From the moment you see those two pink lines appear, your perspective starts to shift. Suddenly every choice can start to seem more significant. You might start looking at eating in a whole new light and with that new perspective often comes more questions.
- Do I really need to eat for two? (and what does that even mean?!)
- Are there things I should stop eating now that I’m pregnant?
- What should I be focusing on in my diet?
It can feel overwhelming. However, it is possible for food to be a source of joy and health during pregnancy, rather than stress.
Eating for two doesn’t mean simply doubling your calories or arbitrarily eating “more”. While your calorie needs do increase in pregnancy, focusing just on the amount of food is a missed opportunity to truly nourish during this stage. This is because some nutrients become even more significant when it comes to promoting baby’s development. It can be a beautiful mindset shift to consider how eating can benefit not only mom, but baby as well.
Usually, one of the first things you’ll hear about prenatal nutrition is the list of foods to avoid. The emphasis on what foods to add into your diet during pregnancy is much more encouraging than the typical list of “off-limit” foods commonly focused on. However, for the safest pregnancy it is important to be aware of some of the foods that would be best avoided or minimized such as:
- Raw or undercooked meats and fish
- Unwashed produce
- High mercury fish (think swordfish, shark, bigeye tuna)
- Unpasteurized dairy and juices
This list really stems from the goal of reducing the risk of foodborne illness by cooking food thoroughly and ensuring that products have been processed safely to reduce possible exposure to bacteria. The other consideration is reducing risk of potential toxins such as mercury and alcohol which are known to be harmful for fetal development. If you have questions about what food is safe for pregnancy, work with your doctor or a prenatal dietitian.
But now, let’s talk about the foods we DO want to focus on.
It can be helpful to look at some food choices through the lens of which nutrients are especially beneficial during pregnancy. Although nutrient content isn’t the only consideration that matters when it comes to eating (taste and convenience matter too!), having the knowledge of what nutrients are meaningful for prenatal health can help you make the most informed choices.
Here are a few of the top nutrients to prioritize during pregnancy:
Iron for pregnancy
Iron needs in pregnancy increase by 50% so it is clear that this nutrient is critical. Iron is necessary for producing red blood cells and transporting oxygen throughout the body. Given the increase in blood volume to nourish the growing baby it makes sense that iron is so important.
Foods to focus on for iron: beef, oysters, beans, lentils, oats
Try Agni’s Ginger Molasses Cookies containing iron-rich ingredients like chickpea flour, oat flour, and blackstrap molasses.
Choline for pregnancy
Choline is a vital nutrient in pregnancy for baby’s brain and neural tube development and optimal functioning of the placenta. Since many prenatal vitamins don’t contain enough choline to meet the recommended 450mg per day in pregnancy, it’s important to consider dietary sources as well.2,3
Foods to focus on for choline: liver, eggs, chicken, soybeans
Looking for a delicious alternative to your standard scrambled eggs? Have your choline-rich eggs in the form of French toast and sprinkle on some Cinnamon Maca Seasoning for a serious flavor upgrade.
Folate for pregnancy
Folate is one of the most commonly talked about prenatal nutrients. And for good reason! Consuming enough folate is essential for the prevention of neural tube defects and to support DNA synthesis and healthy cell division. Research also shows that not consuming enough folate could be a risk factor for miscarriage. 4,5
Foods to focus on for folate: spinach, brussels sprouts, avocado, grains, seeds
Get a boost from these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies featuring oats, millet flour, flaxseed and hemp seeds.
Iodine for pregnancy
Iodine is a key nutrient for thyroid health which is especially important in pregnancy. Thyroid hormone production is important for baby’s brain development and overall growth making iodine relevant for both mom and baby’s wellbeing.6
Foods to focus on for iodine: seaweed, cod fish, yogurt, eggs
Add Sesame Nori Seasoning to eggs, tuna salad, or a savory yogurt dip for an iodine-packed option!
Figuring out how to eat for yourself plus a new little life growing inside of you can feel overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to be! It can be an exciting opportunity to give yourself the gift of nourishment and delicious foods at the same time. Agni’s new Pregnancy Box is filled with tasty options to help you do just that!
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of dietary supplements - iron. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.
- Korsmo HW, Jiang X, Caudill MA. Choline: Exploring the Growing Science on Its Benefits for Moms and Babies. Nutrients. 2019;11(8):1823. Published 2019 Aug 7. doi:10.3390/nu11081823
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of dietary supplements - choline. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of dietary supplements - folate. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.
- Gaskins AJ, Rich-Edwards JW, Hauser R, et al. Maternal prepregnancy folate intake and risk of spontaneous abortion and stillbirth. Obstet Gynecol. 2014;124(1):23-31. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000000343
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of dietary supplements - iodine. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements.