The best diet for pregnancy is based on the Mediterranean diet. This way of eating, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, safe seafood, and plant-based proteins and fats, is recommended for everyone, pregnant or not, because it is really, really healthy. Research has shown that people who eat the Mediterranean way have a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other diseases. In pregnancy, this way of eating also has been shown to improve health outcomes for both the mother and the baby and reduce weight gain in pregnancy.
Fill your pantry with these real foods to kick-start a healthy pregnancy. Then check out the recipe builder card below to make a filling, delicious salad packed with nutrients for you and your growing baby.
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and certain other fish are key for brain and eye development, and studies suggest diets high in seafood reduce the chance of blood pressure and heart problems in pregnancy. During pregnancy, it is important to avoid fish that are high in mercury. Salmon is considered by experts to be a lowest-mercury seafood choice, along with oysters, sardines, scallops, shrimp, squid, and tilapia. A 132-pound person can consume eight 4-ounce servings per week without exceeding safe levels of mercury in pregnancy.
Spinach and other leafy greens like kale, arugula, and collard greens are amazing sources of so many nutrients – folate to help with baby’s neurological development, calcium to support bone growth, iron to prevent anemia, and much more.
Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids to support brain and heart health. They are also high in protein, magnesium, manganese, fiber, and copper. Use walnuts for baking or cooking, throw them on top of your salad, or add to your morning oatmeal.
Research has found that having 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil per day, along with following a healthy diet, reduces the chance of gestational diabetes. Olive oil can be used to sauté foods, or added to dressings and dips.
Some studies suggest a diet rich in dates may help shorten time in labor. Dates and other dried fruits can be used to satisfy your sweet tooth, and are high in fiber to reduce constipation. Choose unsweetened varieties to avoid added sugars.
Farro cooks up like pasta but, unlike pasta or rice, is packed with protein, which is the key building block for baby’s development. Whole grains like farro, as well as quinoa, buckwheat, and corn grits, are also good sources of anti-oxidants, which protect against certain birth defects.
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are a low-calorie source of protein, and are high in iron and minerals. Have chickpeas on a salad or in soup or curry. Or snack on hummus with veggies or whole grain crackers.
Interested in learning more about the Mediterranean diet and food planning and prep for parents-to-be? Sign up for a nutrition workshop at Baby and Company. (It’s free if you are a prenatal client!)