Supercharge your pregnancy nutrition with our top 20 foods and five-day meal plan.
You've always said you were going to "clean up" your diet. Well, the time has never been more right than now. The demands of your blossoming body — not to mention your baby's — mean putting your nutrition know-how to work and learning to make the most of every morsel. Consider the difference between a 200-calorie doughnut and a 200-calorie carton of yogurt: Same calorie contents, very different nutrients.
"Pregnancy is a physically stressful time," says Anne Dubner, M.A., R.D., a dietitian in private practice in Houston who teaches prenatal nutrition classes. "You have to make sure both you and your baby are well-nourished for the best possible outcome."
To help you make wise choices, we've come up with 20 pregnancy power foods and a meal plan to show you how to use these and other great foods. (And remember, it's always a good idea to take a vitamin and mineral supplement during pregnancy.)
Power foods: What are they? Our power foods are pulled from the following vital food groups: Your basic beans, greens and grains "Complex carbohydrates are the No. 1 source of fuel for your brain and body, and for your baby's, too," says Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy (Henry Holt, 1995). "They should be the foundation of your diet." Vegetables and beans, such as kidney and pinto beans, are loaded with B vitamins, including folic acid; in the earliest stages of pregnancy, these are crucial in helping prevent birth defects affecting the spinal column. These foods are also rich in fiber, something you particularly need during the latter part of your pregnancy, when foods move a little more slowly through your digestive system. Especially if you take iron supplements, this can cause constipation and, in turn, hemorrhoids.
Whole grains provide fiber, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B6, copper and zinc. And most grain products on the market, such as pasta, rice, cereal and bread, are enriched with thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid and iron. Lean, mean protein Lean meat, chicken, eggs and seafood are your best bet for getting plenty of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12. Calcium counts According to experts, a lot of women don't get enough calcium in their diets. The problem is compounded during pregnancy because your baby draws on your nutrient stores. Dairy products, particularly milk, are among the best sources of calcium because its vitamin D helps the mineral be absorbed. ≈Colorful fruits "All fruits are wonderful," says Somer, "but if you are looking for the Cadillac versions, go for the colorful ones." Most fruits are "plum-full" of vitamin C, which helps with iron absorption. Fill up on fluids Drink at least eight glasses of water a day, in part to keep up with your expanding blood volume (it increases up to 50 percent during pregnancy). It's also a good habit, since your body's demand for water will rise even more if you breastfeed. Drink fluids between meals, and avoid drinking too much just before bedtime. The weighing game For some mothers-to-be, watching the numbers on the scale climb each month can be disconcerting, but now is not the time to diet. While gaining weight is essential to the health of your baby, you don't want to gain too much. In fact, during the first trimester, your energy needs hardly increase at all. And during the last two, you require only about 300 extra calories a day. The extra calories you take in should add up to a healthy weight gain. According to the Institute of Medicine, this means that women of normal weight should gain 25–35 pounds; overweight women, 15–25 pounds; underweight women, 28–40 pounds; and women carrying twins, 35–45 pounds.
The Power Foods Five-Day Meal Plan
Wondering how to pack in those 20 great foods? Here's the plan that does it. Second- and third-trimester additions are indicated at the end of each day and can be eaten at any meal or in between. (And remember to discuss iron supplementation with your doctor.)
Day 1 Breakfast Egg sandwich made with 1 scrambled egg on 1 whole-wheat English muffin with 1 slice Cheddar cheese Snack Café latte made with 8 ounces skim milk and 1 ounce decaf espresso 1 apple Lunch Mediterranean wrap: Spread 1/3 cup hummus on a whole-wheat tortilla, top with 1 grated carrot, 1/2 sliced cucumber, 1/2 cup spinach and roll. 6 ounces fat-free vanilla yogurt, 1 sliced peach and 2 tablespoons wheat germ Snack 1 ounce roasted almonds 8 ounces lemonade Dinner 1 serving Salmon and Spinach Pasta* 1 cup steamed broccoli 2 slices French baguette with 2 teaspoons light butter
Second- and Third-Trimester Additions 1 scrambled egg 1 kiwi 8 ounces skim milk with 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
Daily nutritional analysis First trimester: 2,076 calories, 25 percent fat (58 grams), 55 percent carbohydrate, 20 percent protein, 49 grams fiber, 1,489 milligrams calcium, 463 micrograms folic acid, 20 milligrams iron. Second and third trimesters: 2,384 calories, 25 percent fat (66 grams), 56 percent carbohydrate, 19 percent protein, 33 grams fiber, 1,841 milligrams calcium, 522 micrograms folic acid, 22 milligrams iron.
