As soon as we see that first positive pregnancy test, our first thought goes to - What should I eat to keep my baby healthy? All of our diet plans are thrown out the window to make sure that we have a healthy balanced diet. While eating for two does mean a few extra calories daily, about 300 during the second trimester and 450 during the third trimester, it does not mean you should add an extra large bag of potato chips!
So what should you be eating? Here are some recommendations on what to include in your maternity eating plan.
Go with leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale, chard and dandelion greens, which contain folate, a key B vitamin. During the early stages of pregnancy, folate helps prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida. Later in pregnancy, folate reduces the risk of preterm labor or low birthweight babies.
Here's what you can make with leafy greens: Think beyond salads... Tear up pieces of kale, sprinkle them with olive oil and a bit of sea salt, and roast them in the oven at 350 F for 15 minutes or until crisp, for a healthy version of chips. Throw chard into soups to add a bit of fiber. You can make a delicious smoothie by combining spinach, blueberries, almond milk and Greek yogurt.
Say yes to yogurt which is high in calcium and will help build baby's bones. If you do not get enough calcium in your diet, your baby will start to steal yours. So it is very important to keep your calcium levels up by consuming calcium rich foods. It is known that having sufficient levels of calcium can help prevent pre-eclampsia, a serious condition in which blood pressure rises to dangerous levels. In addition to calcium, yogurt is loaded with friendly bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, that helps your digestive system work smoothly.
Here's what you can make with yogurt: Use plain Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise to make chicken, tuna, or pasta salads. You can also use yogurt as a dip for fresh fruit or vegetables. Or make tomato soup creamier by stirring in a quarter cup of yogurt.
Have iron fortified cereals as both you and your baby need plenty of iron during pregnancy. You need it because your blood volume doubles and your baby needs it to develop his blood supply. Cereals are also packed with fiber, which helps your digestion stay regular and help in regulating blood sugar levels to prevent gestational diabetes.
Here's what to look for in cereals: Not all cereals are created equal, so keep in mind to look out for whole grain cereals. Whole grain cereals should have at least 3 grams of dietary fiber and less than 7 grams of sugar per serving. The first three ingredients should include whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal and whole wheat.
Sear up some salmon which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA which is a critical ingredient in helping develop baby's eyes and brain. A recent British study found that babies born to mothers who ate salmon during pregnancy had lower rates of asthma than the children of pregnant women who did not eat the oily fish. Salmon may also be beneficial after pregnancy as published in a recent study in the Journal of Affective Disorders. This study found that postpartum depression is lower in countries that consume the most seafood.
Important note: Salmon is relatively low in mercury compared to other fish. Fish containing high levels of mercury can be harmful to the developing fetus and should be avoided. Some fish highest in mercury include shark, swordfish, orange roughy, bigeye tuna, marlin and king mackerel. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advise pregnant women to avoid these fish during pregnancy.
Here's how to use salmon in your meals: Cooked salmon can be eaten hot or cold. Try salmon patties topped with Greek yogurt sauce, add dill or curry spice or have it with salsa. You can also add salmon to salads and update that mac and cheese by stirring in cooked salmon.