In order to support the growth of your baby-to-be you’ll need an extra dose of specific vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Here’s a list of essential vitamins and minerals to include in your pregnancy diet:
Because your baby needs enough iron to last 5-6 months after birth, you must increase your iron intake when you’re expecting. A supplement of 30mg a day is recommended, as well as switching to an iron-rich diet. You can find iron in many foods including red meat, poultry, fish, leafy green vegetables, and cooked legumes.
Tips: For maximum iron intake, try drinking a glass of orange juice along with an iron-rich dinner. The Vitamin C in the juice will help your body absorb iron. Avoid caffeine because it reduces the amount of iron your body can absorb.
Meal: Try this recipe for curried chickpeas with spinach. Both chickpeas and spinach have high levels of iron.
Your baby is rapidly growing, especially during the third trimester. To help develop and strengthen their new bones, as well as keep your body healthy, you need about 1,000mg of calcium each day. You can find calcium in most dairy products including milk, yogurt, and cheese or you can take a daily supplement.
Tips: If dairy products are hard on your stomach, try calcium fortified soymilk or orange juice.
Meal: For a calcium-rich breakfast, try this yogurt parfait with calcium-fortified juice.
Omega-3 aids in the development of the central nervous system, eyes, and brain as well as helping you and your baby maintain strong bones. Eating low-mercury seafoods like salmon, anchovies, herring, and sardines will allow you reap the benefits of omega-3 without taking a supplement; however, it’s recommended by the Food and Drug Administration to eat no more than 12 oz. of cooked fish per week (and avoid raw fish all together). If you are considering a supplement instead, consult your doctor first.
Tips: Though oily fish contain the highest levels of omega-3, it can also be found in chicken, eggs, and flaxseed oil.
Meal: This grilled salmon with tomatoes & basil is easy to make and has plenty of omega-3s; it’s the best of both worlds.
Folate is so important to the development of your baby during early pregnancy that you might want to increase your intake before you actually get pregnant. During pregnancy folate, or folic acid, will help prevent birth abnormalities like spina bifida, though it’s important to consult a doctor before you conceive if neural tube defects run in your family. It’s recommended to start with 400 micrograms of folate every day one month before pregnancy then switch to 600 micrograms once you have conceived.
Tips: In addition to leafy green veggies like broccoli and spinach, folate can be found in certain legumes like chickpeas and dried beans; certain nuts like peanuts and almonds; fruits such as bananas and papayas; juices including orange and tomato juice; and fortified cereals and breads-but check the nutrition facts for folic acid or folate before you buy
Meal: The chickpeas and greens in this salad make it the perfect folate-filled side dish.
While increasing your intake of these minerals and vitamins, keep in mind that you don’t need more of every vitamin. In fact, multivitamins are not recommended during pregnancy (unless advised by your doctor) due to the risk of birth defects associated with high amounts of certain vitamins, like vitamin A.