As a first-time mom-to-be (35 weeks and counting) and registered dietitian, eating a healthy diet took on a whole new meaning when I became pregnant. I realized that my eating decisions would impact not only my own body, but also would have a major impact on the growth and development of my quickly growing baby. With so many things about pregnancy outside of my control, I could control my eating decisions and I wanted to make smart choices.
Like most first-time moms, I started collecting mountains of pregnancy books, from The Pregnancy Countdown Book to Names to Grow On: Choosing A Name Your Baby Will Love (with more than 25,000 names and yet we’re still not decided!), as well as numerous books about the importance of nutrition during pregnancy.
A common misconception during pregnancy has to do with the saying “eating for two,” which implies that you can eat twice as many calories, enough for mom and baby. Talk about a dream come true for a food lover, right!? But, the fact is that the body only requires about 300 extra calories a day (sigh) in the second and third trimester in addition to the calories the body requires to maintain weight (the average calorie needs for an adult are about 2,000 calories day, and varies on a number of factors including gender, age and physical activity level). Really, that’s not much in the context of a day’s worth of calories making it important to get your “nutrient bang” for your calorie choices.
So, in addition to taking prenatal vitamins upon doctor’s orders, I’m making a conscious effort to plan ahead and incorporate nutrient-rich “superfoods” in my meals and snacks to get the most beneficial nutrients for my calories.
Some of the superfoods on my shopping list include:
- Avocados – I love that avocados are full of the “good” poly and mono-unsaturated fats which are important building blocks for the baby’s brain development, especially important during the second and third trimester.
- Eggs – I find that eggs are really easy to prepare for a filling breakfast or a quick dinner. And, egg yolks contain choline which is a nutrient that helps the baby’s brain cells develop properly.
- Fat-Free Greek Yogurt – I can’t get enough of the rich flavor and consistency of Greek yogurt and the fact that it is packed with about twice as much protein as regular yogurt makes it even better. Greek yogurt is my “go-to” for a satisfying snack or addition to a main meal.
- Fish – Many types contain essential omega-3 fatty acids including DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) which are critical for the baby’s brain and eye development. I’ve been mindful of mercury consumption during pregnancy so my favorite types of fish with low levels include pollock, salmon and tilapia.
- Strawberries – Juicy and sweet is the perfect solution for my cravings these days. I add strawberries to everything from yogurt to salads. And only one cup packs a day’s worth of vitamin C, not to mention other beneficial plant compounds like phytochemicals and dietary fiber. I like to add sliced strawberries to quinoa with raisins for a fiber-filled snack which can help keep things moving along down there. (Pregnant ladies, we all know we can use all the help we can get when it comes to our adjusted plumbing system!)
While my fridge is full of these ingredients, I have to admit that cooking after a long day of work is one of the last things on my list these days. But, with some creativity, I’ve found a handful of quick and easy recipes — including these “Schiller-Style Baked Fish Tacos” that appeal to my prego palate and satisfy my husband’s appetite as well.
What are your favorite recipes to make and eat during pregnancy? Do you have any specific food cravings during pregnancy?
Disclosure: I work for the public relations firm that represents the California Strawberry Commission and California Avocado Commission. I love eating strawberries and avocados regardless of my work with these groups and I was not compensated to write this post.