A healthy meals and good-quality diet before and during pregnancy can prevent birth defects in babies, particularly neural tube defects, cleft lip, and cleft palate. The right balance of vitamins and minerals and a good variety of whole and high-quality healthy recipes foods daily are needed for a complete nutrition that will promote full and optimal development as the fetus grows in the womb. Increase the intake of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, fiber and high quality sources of protein and cut out processed foods high in sugar and bad fats to nurture a growing fetus.
A wide array of fresh fruits and vegetables are an excellent choice for a pregnant woman and her baby. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors will provide the vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health and growth. Milk, yogurt and dairy are also essential for the expecting mother. These foods that are rich in calcium will promote strong bones and teeth and help the nervous, circulatory, and muscular system run efficiently.
Good sources of protein like poultry, fish, lean meats and eggs are essential for a fetus’ growth especially during the seconds and the third trimesters. Aside from meats, other good sources of protein are tofu, beans, peanut butter, nuts, and dairy products. Along with protein, carbohydrates are essential to fuel the body with energy and maintain a healthy functioning system. Consuming high quality and complex carbohydrates are better than simple carbohydrates, which has little nutrition and tend to spike up blood sugar levels. Excellent sources of carbohydrates that are also rich in fiber and nutrients include whole grain breads, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and cereals.
Pregnant women need to consume more iron-rich foods to increase the production of the protein hemoglobin in the red blood cells, which delivers oxygen to tissues, ensuring there is enough oxygen for her and her child. Foods rich in iron include lean red meat, fish, and poultry. Iron is also present in nuts, dried fruit, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals.
To promote a baby’s growth and development, folic acid, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D are particularly beneficial. Folic acid is recommended to help prevent serious abnormalities of the brain, spinal cord and the neural tube. It is found in dark leafy green vegetables, beans, and cereals fortified with folic acid. Vitamin C promotes a healthy immune system and found in citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruits, tomatoes, green peppers, strawberries, papaya, honeydew, cauliflower, broccoli, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts. Vitamin D helps build healthy teeth and bones and are naturally absorbed from sunlight as well as found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna.