and consider switching brands if not.
Milk & dairy foods – including low fat dairy foods at least twice a day will help ensure you meet your calcium needs to protect your bones and build your baby’s bones. Dairy foods are a good source of protein, vitamin A and magnesium. Low fat / diet varieties of milk, cheese and yoghurts contain similar amounts of calcium to standard versions.
Nuts & seeds – a great source of essential omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Unsalted nuts and seeds make a healthy pregnancy snack.
Fruits & veg – a variety of fruits and vegetables are great, providing a range of vitamins and minerals essential to health. Aim for 5 servings a day, and try to include fruit with meals to maximise iron absorption. Bananas are great on-the-go snacks, providing a boost of energy, potassium, fibre and vitamins.
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McCance RA and Widdowson EM (2002). McCance and Widdowson's The Composition of Foods Sixth Summary Edition. Royal Society of Chemistry.
Webster-Gandy J et al (2011). Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2nd Edition. Oxford University Press.