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5 best foods for pregnant women

From calcium-rich broccoli to walnuts, which are high in omega-3s, these healthy foods will help you hit your nutrition goals during pregnancy.
Young and beautiful pregnant woman preparing healthy breakfast at home. Cropped image of pregnant woman cooking a breakfast with oat flakes, apple, milk and walnut.
These crunchy, brain-shaped nuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can help support your baby's healthy brain development, which is one reason walnuts are a great snack option for pregnant women.Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

When you're pregnant, eat with two in mind — but don’t actually eat for two. It's important to remember that while you do need to eat a diet rich in nutrients like calcium and iron, you only need an extra 300 calories per day during the second and third trimesters.

Just like when you’re not pregnant, aim for eating three meals and two snacks each day. This will help keep blood-sugar levels stable and provide you with energy. What foods are best to eat while pregnant? Your overall diet should be full of fresh, whole foods, but these five nutrient-dense foods, in particular, will give an extra nutritious boost for you and your little bun in the oven.

Here is a list of five of the best foods to eat while pregnant:

  • Broccoli

  • Lentils
  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts

1. Broccoli

You don’t have to be a milk drinker to get your calcium. A serving of these little mini trees provides you with calcium (and folate, iron and fiber — all important for a healthy pregnancy). Calcium is vital for building your baby's strong bones and teeth, and also for nerve and heart development. Roasting broccoli is a great quick and easy go-to, but cooking it into mini quiches is way more fun.

2. Lentils

Your prenatal vitamins and these guys have something in common: They're both packed with folate — a crucial vitamin for a healthy pregnancy. One cup of lentils provides almost 60 percent of the daily recommended serving amount of folate for pregnant and lactating women. If lentils aren’t your thing, black beans and chickpeas are also great sources, and this chickpea, tomato and cucumber salad couldn’t be easier to throw together.

3. Salmon

This delicious fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids — and in calcium and vitamin B12, making it a perfect addition to your prego diet. It's also beneficial for the development of your child’s nervous system. If you’re worried about mercury, not to fear. Salmon is low in mercury compared with other seafood options. While raw salmon in your sushi is a no-no, properly cooked salmon (I recommend wild) is fine. Just remember to limit it to 12 ounces a week. If you think you’re not a salmon eater, here’s how you can sneak omega-3s into any meal.

4. Spinach

Greens high in iron are an important part of any healthy diet, but the daily recommendation of iron is even higher for pregnant women (27 milligrams per day), and is needed for the transportation of oxygen. Spinach is a nutrient-dense, low-calorie way to get it in. Just one cup of spinach packs 6.4 grams of iron. Top your greens with this healthy dressing, or saute with onion and top with an egg in the morning. If you can’t take a hint from Popeye himself, beef and even kidney beans also contribute to your iron needs.

5. Walnuts

These crunchy, brain-shaped nuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can help support your baby's healthy brain development, which is one reason walnuts are a great snack option for pregnant women. Studies have shown, however, that many pregnant women aren't getting enough omega-3s. Though walnuts are especially rich in these fatty acids, many other nuts contain them too, and nuts, in general, are good sources of protein and fiber, so they'll help make you feel full for longer. You can roast walnuts with any spices of your choosing, or even bake them into bread to reap the benefits. Sick of your go-to snacks? Two tablespoons of flax seeds (3 grams) or 2 tablespoons of chia seeds (5 grams) sprinkled in your smoothie or on top of oatmeal offer the same brain-boosting benefits.