Pregnancy is a time when moms start to think about their environment, what they are eating, and how they can best support a growing baby. What we eat is an amazing tool we have in our control to support our bodies and the development of our baby throughout pregnancy. But, this can quickly become overwhelming when we start to think about all the nutrients we need.
We all hear about needing folate (aka “folic acid”), B vitamins, iron, and calcium in pregnancy. But there are several lesser known nutrients that play a key role in pregnancy. Not only do these nutrients support our developing babies, but they can also help support mom as her body goes through huge changes.
This is a mineral that helps support muscle growth and repair, supports the immune system, and helps to balance hormones. Zinc is essential to support the rapid growth and development of your baby’s cells. Zinc may also help to reduce the risk of high blood pressure in pregnancy as well as reduce risk for low birth weight.
Where to find it: Crab, turkey, chicken, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and collard greens.
Try this recipe: Smoked Turkey and Collard Green Stew - you could always replace the turkey with chicken!
This is another mineral that assists with tissue growth and repair. Magnesium is also an important mineral for bone health and can play a critical role in the development of your baby’s bones and teeth. Magnesium is important for maternal health, helping to relax muscles (helping fight against those pesky leg cramps).
Where to find it: Spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, avocado, yogurt, figs, and dark chocolate
Try this recipe: Simply add some pumpkin or sunflower seeds, almonds, and/or figs to your morning yogurt or granola mix. Avocado toast is another great option. Smash some avocado on whole wheat bread and top with radishes and seeds (sunflower or pumpkin).
Choline is important during early pregnancy. It has been tied to a decreased risk of neural tube defects. It is a key factor in development of baby’s cells and nervous system, impacting brain and cognitive development.
Where to find it: Eggs, kidney beans, broccoli, spinach
Try this recipe: Spinach and Egg scramble
- 2 eggs
- 1-2 Tbsp milk or water
- 1 handful of frozen spinach, thawed and drained or ~1 cup fresh spinach
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Butter for pan (~1 tbsp)
- Optional: 1-2 Tbsp shredded cheese of choice
- Optional: 2 oz. of canned salmon (great source of Omega-3 Fats - see below!)
- Add 2 eggs, milk/water, and seasonings to a small bowl and whisk eggs
- Melt butter in pan on stove
- Add spinach to pan (if fresh allow to wilt), and salmon if using
- Then add eggs to pan
- Top with cheese, if using
- Stir until eggs are cooked through
FAT! Yes, I’m telling you to eat fat, specifically DHA and EPA Omega-3 fats. This is another nutrient that is crucial for development of a healthy nervous system – including brain development and development of vision.
Where to find it: Salmon, sardines, grass fed beef, flax seeds
Try this recipe: Simple Chocolate Delight (add 2 Tbsp of ground flax seeds into your next smoothie)
- 1 med. Banana
- 2 Tbsp Ground Flax Seeds
- 1 Tbsp Cacao powder
- 1 Tbsp Almond butter
- 2 cups Almond milk
- Ice (per your preference for thickness)
- Combine ingredients in blender.
- Blend until smooth.
Or have a snack of canned sardines - this is a great source of protein and omega-3s.
When you look at the sources of these wonderful nutrients, you see a lot of overlap! If you are getting in a variety of vegetables (especially cruciferous veggies/leafy greens) and protein from trusted sources, you are getting these valuable nutrients to fuel you through your pregnancy.
Food and pregnancy can be challenging between aversions, cravings, heightened sense of smell, heartburn, decreasing space….need I go on? If you are having trouble with any of these things and are working toward starting or maintaining a healthful diet but need guidance and support, I’m here to help!
I offer FREE intro sessions for Health Coaching at Blooma Minneapolis and would be happy to help you through your pregnancy. Schedule your visit here. (Under "Appointment Type" scroll to "Health Coaching")
Written by Margaret Achu – Certified Health Coach, Occupational Therapist, Mama
You can follow me on Instagram @coach_margaret_achu or check out my website margaretachu.com.
*This is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions, please talk to your medical provider regarding any concerns you have regarding nutrition and pregnancy.