There is never a more important time in life to eat healthfully than when you’re eating for two, but figuring out how to get all the vitamins and nutrients needed to create and nurture a life often makes mom-to-be meal-planning feel like a full-time job. Faced with a long list of what not to eat—including raw meat, eggs and fish (sayonara sushi!); mercury-high fish; deli meat; and soft cheeses—and pesky cravings for anything salty, sweet or spicy, we can have difficulties getting the foods we need to not only keep our bodies primed for pregnancy, but also to keep the little bun in our oven happy and healthy.
“While your baby is developing inside of you, you can create and build a solid foundation for her by the foods you consume,” explains doula and LivingHealthy expert Lori Bregman, who coached Molly Sims through both of her pregnancies. “Certain foods have healing qualities that feed and nurture both your body and your growing baby.” She uses the example of avocados, which are not only high in good fats that are excellent for the brain development of your baby, but also help with pregnancy memory and stabilizing moods for the mom-to-be.
Bregman, whose first book, The Mindful Mom-to-Be, hits bookshelves in August 2015, put together a list of nine pregnancy foods that every expecting mother should be eating—and if they aren’t, can easily incorporate into their diet.
1. Organic pasture-raised eggs: Naturally high in protein (which helps promote healthy tissue growth, the building block of the body), omega-3 fatty acids (for healthy brain development) and choline (for healthy muscle and nerve function), eggs should be a staple for any mama-to-be. “The reason I suggest buying organic pasture-raised eggs is because the chickens that lay them roam around free on organic green pastures and naturally eat the earth, plants, grass and bugs as well as certified organic feed, which makes the eggs 100 percent organic and pesticide-, herbicide- and chemical-free,” Bregman explains. She adds that pasture-raised eggs have four to six times more vitamin D, three times more omega-3s, seven times more beta-carotene, four times more vitamin E and one-third less cholesterol compared to regular eggs. “And they taste better, too!” she says. And for those who fear the egg yolk, Bregman suggests you learn to love it. “Most of the nutritional value is in the yolk, so if you’re just eating the egg white, you’ll be consuming protein and not much else.”
2. Beans and lentils: Legumes are a great source of protein as well as folate, which promotes healthy DNA. They are also high in fiber, which helps ease constipation, as well as iron, which you need to maintain healthy blood.
3. Avocados: Rich in good, healthy fats, these fruits are packed with omegas, which aid in optimal brain development for your baby and help ease depression and sharpen memory in the mom-to-be. Avocados are also high in potassium, which alleviates leg and muscle cramps, as well as a great source of fiber to help keep your bowels moving.
4. ALL leafy greens: “My favorites are kale, which is high in calcium for strong teeth and bones, and spinach, because it’s rich in iron and folate,” Bregman says.
5. Wild salmon: High in protein and calcium and rich in omegas (omega-3 is crucial for fetal brain development), wild-caught fish is a great entrée option for pregnant women. Why opt for wild over farmed? In addition to health concerns raised in recent years that farmed salmon has more pollutants, cancer-causing chemicals, and risky contaminants and antibiotics, USDA data states that a small fillet of wild salmon has 121 fewer calories, 50 percent less total fat and 20.5 percent less saturated fat than the farmed kind.
6. Walnuts and almonds: These nuts are rich in omega-3s and antioxidants. “Almonds are also loaded with vitamin E, magnesium and calcium,” Bregman adds.
7. Chia seeds: “These little seeds might be tiny, but they’re packed full of lots of goodness like antioxidants, calcium, protein and fiber,” Bregman exclaims. They also have omega-3 fatty acids, and they’re easy to incorporate into your diet. We suggest sprinkling them in yogurt or adding them to your juice or smoothie.
8. Asparagus: This spring veggie is not only low in calories and sodium, and a good source of calcium, magnesium and zinc, but it’s also super high in folic acid, which can help prevent certain birth defects.
9. Organic Greek yogurt: High in protein, calcium and potassium, Greek yogurt is a great source of B-12 for energy, and probiotics, which are essential for maintaining a healthy gut.
Beverly Hills ob-gyn Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, MD, endorsed this list, and added, “All animal products should be organic and grass-fed if at all possible, because pesticides that can act as hormone disruptors may accumulate in the tissues and by-products (think dairy). Why expose yourself or your fetus to that if you can avoid it? I’m not a vegan, but fat and protein can be obtained via non-animal sources as well.”
However, she takes it a step further, explaining that her “big push” is that women incorporate these foods and focus on nutrition not only after they conceive, but three months prior. So, before you get pregnant, not only do you have to take your prenatals, but you have to start practicing eating for two.