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During pregnancy, it’s natural to have increased anxiety and lots of questions. What foods you should be eating shouldn’t be one of these concerns, especially if you make sure to add my Top 10 Pregnancy-Approved Foods listed below to your diet while pregnant (and beyond). It’s easy to get a little lax in the food department while pregnant, especially with all of the unhealthy cravings you may be having (hello, mint chocolate chip ice cream).

This is the time you should be making sure you consume even more nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals than you normally would. Poor eating habits and excessive weight gain could increase the risk of pregnancy complications and gestational diabetes.

Eating healthy during pregnancy will also make it a whole lot easier to lose the pregnancy weight. But, it’s important to remember that how much you eat can be just as important as what you eat. If you’re starting your pregnancy at your healthy weight, you really don’t need extra calories in the first trimester. In the second trimester, you only need around 300 extra calories a day. In the third, you need around 500 extra calories a day.

 My Top Ten Foods to Eat While Preggers:

 1. Yogurt

During pregnancy, it’s so important to get the extra calcium and protein you need for your growing baby. It’s vital for baby’s developing bones, muscles and nerve function. It’s essential to get around 1,200 mg per day (about four servings). Dairy is one of the best sources of dietary calcium and contains two high-quality protein sources - casein and whey.

Yogurt is an awesome choice of dairy for pregnant women because it’s full of great protein, folate, zinc, phosphorus, B-vitamins and probiotic cultures (the good kind of bacteria). Greek yogurt is a great pick because of the amazing probiotics it contains that help promote a healthy gut and it just happens to be delish too.

My Favorite: Fage Greek Yogurt Plain – add berries, nuts, a little whole grain granola = Yum

Pregnant Bite: Yogurt has as much calcium as milk, but its advantage is the good-for-you bacteria that promote a healthy gut. Be sure to look for products that are fortified with Vitamin D, which helps with the absorption of the calcium.

2. Wild Salmon

Salmon is a wonderful protein choice for a pregnant mama. It contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that are central for both eye and brain development in a growing baby. Many pregnant women do not get enough Omega-3 or Vitamin D in their diet. Salmon is also one of the few natural sources of Vitamin D.

My favorite: Bake salmon in your oven well done with some pepper and lemon. Serve with greens and you have a delish dinner for baby and you.

Pregnant Nibble: Wild-caught salmon is awesome, but unfortunately there are multiple fish that are big no-no’s for pregnant women due to the potentially high levels of toxins like mercury and dioxin. During pregnancy, skip grouper, swordfish, king mackerel, shark, fresh tuna, sea bass, mahi-mahi, and tilefish. Let salmon be your new best friend.

3. Dark Green Veggies

Be sure that the foods you choose are nutritious and beneficial ones. Dark, green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and kale, contain the fiber, vitamins C, K, A, calcium, iron, potassium, folate and amazing antioxidants that pregnant women need. Plus the fiber helps to prevent constipation.

My favorite: Eat spinach daily with your proteins. Eat raw veggies earlier in the day (lunch and/or snack) and steam or bake your greens for dinner.

Pregnant Nibble: Don’t leave out all of the other incredible fruits and vegetables that also are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Every day your plate should look like a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to ensure your baby is getting the nutrients needed to optimize development to grow. Carrots, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, avocados, mangoes, bananas…the list of good-for-you veggies and fruits is endless. All oh so good for your babe and you!

 4. Oats

Eating whole grains, especially oats, does a pregnant woman’s body good. Whole grains are packed with vitamins, plant compounds, and much-needed fiber. Whole grains are also rich in magnesium, complex carbs and B vitamins, which are often lacking in our diets.

My favorite: A bowl of cooked old-fashioned oats with berries and nuts makes an amazing breakfast for two.

Oats are an awesome whole grain choice because they are full of fiber, B vitamins, iron and tons of other minerals. Oats are super easy to add to your breakfast bowl, pancakes, muffins, yogurt and even on your meats and berry bowls.

Pregnant Nibble: Make it a goal to eat a variety of whole grains. Your baby will enjoy brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat, barley and even air-popped popcorn.

5. Lean Meats

Protein is filled with the amino acids that are the building blocks of every cell in both your body and your growing baby’s. It’s important to get lean, high-quality meats into your diet, especially while pregnant. Lean cuts of beef, chicken, and pork are amazing high-quality protein sources. High-protein foods help keep your hunger under control by stabilizing your blood sugar. Try to aim for around three servings (around 3 oz per serving) of protein per day. A little of protein goes a long way.

