We all have the same humble beginnings - a mass of rapidly developing cells miraculously transforming into “US”. For these cells to perform the lifelong task of maintaining a healthy body, you need to eat and eat right. Especially during pregnancy when you take up the role of the “official eater”. By eating power foods bursting with goodness, not only do you keep your body healthy, but also invest in the developing baby.
As a mum, you are in a great position to set healthy eating habits for generations to come. Healthy and nutrient-rich family foods will provide the key building blocks to your child’s development. Our digestive system is ill-equipped to cope with heavily processed, hydrogenated and chemical-laden food that, at times, has had every bit of micronutrient stripped away from it. In fact, some of these foods actually rob us of nutrients so we end up being less nourished after eating them. Surely, that can't be right!
We tend to classify foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on the number of calories it has. Instead we must try and focus on what nutrients and natural goodness a food has. Pregnancy, is more often than not, a time when we truly connect with our appetites and ‘cravings’ for certain foods. It is a marvelous opportunity to scrutinize diet and make positive food choices for optimum health.
Power foods have additional benefits beyond their nutritional content and are rich sources of several significant micronutrients. A healthy diet during pregnancy should focus on optimizing micronutrient density within a healthy calorie intake.
Here’s a list of foods that should dominate your meals during pregnancy:
EGGS: They are among the best sources of protein and contain amino acids, essential for both baby and you. Eggs are packed with a number of vitamins and minerals such as choline which promote development of the baby's brain. Make sure you do not consume undercooked or raw eggs though.
YOGHURT / MILK / BUTTERMILK: Make sure your intake of milk/yoghurt/buttermilk is regular. They contain calcium and proteins. Avoid flavored yoghurts as they contain added sugars. Make your yoghurt more nutritious by adding fruits or whole-grain cereal.
BEANS: Beans of all kind - black, white, black-eyed, kidney and soy are good for you. Add them to gravies, salads, pastas or any other meals. They are full of protein, fiber and essential nutrients like iron, folate, calcium and zinc.
LENTILS: Like beans, lentils are a good source of folic acid, protein, vitamin B6 and iron. Lentils promote good health. Eating high fiber foods like lentils, lowers cholesterol and reduces your risk of heart disease as well.
Spinach is a great source of folate and iron.
Broccoli - Being rich in calcium and folate, broccoli is a must-have power food during pregnancy. It is also rich in fiber, Vitamin C, antioxidants, and several other nutrients. It also helps in absorbing iron from other foods.
Avocado - It is actually a fruit, but is mostly consumed as a vegetable. It is very high in potassium, even higher than bananas, has the richest fiber content among fruits, chock full of monounsaturated fats and is the highest fruit source of vitamin E.
Fennel - This wonder plant stimulates the body’s natural detoxifying process, especially working on the liver. Fennel’s high potassium content helps rebalance the body’s fluid levels.
Opt for dark colored high vitamin lettuces and other leafy greens to add to your salads and sandwiches.
Carrots (and any other orange fruit or vegetable e.g. pepper, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potato, mango) are rich in beta-carotene and Vitamin C. They help protect against cancer, heart disease, promote healthy skin and eyesight.
Tomatoes - This lutein and lycopene-rich food is a great energy booster along with being essential for healthy eyes.
SEEDS AND SPICES:
Super rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 oils, seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin and flaxseed, help protect against heart disease. They also boost immunity and promote healthy skin.
Garlic - This powerful antioxidant helps remove toxins from the body, reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure and protect the heart.
Berries - Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are delicious and full of antioxidants. Add them to your breakfast or eat them plain. Berries contain Vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber.
Bananas - Pregnancy can make you feel fatigued, so bananas, that are high in potassium content, provide a quick energy boost. They are also easy to digest, especially when you are nauseated. Eat them whole or slice them up and add to fortified cereal, smoothies or low fat yoghurt.
Oranges - Oranges are composed of nearly 90% water so they effectively help you meet your daily fluid requirements. Dehydration makes pregnancy fatigue worse. They also contain Vitamin C, folate and fiber.
Coconut - Juice and meat of coconut act as anti-virals and anti-bacterials. Coconut oil is a rich source of fatty acids.
Apples - Apples are rich in pectin, a soluble fibre which lowers blood cholesterol levels and promotes healthy bowel function. They are also abundant in the immune-boosting Vitamin C.
Kiwifruit - Jam-packed with Vitamin C and several other vital nutrients, the kiwifruit is a good addition to your fruit palate.
OATS: Oats are composed of complex carbohydrates that keep you full for longer. Oat bran helps lower your cholesterol and its energy is slowly released into the bloodstream helping keep blood sugar levels constant and stable. The fiber also helps against haemorrhoids. Buy plain oats, not sugary flavored ones, and start your day with real power food!
Lean meat - You need to double your iron intake during pregnancy, so it is important to consume iron- rich foods and fight the fatigue. Iron from meat is easily absorbed by your body. Make sure that the meat is cooked thoroughly to kill bacteria and avoid processed meats completely.
Oily fish (mackerel,sardines, fresh tuna, salmon) are loaded with Omega 3, that aids the development of the baby’s brain and eye function. It is also associated with reducing risk of premature birth, post-natal depression and improving immunity.
DRY FRUITS: Dried Fruits are healthy on-the-go snacks that will satisfy your sugar cravings. They are a good source of iron and protein and are rich in fibre, especially those with brown skins, which can treat constipation, a common problem faced by pregnant women.
Walnuts - They are an excellent source of plant-based Omega 3 fatty acids, protein and fibre. Walnuts aid the development of your baby's brain and eyes. They help lower blood cholesterol levels and raise the level of the good ones.
Apricots - They are a great source of calcium folate, iron and magnesium, required to help convert food into energy. The fibre in the fruit can help regulate bowel movements. They are also a great source of beta carotene, key for the development of baby’s vision and skin and also helps boost immunity.
Almonds - Almonds are loaded with magnesium, Vitamin E and manganese. Studies have shown that when pregnant mothers ate lots of nuts, babies were less likely to develop allergies and asthma later in life.
Perhaps this should have been the first recommendation! There are a multitude of benefits to drinking a healthy quantity of water during pregnancy. It flushes excess sodium from your system, hydrates the body and facilitates the flow of nutrients to the baby. Regular intake of water is also required to replenish the amniotic fluid. It helps prevent hypertension, cardiovascular disease, constipation, hemorrhoids and premature birth.
Green Tea - A powerful antioxidant to help detoxify and boost your body systems.
The most important thing about food is – one should not stress about it! Just eat a healthy variety, keep it interesting, and relax. Food is to be enjoyed, not to be stressed about.