If you’re looking to boost the health of you and your babe, here are 26 tasty ways to make it happen.
A is for avocado
Everyone’s favorite guacamole star is chock-full of three big pregnancy players: potassium, which is important for combating exhaustion and those pesky middle-of-the-night leg cramps; omega-3 fatty acids, a vital component of baby’s brain development; and lutein, an antioxidant that protects the nerve tissue of the brain and is critical in baby’s eye development.
Good to know: Avocados’ rich fat content makes it easier for the body to absorb certain vitamins, so eating them in conjunction with other good-for-you foods increases your gains.
B is for berries
Toss a handful of nutrient-rich berries (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry—your choice!) into your smoothie or on top of your salad to load up on vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber. Concentrated amounts of disease-fighting phytochemicals boost your immunity and protect your heart.
C is for cherry
These bite-sized fruits are rich in potassium, boast anti-inflammatory properties and have a nice kick of dietary fiber. As a natural source of the snooze-inducing hormone melatonin, they might even help you sleep better.
D is for dark chocolate
When you’ve just gotta have chocolate, reach for a bar of the dark stuff. A higher percentage of cocoa means a higher amount of flavonols, which research has shown lower blood pressure and improve vascular and cognitive function. You’ll also find iron, magnesium, copper and antioxidants galore. The only downside? Portion control is imperative because chocolate is loaded with sugar and calories.
E is for egg
Protein is a necessary component of a healthy diet—particularly during pregnancy, when your body is responsible for building baby’s tissues and bones—and there’s perhaps no better tasting place to find it than the incredible edible egg. Eggs are also a source of choline, which is beneficial for baby’s brain development.
F is for flaxseed
One of the richest sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, these tiny treasures provide fiber, protein, iron, potassium and zinc in a single scoop.
G is for ginger
Pregnancy and nausea go hand in hand, but you’ll find a natural ally in ginger, thanks to its power to relieve tummy troubles. In case its magical stomach-soothing properties aren’t enough, it also fights inflammation and stimulates circulation.
H is for hummus
This blend of mashed chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic is a heart-healthy mix of good-for-you grub that’s perfect for pairing with raw veggies (super- foods in their own right). The chickpeas are a prime source of vegetable-based iron and are also a complex carbohydrate, which means they’ll fill you up and provide long-lasting energy without any pesky spikes and dips in blood sugar.
I is for Incan golden berry
These small Peruvian berries are low in calories, rich in vitamins, and high in antioxidants and bioflavonoids. Just add them to your salad or trail mix the same way you would any other dried fruit for a citrusy, sweet-then-sour blast of flavor.
J is for jalapeno pepper
If you can stomach the burn, these spicy peppers are a lush source of vitamins A and C. If you’re dealing with rhinitis of pregnancy (or, in layman’s terms, a stuffy nose), some jalapeno noshing might help you breathe a bit easier. However, if you’re suffering from heartburn, steer clear—and know that discomfort from spicy foods might increase in your third trimester.
K is for kale
No surprise here: This leafy green is a staple on any superfood list, thanks to its fiber count (up to 5 grams in a cup), iron levels (it boasts more than beef!) and vitamin array (A, C and K are all found in abundance). Furthermore, it’s high in calcium and folate—two musts for moms-to-be.
L is for lentils
High levels of soluble and insoluble fiber make lentils a winning pick. Slightly nutty and earthy in flavor, they’re also good providers of folate and magnesium.
Good to know … Lentils contain the second highest ratio of protein per calorie of any legume. (Soybeans take the top spot.)
M is for milk
Known as one of the best bone-builders around, milk is a must for expectant moms. Willow Jarosh, RD, and Stephanie Clarke, RD, co-authors of Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook and advisors to wellness brand Healthy Mama, explain, “While calcium needs don’t increase during pregnancy, if you don’t get enough from your diet or supplements, baby takes what he needs from your bones.” That’s reason enough to drink up, mamas.
N is for nectarine
Nectarines are a great source of beta- carotene, vitamins A and C, fiber and potassium—and they’re tasty to boot.
O is for orange juice
A glass of the good stuff introduces vitamin C, folate and potassium. Opt for added calcium and vitamin D if you’re buying it off the shelf.
P is for prune
If you’re suffering from pregnancy-induced constipation, allow us to introduce your new best friend: the often-underappreciated prune. The dried plums are high in fiber, so they help keep things moving, and provide iron and the mineral boron, which helps build strong bones and muscles (and may also improve mental acuity).
Q is for quinoa
Another Incan treasure, this once rare supergrain has become a mainstay in American diets. It’s a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids, is high in fiber (it boasts almost twice as much as most other grains) and is rich in magnesium and iron.
R is for radish
These red orbs often get lost at the bottom of a salad, but they have some benefits that make them worth digging up. Radishes are a natural diuretic, making them good for your urinary tract and kidneys, and they also help regulate blood pressure.
S is for salmon
Salmon makes the list as one of the healthiest fish you can add to your plate. It encourages fetal growth and brain development, supports your heart, boosts your mood and improves your memory. Farmed salmon often contains high levels of PCBs, so opt for wild or organic farmed.
Good to know: The Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration advise expectant women to eat 8 to 12 ounces (about 1 to 2 servings) of low-mercury fish each week.
T is for tofu
Loaded with calcium, iron, manganese, vitamins A and K, and folic acid, tofu is a fantastic protein source for moms-to-be. The soy-based food is a complete source of dietary protein and provides a healthy helping of essential amino acids.
U is for unsalted nuts
“Different nuts contain different nutrients, but they all deliver healthful fat, protein and a smattering of vitamins and minerals, making them a nutrient-rich addition to a meal or snack,” say Jarosh and Clarke. They recommend keeping unsalted nuts in your bag to snack on whenever your stomach gets empty—they’re perfect for satiating hunger without consuming empty calories.
V is for vitamin
The most essential addition to any mom-to- be’s diet isn’t a food at all but rather a prenatal vitamin. It’s the best way to ensure you’re getting enough of the nutrients that are vital to a healthy pregnancy, according to Jarosh and Clarke.
W is for whole grains
Enriched, whole-grain breads and cereals are fortified with the all-important folic acid, and they’re also loaded with iron, which helps red blood cells carry oxygen to your baby.
X is for xigua
Better known in the U.S. as watermelon, this liquid-based fruit (it’s about 92 percent water!) is rich in nutrients and sweet as can be. Because it’s low in calories, it’s an A+ choice for quelling sugary pregnancy cravings. A slice or two will load you up with vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as antioxidants and amino acids.
Y is for yogurt
Packed with calcium, yogurt will also give you boosts of protein, B vitamins and zinc. Plain yogurt is the best option—it’s generally free of artificial sweeteners and other unnecessary add-ins—and the Greek variety is even more beneficial, with an impressive fiber content and double the protein.
Z is for zucchini
The green squash houses a very respectable amount of folate, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C, calcium, manganese and more. Add it as a side to lunch or dinner, or chop it up and incorporate it into soups and sauces. Because it has a mild flavor, it’s an easy addition to your daily diet.