Beef and pork are rich in iron, choline and other B vitamins. Iron delivers oxygen to all the cells in this body. Did you know that your blood volume can increase by as much as 50 percent when you’re pregnant? Wow! Iron also helps build your baby’s brain by strengthening nerve connections.

Pregnant Nibble: Substitute quinoa, lentils, and beans, if you’re not a big meat eater, or maybe try a few bites of lean filet or a lean pork chop …you just may really enjoy the meats during pregnancy.

Pregnant Bite: If you just can’t stomach meat while pregnant or are vegetarian, there are many iron-rich options: dark leafy greens, quinoa, lentils, cooked dried beans, dried fruit, and tofu. Make sure you are eating foods rich in Vitamin C too, such as oranges or bell peppers, as they may help increase absorption of your iron-rich meals.

6. Berries

Berries are a must for almost all diets. They do the body GREAT! Berries are packed with Vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, water, healthy carbs and wonderful plant compounds. They are loaded with Vitamin C, which is awesome for healthy skin, your immune system and helps the body absorb much-needed iron during pregnancy.

My favorite: Add lots of high fiber raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries to breakfast and lunch!

Pregnant Nibble: Berries are such an easy and great snack! They are packed with nutrients, low in calories, help to curb sugar cravings and are full of water and fiber. Enjoy several cups full each day!

7. Unsalted Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds are powerhouse snacks. They’re full of super important minerals and vitamins. Even though they’re high in fat, it’s mostly the good-for-you and baby kinds of fat. They’re high in calcium, vitamin E, copper, potassium, manganese, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.

My favorite: A little baggie, tucked in my purse, is filled with plain, salt-free pistachios, almonds, pumpkin seeds and cashews for an on-the-go snack.

Pregnant Nibble: You can go a little nuts with nuts so make sure you keep your intake in check. A ¼ cup is a smart serving size. If you’re having trouble gaining the needed pregnancy weight then you can move up to ½ cup of nuts.  

8. Lentils

Lentils are packed with folic acid, a B vitamin that is super important for pregnant women. Folic acid is vital to forming your baby’s nervous system and brain. Lentils are rich in iron, protein, Vitamin B6 and calcium. Just one cup of lentils may provide around 65-90% of a pregnant woman’s recommended amount of folate. YAY!

My favorite: Lentils are part of the legume family – so are peas, beans, soybean, and chickpeas. I happen to love chickpeas and make sure to add to my salads. Hummus is made from chickpeas and a family favorite.

Pregnant Nibble: If you really don’t like legumes, you can still get folate from spinach and other folate-fortified foods like cereal, pasta, rice and whole grain bread. Plus make sure you're taking those important prenatal vitamins.

9. Avocado

Avocados get their own special section because they are a super fruit filled with a lot of fiber, B vitamins (especially folate), Vitamin K, monounsaturated fatty acids, potassium, copper, Vitamin E and Vitamin C. Avocados are an awesome choice for pregnant women. The healthy fats in avocados help build the beautiful brain, skin, and tissue of your growing baby.

My favorite: Sliced avocado is added to my salads and smeared on whole grain bread to replace mayo in my sandwiches.

Pregnant Nibble: The high Vitamin B6 counts in avocados have been said to aid with morning sickness. Additionally, avocados are high in potassium (more than bananas!) and may help relieve leg cramps.

10. Water

Yes, water is not a food, but it’s such an important health nutrient that it earned its own section. Getting enough water for you and your baby should be a top priority. Water has endless benefits. Water keeps you hydrated (dehydration can cause early labor), builds new cells, delivers nutrients, flushes toxins, helps relieve constipation and reduces the risk of urinary tract infections.

My favorite: Carry a 32-ounce bottle of water around with you and be sure to fill it 2-3 times in a day. When pregnant you need around 34-67 ounces of water. Strive to reach the upper level.

Pregnant Nibble: If 34-68 ounces feels like too much at first, milk, soup and teas all count. Even fruits and veggies may count because of their high water content.

 The Take-Away Pregnancy Bite:

What you choose to eat during pregnancy affects you and your baby in big ways, especially your energy, your baby’s health and development and your overall wellbeing. Gaining weight during pregnancy is needed and normal, but it’s super important to gain weight in the healthiest way possible by choosing nutrient-dense healthy foods. Your baby will thank you!

Karina Heinrich