We share the top 10 superfoods that will help you glow throughout your pregnancy.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is a near essential when you're expecting, even if you're taking an antenatal supplement. While it's often easier said than done, including plenty of natural, fresh ingredients in your diet will make a big difference to both your own and your baby's health and well being, not to mention your energy levels.
To help you get started with healthier eating we've chosen our top 10 super foods for pregnancy. By regularly including these as part of a varied diet you can help to give your baby the best start in life.
Wholegrains such as brown rice, pasta and bread, oats, quinoa and millet are higher in both fibre and nutrients than the processed grains we often include in our diets. They release energy more slowly, helping to keep your blood sugar levels stable and so prevent the energy slumps that leave you feeling lacklustre. Wholegrain foods are also full of iron and B vitamins and when eaten regularly can help to prevent the uncomfortable constipation that many women suffer with during pregnancy. It's quite simple to include more wholegrains in your diet just choose brown bread, brown pasta and brown rice over the white varieties, eat oats and wholegrain cereals for breakfast and experiment with different grains such as quinoa for a healthy change.
High in folate, a must have nutrient for expectant Mums, regularly eating broccoli, spinach, spring greens, cabbage and kale as well as taking a folic acid supplement will help to reduce the risk of your baby developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Leafy greens are also rich in iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium, all essential for your baby's healthy development. Lightly steam your greens so they hold onto as many nutrients as possible or, if they're not your favourite, include them in soups, casseroles and curries or stir fry them with a little garlic, orange zest or ginger to make them a little more appealing.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, the list goes on and all are fantastic for your pregnant body. Eaten in yogurt, on cereal or as an easy snack, berries are bursting with antioxidants, folates, fibre and vitamin C and make for a delicious way to load up on nutrients. If you find they're a little expensive to buy on a weekly basis try looking for special offers in the supermarket or go for a ready frozen batch of red berries as these tend to be cheaper, but do make sure you check that they're free from added sugar or additives.
Pulses such as chickpeas, beans and lentils are a great source of vegetable protein and make for an easy, cheap nutritious meal when added to curries, casseroles and chillies which is fantastic if you're budgeting. Pulses are a great source of fibre, folate and calcium, important for helping your baby's bone to grow strong, not to mention being a great source of potassium and zinc, a nutrient that is important for cell growth and energy production.
You can't fail to have missed the Omega 3 hype and oily, fresh water fish are frequently dubbed super foods for good reason. Two servings of fresh tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring or sardines a week can do wonders for your baby's neurological development and, according to the Food Standards Agency, may even give their mental development a boost too.
For a quick, healthy snack, bananas are ideal (get a banana protector to stop them from squishing in your handbag!). They make for a nutritious energy boost and are great sliced on porridge, cereal and toast or blended into a smoothie. Bananas are also a particularly rich source of potassium which helps to control the balance of fluids in your body so they're great for reducing water retention and may also help to keep your blood pressure on an even keel.
Eating yogurt is a great way to give your calcium stores a boost especially if you're not keen on milk. As your baby draws on the calcium stored in your own bones to form and grow his or her own, it's important to keep your supply topped up to reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. Low fat yogurt tends to be just as rich in calcium as full fat varieties but it's important to choose options without added sweeteners or sugars for maximum health benefits.
Sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds are great for snacking and adding to cereal and salads and are bursting with good-for-you-and-baby nutrients. They're a rich vegetable supply of essential omega fatty acids as well as potassium, zinc, iron, calcium and a whole other range of vitamins. Try grinding them in a coffee grinder and stirring them into soups and stews if you're not keen while coupling them with dried fruit gives you instant trail mix.
When cooked properly (until both white and yolk are solid) eggs provide a great source of protein and are full of vitamins D and A. They are also a good vegetarian source of B12, an essential vitamin that is not only important for building red blood cells and maintaining a healthy nervous system but also for processing the folic acid your baby needs to develop healthily. Eggs can also be used to form the basis of many a quick and simple dinner when you're in need of a nutritious bite but are too tired to cook. From Spanish omelettes to scrambled eggs on toast, eggy bread to courgette fritters the options are delicious, nutritious and endless!
Another handy snack that's great for a natural energy boost, apricots are full of iron and are a good source of folate, calcium and magnesium, a mineral that helps our bodies turn food into energy. As they're full of fibre they can also help to keep bowel movements regular, not to mention being an excellent source of beta carotene, the plant based form of vitamin A that's safe to consume in pregnancy (animal based sources such as cod liver oil aren't recommended for consumption while you're expecting). Beta carotene helps to strength your immune system and assists your baby in both developing their own immunity as well as their skin and vision.
Do you find it hard to eat healthily? Whether you have any questions about eating for pregnancy or have a handy tip or delicious recipe that you can share with other's, why not visit the AskBaby forums for a chat?