Must-Have Nutrients for Mom + Baby

Last week, Rima dished about important nutrients for expecting moms on Raleigh’s WNCN show, My Carolina Today.

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Pregnancy is a critical time for baby development, and there are a few nutrients that are especially important for growing baby and mom.

  • PROTEIN — Protein supplies the amino acids that make up the building blocks of the body’s cells, both for mom and baby. This macronutrient is especially important during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters when both mom and baby are growing fastest.
    • GOOD SOURCES OF PROTEIN — Seafood, meat and poultry, beans, nuts and seeds, eggs, dairy and soy
    • GOAL– Try to include a protein-rich food in every meal and snack. An egg at breakfast, beans at lunch, fish at dinner and nuts and seeds or yogurt for snacks.
  • IRON — This mineral is essential for helping to prevent anemia in both mom and baby. Iron is also important for making hemoglobin, the red blood cell that carries oxygen around the body.
    • GOOD SOURCES OF IRON — There are two kinds of iron: heme iron found in animal proteins and plant-based iron called non-heme iron. Heme iron–found in red meat, poultry and fish–is more readily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron, which is found in beans, lentils, fortified cereals and pastas.
    • TIP: Vitamin C helps boost iron absorption. Top salmon with a citrus salsa, pair spinach with beans or nosh on bell peppers with lentil hummus to “up” iron absorption.
    • GOAL — Pregnant women need about 27 mg/day.
  • OMEGA-3s — Heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA are essential for baby brain and eye development. Half of a baby’s brain and more than half of a baby’s retina is comprised of DHA. Omega-3s are also important for mom’s heart and brain.
    • GOOD SOURCES OF OMEGA-3s — Seafood is the premiere dietary source of DHA and EPA. There are only four fish pregnant women need to avoid: shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel. All other fish and shellfish are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to enjoy.
    • GOAL — The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women eat at least 2-3 servings of cooked seafood each week for optimal baby development. It’s as easy as a salmon-egg frittata for brunch one day, a tuna quesadilla for lunch on another and grilled shrimp salad for dinner.
  • FOLATE or FOLIC ACID — Folic acid helps to prevent neural tube defects, like spina bifida, in baby, but it’s also important for the production of red blood cells and DNA.
    • GOOD SOURCES OF FOLIC ACID + FOLATE — Unlike other nutrients (and most nutrients in general), synthetic or supplemental folic acid is much better absorbed than folate, the version found in food. Pregnant women should take supplemental folic acid and include folate-rich foods (like lentils, beans, dark leafy greens and citrus fruits)  as much as possible.
Pair pouch tuna with whole grain pasta and bell peppers for a dish rich in protein, iron, folate and omega-3s.
Pair pouch tuna with whole grain pasta and bell peppers for a dish rich in protein, iron, folate and omega-3s.