Veggie-Packed Meatball Subs, Curry Noodle Soup, and More Nutritious Pregnancy Foods
A telltale sign that someone is pregnant is often what they’re not eating: fake-sipping champagne during a toast, avoiding that unpasteurized Brie on a cheese plate, or asking for the seared ahi to be extra well-done. But we’d much rather focus on all the delicious and nourishing foods that are great to eat when you’re pregnant.
We asked Gerda Endemann, our senior director of science and research, to give us the lowdown on what foods best support the health of both mom and baby. We also surveyed new moms and moms-to-be around the office (there are a lot of them) about their experience with food and cravings. The short version: They’re pretty hungry. They want to give their baby all the best foods possible. And they also want burritos. And ramen. And bagels. They want comforting, cozy food. And carbs.
We think these moms should have it all, so we created four recipes that fill them up and include the nutrients that pregnant women and growing babies need.
We love this option because it’s a warm breakfast made ahead in the slow cooker overnight. It’s hearty but also mild if you’re still dealing with first-trimester nausea. Gerda says: “For this recipe, find an almond milk with calcium. Growing and feeding a baby takes a lot of calcium, and you don’t want it to come from your bones. (You’ll also get calcium from the greens and beans in these recipes—dairy products aren’t the only good foods for bone health.) The porridge is made into a true superfood, though, by its chia and flax seeds, which are rich in protein, fiber, calcium, iron, and an omega-3 fatty acid. Your body can turn the plant omega-3 into DHA and EPA of fish-oil fame.”
We wanted to give expecting moms something that really feels like comfort food but is sneakily packed with nutrients. We don’t have a ton of red meat recipes, and we feel good about the 50-50 ratio of grass-fed ground beef and veggies in these meatballs. Here’s what Gerda says: “This ultimate comfort food is also, amazingly, the ultimate nutrition to support you and your baby during pregnancy. A lot of veggies with a little meat gives you the best of both worlds. You get all the vitamin and mineral and antioxidant benefits of the beets and broccoli rabe, combined with the highly bioavailable iron and complete protein from the beef. Iron is probably the hardest nutrient to get enough of during pregnancy—it takes a lot to build your baby, and often there isn’t enough left over for mom’s strength and energy needs. Meat contains iron, and even better, a little meat increases the normally very poor absorption of iron from vegetables.”
What makes this salad stand out is that it has lots of protein to keep you going—and a spicy-sweet harissa honey marinade that makes it way more interesting than your typical lunch. Gerda says: “Developing brains and eyes need lots of omega-3 fats as building blocks. Supplements are great, but why not eat fatty fish, like salmon, which also packs a good amount of two other nutrients essential for brain development—vitamin B12 and choline? Salmon is naturally low in mercury, making it safer than swordfish, and wild salmon is clean as far as other pollutants go; minimize your intake of European Atlantic-farmed fish. Last, with the arugula in this salad, you get the best-known nutrient associated with a developing nervous system—folic acid. Folic is from the Latin folium, which means leaf.”
Many of the moms we talked to said that they could never satisfy their hunger. But with this big bowl of broth-y soup, you don’t need to overeat to feel full. Gerda says: “A great way to make a warm, rich soup even more nutritious is to top it with an egg, or two or three. Eggs have lots going for them, but what’s especially important during pregnancy and lactation is their generous amount of choline, an essential component of the developing neural tube. The placenta pumps in choline to keep levels in utero high, and it isn’t easy to replenish Mom’s supply. Choline is absent from or present at low levels in most prenatal multivitamins, despite its importance for fetal brain development, so eat eggs, meat, fatty fish, soybeans, or lecithin regularly. The other toppers aren’t bad either—mint way outdoes spinach as far as fiber and iron, so pile it on.”