As your baby continues to grow, so will your nutritional needs; but eating more food isn’t always the answer as many foods lack the key nutrients a momma-to-be needs. Prenatal vitamins are a good start, but fresh food sources of essential nutrients are always better. The next time you’re headed to the grocery store, consider picking up some or all of these 6 great foods to provide essential nutrients to both you and your baby.
Artichokes possess two great nutrients for pregnant women: iron and folate. Your body needs iron to form healthy blood cells, and artichokes exist as an excellent non-meat source of iron. One medium artichoke offers about 12% of the recommended daily intake for iron! This wonder food also possesses good levels of fiber, which can be especially helpful if you suffer from constipation. Boiling fresh artichokes is best, but canned artichokes offer nearly the same amount of nutrition. However, if buying canned or jarred artichokes, be sure to read the label for sodium content. Some brands have high sodium counts; to reduce the sodium, simply rinse the artichokes before eating.
This wonderful herb boasts a powerhouse of nutrients, and is easy to grow at home. Good soil, sunlight, and regular watering will help this herb to flourish on any windowsill. Fresh basil contains vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K. It also contains copper, magnesium, manganese, niacin, riboflavin, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc! Consider shredding leaves and adding them to soups, or enjoy whole in salads or on sandwiches. For those with more adventurous palettes, consider trying basil’s diverse varieties including sweet, lemon, clove, cinnamon, Thai, spicy globe, and licorice.
Did you know that chives are also a great natural source of folate? Chives also contain other vital nutrients such as calcium, iron, fiber, magnesium, and the vitamins B6 and C. Since the body needs vitamin C to properly absorb iron, chives are truly a powerhouse of healthy nutrition. They offer the best benefits when consumed raw, as heat can destroy some of the vitamins and minerals, so consider enjoying two or more tablespoons of chopped chives on bagels with cream cheese, sprinkled on salads, soups, and sandwiches, and adding them to dinner meals as a garnish to veggies and meats.
4. Raw Leeks
This mild-tasting vegetable contains an extraordinary amount of vitamins and minerals. Many cleansing diets recommend daily enjoyment of leek broth for its nutritional value. Leeks exist as an excellent source of non-dairy calcium—about 55 milligrams per cup! Eating raw leeks will also reward your body with folate, vitamins B6 and K, iron, and manganese. With their mild taste, they can be easily added to soups, salads, sandwiches, and diced finely to any dinner meal.
Treat your taste buds to this sweet treat over pancakes, waffles, yogurt, or other breakfast food such as oatmeal. Containing high levels of magnesium and manganese, this is a great food to enjoy while pregnant. Manganese helps your body repair and develop bones, which can greatly help your little one. Blackstrap molasses seems to contain the densest amounts of these nutritional gems, so keep an eye out for this kind. One tablespoon a day contains about 15% of the body’s required manganese and 8% of the body’s required potassium needs. Not bad for a sweet addition to your diet!
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Not just a Halloween treat, pumpkin seeds possess 5 grams of protein per ½ cup serving. They can help your body maintain and repair muscles—crucial to a body that is stretching to accommodate a baby. These great snacks also contain calcium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. A ½ cup of pumpkin seeds has ¼ your daily dose of zinc! This essential mineral helps the body to heal as well as fight off common colds. Consider enjoying one cup of seeds, especially during the fall and winter months as a natural precaution against colds.
Although some of these foods will likely need to be purchased in a store, both chives and basil can be easily grown and enjoyed at home, all year long. Several studies have indicated that roasted pumpkin seeds may contain higher levels of protein per cup than raw seeds; if you choose to roast seeds at home, keep the oven around 120 degrees to maintain the integrity of other vital vitamins and minerals. Organic options are always best for you and your baby and many local farmers’ markets will offer most items on this list. And don’t discount online shopping—you may be able to find great deals on basil seeds, blackstrap molasses and roasted or raw pumpkin seeds from many different online retailers.
Kathryn is a baby-wearing, cloth diapering, DIY mom to her quickly growing and pretty cute toddler. When she isn't researching and writing about natural approaches to pregnancy and parenting, she's acting out her favorite children's books or singing off-key made-up songs.