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There’s nothing like growing a human to make you straight up ravenous. Yup, pregnancy can take your hunger to extremes you never thought possible. But what exactly should you be eating?
That you should fill your rumbling belly with wholesome, nutritious foods probably comes as no surprise. Still, there are some picks that are especially good for supporting your baby’s development and keeping you feeling your best. Here are 14 you’ll definitely want to load up on.
They’re incredible for all kinds of reasons — and they’re an especially good choice when you’re pregnant.
A single large egg packs 6 grams (g) of high quality protein, which promotes healthy fetal growth and helps boost your blood supply. But that’s not all.
Eggs are also a top source of choline, a mineral that can help support your baby’s brain development. You’ll get 147 milligrams (mg) — around a quarter of what you need in a day — from just one large egg.
Yes, all veggies are a good choice. But leafies like kale, spinach, and chard pack a particularly potent punch: They serve up key pregnancy nutrients, like:
- vitamin C
- vitamin K
- vitamin A
Leafy greens are also linked to a reduced chance of low birth weight. As an added bonus? They’ll help you get closer to your daily fiber goals — there’s nearly 3 g fiber in a single cup of cooked kale — to keep you regular and stave off pregnancy constipation.
Not only is it packed with protein (you’ll get around 8 g per 6-ounce container), Greek yogurt is also loaded with calcium.
That’s important, since your baby needs the mineral to support their growing bones and teeth. And your body will take calcium from your own bones if you don’t supply enough from your diet.
Another perk? Yogurts made with live, active cultures are a good source of probiotics, which are tied to a reduced risk of:
- gestational diabetes
- vaginal infections
Just be sure to pick the plain stuff over flavored varieties, which tend to be high in added sugars.
You probably know they’re a good source of plant-based protein. But beans and legumes like lentils, chickpeas, and black beans are also loaded with folate. This B vitamin can reduce the chance of neural tube defects and low birth weight.
Beans and legumes are also packed with fiber to help keep you regular: Just 3/4 cup of lentils serves up a whopping 8 g of fiber.
Seafood is an important source of nutrients for pregnant women, especially fatty fish. Options like salmon are a top source of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are critical building blocks for your baby’s brain and eyes.
Concerned about mercury? Experts agree the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks during pregnancy. The key is sticking with low mercury options (salmon fits the bill!) and keeping your intake to 8 to 12 ounces per week.
Your baby needs vitamin A to help their tissues grow and develop — and sweet potatoes are a top source.
A medium spud serves up around 300 percent of the vitamin A you need in a day, along with healthy doses of vitamin C and potassium.
They’re a good source of fiber too. Which, in addition to helping fight constipation, can help you stay fuller longer and keep that shaky, low blood sugar feeling at bay.
You need way more iron these days than you did before you were pregnant — around 27 mg per day. And red meat options like lean beef and pork are some of the best ways to get it.
The mineral keeps you energized by helping enough oxygen reach cells throughout your body. What’s more, getting enough can help reduce the chance of premature delivery and low birth weight.
Follow up an iron-rich meal with a bowl of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries for dessert. They’re high in vitamin C, which can help boost iron absorption (not to mention keep your immune system strong, because being sick when you’re pregnant is the pits).
Another plus? Since berries have a high water content, they can help you stay hydrated.
Complex carbohydrates like whole grains digest slowly, so you’ll stay satisfied and energized for hours after eating them. They’re also rich in B vitamins, fiber, and magnesium — a mineral that research shows can help reduce the chance of preterm labor.
Try oatmeal with fruit and milk for breakfast, or use quinoa as the base of a veggie bowl for lunch. Or have a side of brown rice with dinner.
The carbs in bananas provide a quick source of energy when you suddenly feel ravenous, and they can soothe a queasy stomach too. But that’s not all.
Bananas are rich in potassium, a mineral that promotes healthy blood pressure, and can help lower your risk for dangerous pregnancy complications like preeclampsia. (A large ’nana gives you close to 15 percent of what you need for the day.)
That can be beneficial now as well as down the road: One study found that maintaining healthy blood pressure during pregnancy could prevent high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome up to 10 years later.
Have a handful for a snack instead of your usual crackers or pretzels. Almonds pack fiber, protein, and healthy fats — a triple punch that’ll satisfy pregnancy hunger pangs and keep you feeling fuller longer.
Just as good? A 1/4-cup serving of the crunchy nuts will give you more than a third of your daily vitamin E, which findings show is critical for your baby’s brain development.
More guac, please! Avocados are rich in the B vitamin folate, along with healthy monounsaturated fats that help build your baby’s skin, brain, and tissues.
The creamy green fruit has benefits for moms, too. Healthy fats can help you stay satisfied longer so you’re less prone to a case of the hangries. And the potassium in avocados (they’ve got more than bananas, people!) can promote healthy blood pressure, which in turn could reduce your risk for preeclampsia.
You may want to drink up: Studies show maternal milk intake during pregnancy is positively tied to healthy birth weight and length.
Like yogurt, milk is an easy, versatile source of protein and calcium along with other minerals, like phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. Even better? Unlike many yogurts, milk is almost always fortified with tough-to-get-enough-of vitamin D.
It tastes like candy, though that’s definitely not the only reason to love it. Dried fruits like prunes, dates, apricots, and figs are a concentrated source of fuel to keep you energized. They also come with nutrients like potassium, iron, folate, and fiber.
Just keep in mind that they’re also high in calories and natural sugars. Stick to a single serving (usually a handful or so), and avoid varieties made with added sugars.
It’s not technically a food, but it’s pretty darn important. As your blood volume increases during pregnancy, so too do your water needs.
Staying hydrated can help you stay energized and keep headaches at bay, not to mention stave off common pregnancy woes like foggy thinking, constipation, and urinary tract infections.
Pregnant women typically need around 10 additional ounces of water per day, but if you’re thirstier, drink until you’re satisfied.
Got more Q’s about what you should be eating when you’re pregnant? We have answers.
Do pregnant women need to eat more calories?
Your body is growing a human, so yup, your energy needs do go up during pregnancy. But probably not as much as you think.
Most moderate weight pregnant women should aim to get around 1,800 calories during the first trimester, which may be about the same amount as pre-baby.
That number goes up to 2,200 calories during the second trimester and 2,400 calories during the third.
Do you need to eat more often when you’re pregnant?
There’s no rule saying you have to do more than three squares a day. But eating smaller, more frequent mini meals every 3 to 4 hours can help keep your energy levels on an even keel, help prevent heartburn, and stave off blood sugar dips, which are more common when you’re pregnant.
Do your nutrition needs change by trimester?
Your needs for certain nutrients go up during pregnancy. In general, it’s a good idea to focus on getting more foods that are rich in:
Just be sure to steer clear of the typical pregnancy no-nos, like:
- raw eggs
- deli meats
- raw seafood
- unpasteurized juice and cheeses
Do your nutrition needs change if you’re having twins or triplets?
A woman carrying multiples needs more calories than a woman carrying one baby.
Aim to get around 300 additional calories per baby — so 600 extra calories if you’re pregnant with twins. Weight gain should be individualized for triplets and beyond.