Day 2 Breakfast Oatmeal: Cook 2/3 cup rolled oats in 1 cup skim milk, topped with 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts and 2 tablespoons raisins 1 papaya with a squeeze of lime Snack Sweet potato chips: Cut 1 sweet potato into 1/8-inch slices, lightly coat the top of the slices with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Bake on a sheet at 400 F until crispy. Lunch Roast beef sandwich made with 3 ounces roast beef, 2 large pieces roasted red bell pepper, 2 romaine lettuce leaves and 1 sandwich roll spread with 2 teaspoons mustard 3 ounces baby carrots 8 ounces skim milk Snack Orange sparkler: Mix 6 ounces orange juice, 4 ounces seltzer and ice cubes 6 prunes Dinner 1/4 Boboli crust pizza: Spread 1 12-inch crust with 1 1/3 cups spaghetti sauce, 1 1/3 cups grated part-skim mozzarella cheese, 2 sliced ripe tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. Bake at 450 F until crust is crisp and cheese melts. Sautéed veggies: Sauté 4 onion slices in 1 teaspoon olive oil until soft. Add 1 sliced zucchini, 1 chopped red pepper and 5 sliced mushrooms. Sauté until tender.
Second- and Third-Trimester Additions 1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese 1 cup raspberry sorbet
Daily Nutritional Analysis First trimester: 2,041 calories, 20 percent fat (45 grams), 62 percent carbohydrate, 18 percent protein, 33 grams fiber, 1,683 milligrams calcium, 414 micrograms folic acid, 15 milligrams iron. Second and third trimesters: 2,326 calories, 21 percent fat (55 grams), 62 percent carbohydrate, 17 percent protein, 33 grams fiber, 1,892 milligrams calcium, 419 micrograms folic acid, 15 milligrams iron.
Day 3 Breakfast Berry Breakfast Shake: Blend 2 ounces calcium-fortified tofu, 8 fresh strawberries, 1/2 banana, 3/4 cup orange juice and several ice cubes until smooth. 1 small bran muffin Snack 1/2 sesame seed bagel spread with 1 tablespoon peanut butter 8 ounces grapefruit juice Lunch 1 whole-wheat pita bread stuffed with 1/2 cup chickpeas, 1/2 chopped tomato, 1/3 chopped bell pepper, 1 thinly sliced carrot and 2 tablespoons grated Cheddar cheese, topped with 2 tablespoons low-calorie dressing Snack 2 oatmeal raisin cookies 8 ounces skim milk Dinner 1 serving Asian-Inspired Cabbage Salad With Sirloin* 1 whole-wheat dinner roll 2 teaspoons light butter 1/3 cantaloupe
Second- and Third-Trimester Additions 1/2 sesame seed bagel spread with 1 tablespoon peanut butter 1/2 mango Daily nutritional analysis First trimester: 2,045 calories, 22 percent fat (50 grams), 59 percent carbohydrate, 19 percent protein, 31 grams fiber, 1,394 milligrams calcium, 531 micrograms folic acid, 21 milligrams iron. Second and third trimesters: 2,353 calories, 23 percent fat (60 grams), 59 percent carbohydrate, 18 percent protein, 35 grams fiber, 1,449 milligrams calcium, 569 micrograms folic acid, 23 milligrams iron.
Day 4 Breakfast 11/2 cups bran flakes cereal 1 cup skim milk 1/2 cup blueberries 1/2 banana, sliced Snack 3 ounces baby carrots with 2/3 cup low-fat cottage cheese and black pepper Lunch Burrito made with 1 whole-wheat tortilla, 2/3 cup black beans, 1/2 cup brown rice, 1/8 avocado, 1 ounce Monterey Jack cheese, 1 tablespoon light sour cream and 1 tablespoon mild salsa 1 slice watermelon Snack 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts mixed with 1 cup raisins Iced mint tea Dinner Grilled Vegetable Kabobs With Couscous* 1 nectarine
Second- and Third-Trimester Additions: 1 chocolate chip ice cream cone 1 banana
Daily nutritional analysis First trimester: 2,067 calories, 18 percent fat (41 grams), 64 percent carbohydrate, 18 percent protein, 62 grams fiber, 1,219 milligrams calcium, 673 micrograms folic acid, 29 milligrams iron. Second and third trimesters: 2,363 calories, 22 percent fat (58 grams), 62 percent carbohydrate, 16 percent protein, 64 grams fiber, 1,314 milligrams calcium, 684 micrograms folic acid, 29 milligrams iron.
