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Nutrition

blueberries are a great food for pregnancy

10 Most Nutritious Foods For Pregnancy and Postpartum

We are so excited to feature a post today detailing the 10 Most Nutritious Foods for Pregnancy & Postpartum from our resident pregnancy exercise and nutrition expert, Katie Dudley. We believe that part of preparing for a healthy, natural birth is preparing our bodies with optimal nutrition. Katie’s list is something every pregnant woman should read.

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During our first few visits to our care provider, we often receive a long list of foods to avoid, but we rarely discuss the foods that we SHOULD consume to support a more safe and comfortable pregnancy. In preparation for baby we hear even less about what we should eat once baby has arrived and our body is healing to provide nourishment for our breastfeeding child. The following is a list of foods that help to combat many of the common pregnancy symptoms and well as provide you with better care for postpartum healing. Incorporating these foods on a regular basis will help to crowd out the less nutritious foods that may contribute to common ailments in pregnancy and postpartum.

Bananas

Photo credit: Billy Wilson Photography / Foter / CC BY-NC
Photo credit: Billy Wilson Photography / Foter / CC BY-NC

Bananas contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that are perfect for many common pregnancy symptoms. Early on in pregnancy, bananas are a great source for alleviating nausea and morning sickness. They travel well, so keeping a banana on hand in your purse or bag is easy. This can come in handy for any muscle cramps and also regulating blood sugar during the day. Bananas are a great prebiotic food that aid in digestion and nutrient absorption for baby’s development. Another digestive benefit is they can help mom with symptoms of constipation and diarrhea that can occur throughout pregnancy. Later on in pregnancy, many of the nutrients found in bananas assist in reducing swelling and high blood pressure.

Berries

blueberries are a great food for pregnancy
Photo credit: maira.gall / Foter / CC BY-ND

Another excellent prebiotic food that promotes healthy digestion and nutrient absorption, berries are among the highest foods in antioxidants. Berries are considered superfoods as one of the best anti-inflammatory foods you can consume. They contain a high amount of fiber for regularity and satiety, but are low in sugars, helping keep mom’s blood sugar stable. They are the fruit of choice for mom’s who at a higher risk for gestational diabetes. High in vitamin C, berries give your immune system a boost to keep mom and baby well. Even better, they are a great natural source of folate, which your body can readily convert for baby’s development.

Bone Broth

Bone broth is excellent for pregnancy
Photo credit: looseends / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Bone broth can be an excellent source of protein and fat to enhance mom’s immune function and provides essential amino acids for growing baby. Essential minerals that aid in brain and nerve functioning are also found in fresh bone broth. With its rich nutritional content, bone broth is great way to reduce symptoms of morning sickness. This is particularly helpful when it is difficult to get foods in. The vitamins and minerals in homemade broth make a perfect food for both pregnancy and postpartum as they aid in the growth of nails, skin, hair and connective tissues. This serves as an important function as they help mom’s body grow with baby as well as recover once baby is here. These same nutrients also condition the digestive tract and keep things working smoothly.

Dark Chocolate (Real)

Dark chocolate can be excellent food for pregnancy
Photo credit: Chocolate Reviews / Foter / CC BY-ND

Yes! Dark Chocolate. Real dark chocolate (not the processed, sugary kind) has some of the highest levels of antioxidants of any foods. It is higher than berries, red wine, and high quality dark chocolate (70% or more cacoa) made from raw cacao, is quite the nutritious food and is a perfect option for those sweet pregnancy cravings. A surprising source of fiber, dark chocolate can even contribute to good digestion. High in minerals like iron, magnesium, cooper, zinc, selenium, potassium, and manganese cacao keeps mom energized for baby’s growth and development. The varieties of minerals also improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Quality dark chocolate can also be a nutritious pick me up for mom with a small amount of natural caffeine. With less caffeine than a cup of coffee, be aware of consuming this late at night and when breastfeeding.

Cultured Foods

Yogurt and other fermented foods are excellent during pregnancy
Photo credit: roboppy / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Found in cultures around the world throughout history, cultured and fermented foods like real yogurt (read ingredients), sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kefir, pickled vegetables, coconut yogurt, organic buttermilk, organic sour cream and probiotics are a healthy way to incorporate healthy bacteria into mom’s system. A balance of bacteria in the body is necessary for many bodily functions like making B vitamins, good digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function and mood. The bacterial flora in mom’s body is especially important for the baby as he passes through the birth canal and takes on the flora from mom. This is also true during breastfeeding. Recent studies have even shown that the bacteria are also found in the placenta and may help prevent preterm births. There is current evidence that if mom and baby have a healthy balance of flora, there is also less chance of colic, thrush, digestive upsets, and allergies. Consuming cultured foods is particularly beneficial to moms that have GBS, have been on antibiotics or have a history of taking them.

