Pregnancy power foods

Hannah Gentile flips the focus from what we shouldn’t be eating, to what we should. Feel free to consume these ten fabulous foods at your leisure.

There were three things I noticed when I was pregnant. Firstly, people love telling you their birthing horror stories (thanks, but no thanks). Secondly, I was constantly being told how much my life would change: “But you know, you’ll get used to it...” Ah, thanks? Thirdly, every article I read was all about ‘harmful’ things I shouldn’t be doing. In light of all these ‘do not’ lists, we thought we’d create one which highlights all the fantastic foods out there we can eat. Here are my top 10 foods to keep you and baby thriving during pregnancy.

Wholegrains are fantastic during pregnancy as their fibre content helps to keep you regular. Oats are a particularly great source of protein and can help provide the extra calories needed during pregnancy, while being nutrient-dense. Oats are also ‘clean’. Wholegrains like rice are very good at grabbing nutrients from the soil but they also collect substances such as arsenic, which can build up in the body over time. Oats, however, have five times less arsenic residue compared with rice. They also help promote lactation, so keep up your oatmeal habit after the birth.

Capsicum is high in vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron from your meals. During pregnancy a baby will collect all the iron stores they need for the first six months of their life outside the womb. Iron is essential for red blood cells in the delivery of oxygen around the body. Iron deficiency in pregnancy is dangerous for mother and baby as it can cause early delivery, low birth weight and permanent impairments in infants who do not have appropriate stores at birth. This is why your stores during pregnancy are so important. Pop a pepper in your stir-fry today!

Fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for healthy brain and eye development. There are a host of other possible benefits being researched too, so get those omega-3s in.

Make a mental note though to stay away from shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, because they contain a heavy metal that’s toxic to a developing baby’s neurological system. Safer DHA-rich sources include salmon and light tinned tuna.

Many people tend to avoid eggs when pregnant, but actually these are a type of pregnancy superfood. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, fat and a myriad of vitamins and minerals, which aid in the brain development and overall physical health of your unborn baby. Just remember, eggs need to be cooked well during pregnancy, so scrambled egg is your best bet.

Broccoli is high in fibre and folate as well as a host of other pregnancy-friendly vitamins and minerals. As those of us who have gone through it before know, constipation is not the most pleasant side effect of carrying new life, but broccoli, with its high fibre content, is a great ‘go to’ for keeping yourself regular during pregnancy and in the slightly uncomfortable weeks following birth. Folate is beneficial in the prevention of neural tube defects, which are issues with the brain and spinal column. Broccoli is particularly high in folate which is yet another reason to chow down on this vegetable.

Chickpeas, peas, lentils, beans and peanuts all fall into this food group. Load up on legumes because they are high in iron, fibre and folate. Folate, or folic acid, is the go-to nutrient to prevent neural tube defects.

High in water and fibre, blueberries make a great addition to a meal and will help keep your bowel moving regularly. They may even fight fatigue and prevent winter ailments with that dose of vitamin C they provide. The vitamin C will also aid in the absorption of iron, helping oxygen flow around your body, and baby’s, with ease.

High in good fatty acids, folate, vitamin K, E and C, and with more potassium than a banana, these wonder fruits are the pregnancy go-to food. Tired, achy and crampy legs? It could be due to a potassium deficiency. Avocado to the rescue. The healthy fats are great for brain development of your unborn baby, and the folate helps to prevent neural tube defects.

Dairy is fantastic as it is high in protein, calcium, probiotics and zinc, as well as many other pregnancy-positive vitamins and minerals. Protein is the building block of life – it makes sure every cell is built well and turns into the functioning organ it was destined to become. Calcium needs go up slightly in pregnancy, and dairy is a wonder-food for calcium. Probiotics support digestive health and make for a happy gut.

Bananas are high in potassium and are a great source of healthy energy. Potassium is good at making sure the fluid levels in your body are balanced. If you suffer from cramps or muscle twitches, potassium may help. Both the potassium and energy in bananas will help battle that extreme fatigue and can settle a nauseated stomach. You can pop bananas in smoothies, on cereal, in a salad or have them on their own. For those who just can’t stomach bananas, baking some banana and oat loaf or muffins is a nice alternative. 

It’s important to remember that pregnant women have increased hydration needs because of the increased blood volume pumping around their bodies. It might seem like a given, but sometimes with all the other drinks on offer, we can forget that pure simple water is so important. It’s also the perfect go-to for preventing urinary tract infections and constipation, two things which pregnant women are prone to, so knock back your pregnancy power foods with plenty of H2O. 

A healthy pregnancy eating plan may include:

Breakfast: Oatmeal made with milk
Morning snack: Handful of blueberries in 100g Greek yoghurt
Lunch: Scrambled eggs and avocado on wholegrain toast
Afternoon snack: Homemade apple oat slice
Dinner: Oven-roasted salmon with lightly steamed broccolini, and quinoa, green bean, chickpea and red capsicum salad
All day: Plenty of water (1-2L or 8-10 glasses)


Hannah Gentile, of Nourished by Nature, is a registered nutritionist providing nutrition support and advice for conception, pregnancy, starting solids and fussy eating. Find her at






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