Day 5 Breakfast 2 buckwheat pancakes topped with 1/2 cup diced mango 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup 8 ounces orange juice Snack Low-fat granola bar 8 ounces skim milk Lunch Spinach salad: Mix 1 1/2 cups spinach; 1 tangerine, sectioned; 3 slices red onion; and 1 sliced hard-boiled egg, drizzled with 2 tablespoons low-fat honey mustard dressing 1 whole-grain bagel with 1 ounce low-fat cream cheese 1 cup skim milk Snack 2 plums 2 large pretzels Dinner Barbecue chicken sandwich made with 4 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, broiled; 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce; 1 multigrain bun; and 2 pieces romaine lettuce 6 steamed asparagus spears 1 ear of corn 1 teaspoon light butter 1 fruit popsicle
Second- and Third-Trimester Additions 1 buckwheat pancake 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt mixed with 2 teaspoons brown sugar and 1 cup seedless grapes Daily nutritional analysis First trimester: 1,977 calories, 20 percent fat (44 grams), 61 percent carbohydrate, 19 percent protein, 33 grams fiber, 1,666 milligrams calcium, 535 micrograms folic acid, 19 milligrams iron. Second and third trimesters: 2,282 calories, 20 percent fat (51 grams), 62 percent carbohydrate, 18 percent protein, 2,046 milligrams calcium, 559 micrograms folic acid, 20 milligrams iron.
Salmon and Spinach Pasta Serves 2This dish is fast and simple.
6 ounces dry penne pasta 1 teaspoon olive oil 4 shallots, minced 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth 6 ounces fresh salmon fillet 1/2 cup low-fat ricotta cheese Juice of 1 small lemon 2 teaspoons fresh dill, finely chopped 1/4 teaspoon salt 3 cups loosely packed fresh spinach, leaves torn in half
Cook pasta until tender. While pasta is cooking, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Place fillet in broth, simmer for about 7 minutes, and turn. Continue to simmer until salmon is opaque in the center. Remove salmon from broth. Add ricotta, lemon juice, dill and salt to broth and stir until the ricotta melts. Add spinach, a handful at a time, and stir until it wilts. Remove pan from heat and add cooked salmon, breaking it into bite-size pieces. In a medium bowl, combine pasta and sauce and stir. Nutritional information per serving: 546 calories, 18 percent fat (11 grams), 52 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent protein, 7 grams fiber, 354 milligrams calcium, 97 micrograms folic acid, 8 milligrams iron.
Grilled Vegetable Kabobs With Couscous Serves 4Keep this recipe in mind when it comes time to pull out the barbecue. Kabobs 2 red or green bell peppers, cut into chunks 2 small zucchini, cut into chunks 16 white mushrooms 8 asparagus spears, each cut into 4 pieces 8 wooden skewers 2 cloves garlic, minced 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon water
Couscous 1 1/4 cups water 3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable juice 11/2 cups whole-wheat couscous 1/3 cup dried currants 3/4 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed Juice of 1 lemon 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/4 teaspoon salt
Make 8 kabobs by pushing pepper, zucchini, mushroom and asparagus pieces onto skewers, alternating vegetables as you go. Meanwhile, combine garlic, vinegar, oil, mustard and water in a bowl. Coat kabobs with marinade. When barbecue is ready, set skewers on grill and cook, turning as needed and brushing with remaining marinade until vegetables are tender (10–15 minutes). While vegetables cook, make couscous. Pour water and vegetable juice into a small pan and bring to a boil. Add couscous and currants, stir, cover with a lid, and remove from heat. After 5 minutes, add remainder of couscous ingredients and stir again with a fork. Divide couscous among 4 serving plates and place 2 kabobs on each plate. Serve warm.
Nutritional information per serving (2 kabobs with 11/4 cup couscous): 576 calories, 16 percent fat (10 grams), 71 percent carbohydrate, 13 percent protein, 18 grams fiber, 119 milligrams calcium, 137 micrograms folic acid, 6 milligrams iron.
Asian-Inspired Cabbage Salad With Sirloin Serves 4This protein-packed recipe also provides iron, vitamin B12 and zinc.
1 pound top sirloin 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce 1/2 small green cabbage, shredded 2 small red bell peppers, cut into thin strips 2 carrots, peeled and grated 6 ounces pineapple juice 2 teaspoons sesame oil 1 tablespoon light soy sauce 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger root, grated
Marinate steak in teriyaki sauce in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Set aside. To cook the steak, place on a broiler pan and set under broiler. Broil about 5 minutes per side. When the steak is done, cut into thin strips. Divide cabbage mixture among 4 plates and top each with steak strips.
Nutritional information per serving (4 ounces beef and 2 cups salad): 337 calories, 29 percent fat (11 grams), 27 percent carbohydrate, 44 percent protein, 4 grams fiber, 89 milligrams calcium, 103 micrograms folic acid, 5 milligrams iron.