Eggs

Eggs are packed with nutrients necessary during pregnancy
Photo credit: cobalt123 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

This nutrient dense, superfood will keep mom satiated and energized throughout the day. Eggs are an excellent whole foods source of protein during pregnancy and postpartum. Eating a sufficient amount of protein in a balanced diet protects mom from various health concerns like gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. High quality eggs are also a source of healthy fats, that are important in baby’s brain development as well as help to lower mom’s risk of postpartum depression. In addition to healthy fats and protein, pregnant and nursing moms can get many of their essential vitamins and minerals from eggs like iron, calcium, and vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins and minerals are important in supporting a healthy pregnancy as well as postpartum healing and recovery.

Green Vegetables

Leafy greens are an excellent source of nutrition during pregnancy
Photo credit: jirfy / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Dark leafy green vegetables are the ultimate superfoods full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants perfect for mom and baby. With a recommended 9-11 servings of vegetables and fruit a day, incorporating several servings of greens provides an excellent source of natural folate for baby’s development that your body can easily convert. They are full of fiber to keep mom full and her digestive system running smoothly. Nutrient dense dark greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, swiss chard, and arugula are a non-dairy source of calcium and full of immune boosting minerals. These help to prevent many pregnancy related complications like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and anemia. Incorporating green vegetables throughout the day keeps moms energy levels stable without raising her blood sugar. If you have difficulty getting greens in at multiple meals, add them to a smoothie, mix them in a stir fry, add them to eggs, or have a side salad.

Healthy Fats

Avocado and other sources of healthy fat are excellent for pregnancy
Photo credit: mikemennonno / Foter / CC BY-NC

Healthy fats play an essential role in baby’s growth and development. They are particularly important in eye and brain development or as Dr. Sears would say, “Growing a little fathead”. Ours brains consist of almost sixty percent fat and it is important that enough fat is provided for proper brain function. According to several studies from the Harvard School of Public Health, they found that pregnant women who eat a diet rich in healthy fats reduce their chances of allergies and developmental delays. Consuming a variety of healthy fats is crucial for mom and baby throughout pregnancy and postpartum. During pregnancy they will help mom to stabilize her blood sugar, improve digestion, and regulate blood pressure. With less sleep and a more demanding schedule, moms need all the help they can get. Eating various healthy fats like a moderate amount of cold water fish, avocados, flaxseed, flax oil, chia seed, olive oil, coconut oil, organic grassed meat, and nuts assist mom in absorbing the nutrients her body needs for sustained energy as well as postpartum healing.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a great nutritional source for pregnant women.
Photo credit: Foter / CC BY-SA

Mushrooms are often overlooked for their nutritional benefits, but they are actually packed with essential vitamins and minerals. In fact, they are one of the few food sources of Vitamin D. This comes in handy during those winter months when it is more difficult to get appropriate levels of vitamin D from being outdoors. In combination with the antioxidants, D can boost mom’s immune system as well, keeping risk of infections lower. Sufficient levels of vitamin D will also support baby’s bone and teeth development. Recent research has been shown that proper levels of vitamin D in women reduce chances of postpartum depression. With an abundance of B vitamins, mushrooms can alleviate symptoms of morning sickness and increase mom’s energy levels. Mushrooms are also an iron rich food, helping with the increased blood volume during pregnancy.

Onions & Garlic

Garlic and onions are a fantastic source of healthy nutrition for pregnancy.
Photo credit: Ruby’s Feast / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Part of the allium family, not only do they help our meals taste great, but onions and garlic are some of nature’s greatest medicines. They both are excellent anti inflammatory foods as well as support your immune system and balanced cholesterol. Rich in antioxidants, garlic and onions protect moms from various health conditions during pregnancy like pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure by promoting healthy circulation. By increasing circulation, these properties reduce pregnancy related swelling. Raw garlic also contains antibacterial and antimicrobial properties which may assist in keeping illness and infections away. This can be beneficial for pregnant and breastfeeding moms avoiding unnecessary medications. Check out our free pregnancy nutritional e-book for more information and ideas for recipes.


