Protein is an important building block. While the nutrient is essential for providing energy, for pregnant women, protein also aids in the proper growth of the baby’s tissues and organs like the brain. Before pregnancy, a woman should get 40g of protein. But during pregnancy, the figure increases significantly. Experts recommend anywhere from 60-100g, as the amount varies based on the trimester. Protein should account for as much as 25% of a woman’s total caloric intake.
Where to get protein
Some of the best options for protein intake for pregnant women include lean meats, legumes, beans, and even some dairy products like cottage cheese. In particular, salmon is an excellent source of protein. Other options include milk and eggs.
What about calcium?
Even for people that aren’t pregnant, calcium is an important nutrient that aids in bone health. So, unsurprisingly, the nutrient also aids in bone production for babies. But calcium also supports the circulatory, nervous, and muscular systems. Unlike with protein or some other nutrients, calcium intake remains consistent for women regardless of whether or not a woman is pregnant. Instead, consumption depends on age, with people 18 and younger encouraged to get 1,300mg per day, and people 19-50 to consume 1,000mg of calcium every day.
Top foods for calcium
Hands down, dairy foods are some of the best choices for meeting calcium goals. Milk, yogurt, and pasteurized cheese top the list, but other great options include tofu, eggs, beans, almonds, salmon, cabbage, and turnip greens. However, pregnant women should remember that soft cheeses should be avoided during pregnancy to minimize the risk of exposure to food-borne pathogens like listeria.
Eating right for a healthy pregnancy
While pregnancy isn’t a time to throw caution to the wind and eat any and everything, increased food intake is recommended to support the baby’s growth and development. Pregnant women are encouraged to eat an extra 300 calories a day by shifting from 3 large meals to 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day. Although this article focuses on protein and calcium, pregnant women also need to focus on fiber, folate, folic acid, vitamin D, and iron. Women who are unsure of the best foods to eat, or what prenatal vitamin to pick for supplementing nutritional needs, should speak with an OB/GYN, midwife, or physician.