5 Ways to Rock Your Pregnancy Diet

Easy (delicious) recipes that deliver your daily dose of five crucial prenatal nutrients.

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Prenatal Power Foods

Stellar prenatal nutrition takes a village of nutrients. More and more studies suggest that what you eat now directly affects not only your well-being, but your baby's future health as well. The old adage "You are what you eat" is especially true during pregnancy, but making sure you're getting all the nutrients you need for your pregnancy diet can be daunting. The following recipes make it easy to get the five most important prenatal nutrients you and your baby need: iron, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, protein and folate. Each delicious, easy-to-prepare dish features one of these nutritional superstars, plus you'll learn how each essential nutrient benefits you and your baby.

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Iron: Flank Steak and Kale Tacos Recipe

Star Quality: Your blood volume nearly doubles during pregnancy, and iron is crucial for building red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your baby's growing organs. What's more, up to 95 percent of anemia in pregnancy is caused by iron deficiency (other less common types of anemia are caused by folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies), which can lead to preterm delivery as well as heart problems and infections in mom, and asthma and developmental delays in children. "Fatigue and feelings of sluggishness during pregnancy could mean a declining iron level in your blood," Tannis says. To supercharge your body's ability to absorb oxygen, pair iron with vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus, strawberries, tomatoes and bell peppers.

How Much You Need: 27 milligrams a day

Best Sources: Red meat, oysters, clams, turkey, legumes (dry beans and peas), blackstrap molasses, boiled spinach, fortified cereals, dates

Star Recipe: Flank Steak & Kale Tacos with Pico De Gallo Salsa

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Omega-3s: Walnut-Crusted Salmon Sticks Recipe

Star Quality: "Omega-3s are the ultimate brain food during pregnancy," says Molly Morgan, R.D., C.D.N., C.S.S.D., author of The Skinny Rules (Harlequin). Studies suggest that the DHA and EPA found in omega-3 fatty acids can boost your baby's visual and neurological development in utero and later in life, and that it might also help prevent allergies in children. "DHA and EPA have also been shown to lower the risk of preeclampsia, low birth weight, preterm birth and even postpartum depression," Tessmer says. Omega-3s lower your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, too.

How Much You Need: 650 milligrams a day; this should include 350 milligrams of DHA

Best Sources: Salmon (this fish is also packed with vitamin D, a tough-to- get nutrient that boosts your baby's bone strength), canned tuna, sardines, omega 3-fortified eggs, fish oil supplements, algae-based supplements (vegetarian supplements containing mostly DHA). Expectant moms should avoid Atlantic mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish because of the high levels in mercury in these types of fish, and should limit consumption of white albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week for a total of no more than 12 ounces of lowermercury fish a week.

Star Recipe: Walnut Crusted Salmon Sticks 'n' Dill-icious Dip

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Calcium: Figgy Newtons Recipe

Star Quality: When you don't get enough calcium from the foods you eat, your baby will leach it from your bones. "Calcium is a mineral that's vital to developing strong bones and teeth, as well as proper nerve function and normal heartbeat," says Kimberly A. Tessmer, R.D., L.D., author of Tell Me What to Eat If I Am Trying to Conceive (New Page Books). Plus, it's linked to a reduced risk of hypertension and preeclampsia in moms. "Spread your calcium-rich foods throughout the day because your body can only absorb so much at one time," suggests Tessmer. And note: Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption, so make sure your milk is fortified.

How Much You Need: 1,000 milligrams a day.

Best Sources: Dried figs, molasses, dairy, broccoli, dark leafy greens, sardines, black-eyed peas, dates, fortified juice

Star Recipe: Figgy Newtons

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Protein: Quinoa Edamame Salad Recipe

Star Quality: A veritable laundry list of health benefits is associated with protein. "It creates enzymes and hormones and helps transport nutrients," Tessmer says. And the amino acids in protein are the building blocks of all of your and your baby's cells, including new tissue for your placenta, uterus and breasts. It's especially important to get enough of the macronutrient in the second and third trimesters, when your baby grows from the size of a lime to that of a honeydew melon. Not consuming enough protein in your final two trimesters could increase the risk for low birth weight, which can put your baby at greater risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease later in life.

How Much You Need: 71 grams a day

Best Sources: Quinoa, edamame, meat, poultry, legumes (beans and peas), tofu, eggs, nuts and seeds, milk, Greek yogurt

Star Recipe: Quinoa Edamame Salad

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Folate: Adobo Black-Eyed Peas Recipe

Star Quality: On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is this B vitamin? "It's a 10!" says Allison Tannis, M.S., R.H.N., co-author of The 100 Healthiest Foods to Eat During Pregnancy (Fair Winds Press). "Not only does it prevent spinal bifida, it's important for the division of cells—something that happens a lot in pregnancy." Studies show that if moms-to-be got the recommended dose before and during early pregnancy, 70 percent of all neuraltube defects could be prevented. Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, might also prevent heart defects and cleft lip/palate, plus new research links taking a folic acid supplement before and during early pregnancy to a 40 percent lower risk of autism. Folate provides benefits for you, too, helping to prevent anemia and lowering your risk of breast cancer.

How Much You Need: Pregnant, 600 micrograms a day; lactating, 500 micrograms a day

Best Sources: Peas, fortified cereals, leafy greens, beans, asparagus, peanuts, oranges, Brussels sprouts, wheat germ

Star Recipe: Adobo Black-Eyed Peas

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