Katie Dudley, nutritional and exercise expert for Birth Boot Camp Childbirth Education.

Katie Dudley, HHC, CPT, CES, PES is passionate about natural health and wellness. She enjoys educating and empowering others to take control of their own health.  She believes women can have an amazing pregnancy and birth. Katie earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from the University of Georgia with a focus in Child and Family Development and Educational Psychology. Following her love of fitness and nutrition, a trainer since 2005, she is a Certified Corrective Exercise and Performance Enhancement Specialist and a Board Certified Holistic Health Coach. Katie currently has a private Holistic Health Coaching Practice, Cornerstone Integrative Fitness and Wellness, where she works with women and families all over the country. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her family.

Read more from Katie!

Exercises for a great pregnancy and birth.

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5 Fabulous (and Simple) Exercise Ideas for Pregnancy

We believe that an integral part of any comprehensive childbirth education includes appropriate pregnancy exercise. When you take a Birth Boot Camp class it will include an exercise program created just for you and this time in your life.  

But maybe you are wondering what you can do right now (before you start your birth class) for everyday fitness during your pregnancy.  This guest post from Jessica Socheski has five wonderful ideas that you can easily incorporate into your life.  

Read more

Protein in Pregnancy


Does protein matter in pregnancy?  Many women and care providers feel that it does.  Any body builder knows that to build a healthy body he or she must get adequate protein.  Some feel that the same is true for a woman building a baby body. 

Many women report that when they get adequate protein in pregnancy (about 80 or 90 grams) that they feel much better.  Some things that they report:  decreased nausea, increased energy, fewer or no headaches, less sugar cravings, healthy but not excessive weight gain, and much more.

But how do you get enough protein in pregnancy if you are used to only eating 30 or so grams a day?

Childbirth educators recommend the following to their students:

  • Snack healthy- Pregnant women get hungry often.  If you have healthy snacks with you at all times, then you are less likely to get junk from a vending machine.  Healthy nuts, trail mix, celery and nut butter, cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, and dairy in any form are all ways that experienced mothers sneak protein into their everyday snacking.
  • Record your eating- Many people simply have no idea what they eat in a day.  Often a good birth class will incorporate a dietary journal into the curriculum because they know that how you eat while pregnant can impact the birth itself.  Start recording your food and your protein intake to see where you stand and what you need to work on.
  • Get your protein early in the day- Starting your day with a protein rich breakfast can make all the difference in the world to how you feel and how you eat for the rest of the day.  A boiled egg, a small bowl of oatmeal with some raw sunflower seeds and fresh berries and a small glass of milk is a healthy, tasty, and protein rich way to start your day.

Educating yourself about proper pregnancy protein intake can have an invaluable impact on your labor and birth.  You and your baby are worth it.

Getting Enough Iron in Pregnancy

Many women struggle during pregnancy with anemia or iron deficiency.  Diet can often be helpful in improving this.  Having adequate iron is important for lots of reasons.  Women who have low levels of iron are often tired.  In addition, very low iron levels can impact your labor and birth and even increase postpartum hemorrhage.  Here are some simple tips to up your iron intake. 

A)  Get your leafy greens-  Foods that are dark green usually have iron in them.  Not only do greens help you get iron, they can help you absorb nutrients from your protein rich foods.  Some great choices are: spinach, kale, collard greens, bok choy, asparagus, broccoli, dark salad greens, and the like.  Being sure to eat a salad daily, drink a green smoothie in the morning, or incorporate collard greens into your meatloaf or other meat dishes are easy ways to sneak in these vegetables that you may not be getting.

B)  Combine foods properly-  Calcium is known to inhibit iron absorption, so eating your calcium rich foods SEPARATELY from your iron rich foods can help your iron absorption improve.  For instance, have the burger without the cheese, take your iron supplement with an acidic drink rather than with milk.  On the flip side, vitamin C is known to help iron absorption, so adding some tomatoes to  your salad or burger may help improve your absorption.

C) Overall Nutrition- Simply understanding which foods are rich in iron can really improve your ability to make good choices.  Red meats, yams, some organ meats, greens (as mentioned above), shellfish, eggs and dried fruit are all rich in iron.  Knowing this and choosing to eat and snack accordingly can really improve your overall nutritional intake.

Part of a great birth education begins with proper nutrition throughout your entire pregnancy.  You might be surprised what a difference it will make in your health and your birth.

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