The Top 5 Most Important Nutrients During Pregnancy

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Pregnancy is such a wonderful time during a woman’s life but it’s not always a cruise driving down nausea lane. During pregnancy there are 101 things to remember in just a short amount of time. Remembering what foods to avoid, which to consume, making sure exercise is maintained daily, all while hot flashes and dizzy spells might make their sudden appearance. Oh what a time it is!

For all the ladies (and men reading for their wives) this is such an important time to be focused on your diet even if you weren’t necessarily concerned to begin with. Bringing new life into the world, we want to make sure baby is set up for success at every turning corner. How amazing our bodies are that the foods we consume can do that? How incredible it is that certain foods can unlock the door towards health, strength, and life for the baby we carry? If you didn’t think certain nutrients and foods mattered while you were pregnant and it was more about the calories you consumed, it’s time to reimagine that thought. It has everything to do with the nutrient density of foods and less about the quantity of calories (although we do need more while pregnant). Here is a look at the top five nutrients to include in your diet and how to make them work with your lifestyle.




Recommended to prevent neural tube defects

Folate is a B vitamin found in foods. The synthetic form, or the form found in supplements and fortified food, is called folic acid. Folate is essential during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects (Spina Bifida) and other abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord.

Recommended Intake: .6 mg per day when pregnant and .5 mg per day during lactation

Top Foods Containing Folate: chicken liver, lentils, cowpeas, pinto beans, chickpeas, spinach, asparagus, black beans

Recipes To Try

Strawberry Salad with Blackberry Balsamic Dressing

Veggie Jalapeño Street Tacos





Recommended for brain development

There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA come mainly from fish sources and ALA from plant sources. Although ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA, the process is rather inefficient when we consume too many omega-6 fatty acids in our diet. DHA is especially important for fetal, infant, and children’s cognitive development. Most prenatal vitamins now come with DHA supplements.

Recommended Intake: The AI (adequate intake) for ALA is 1.1-1.6 gram per day. EPA and DHA do not have AI thresholds, yet some sources range from .11-1.5 grams per day

Top Foods Containing Omega-3’s: Flaxseed oil and flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, salmon, soybeans, herring, sablefish. Because many of the sources for EPA and DHA come from fish, it can be challenging for pregnant women to consume enough through diet alone. A supplement is recommended while pregnant and lactating.

Recipes To Try

Winter Citrus Salmon Salad

Salmon Pasta with Cashew Pesto



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Recommended to prevent anemia

Iron is needed to produce hemoglobin in red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body. This is important during pregnancy to produce enough oxygen carrying blood to baby. Iron also controls over 50 genes (directly and indirectly). Supplying enough iron in our diets is essential yet so many Americans are iron deficient, which could cause a number of pregnancy complications such as preterm birth and low birth weight.

In our diet there are sources of heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is typically found in animal products such as beef, clams, turkey, chicken, tuna, halibut, pork, etc. Non- heme sources include plant foods such as cereals, grains, beans, and lentils.

Recommended Intake: 27 mg per day when pregnant and 9 mg per day when lactating.

Top Foods Containing Iron: Pork, chicken, or beef liver, soybeans, white beans, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, artichokes (Jerusalem)

Recipes To Try

Poblano White Bean Hummus

Sweet Potato & Farro Melt

Simply Brined & Roasted Chicken





Recommended for overall fetal growth and development

Protein is essential during any life stage, especially during pregnancy to help fetal tissue growth, brain development, and provide energy. Protein is also essential for regulating hormones, enzymes, digestion, and immunity.

Recommended Intake: 75-100 grams on average per day during pregnancy

Top Foods Containing Protein: Beef, eggs (yolk and white), milk, soy, whey, poultry, nuts, beans, grains

Recipes To Try

Not Your Momma’s Chicken Salad

Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash




Recommended for bone growth and development

Calcium is important not only for baby but for mom as well. Calcium helps with bone growth and maintenance. It also helps with the regulation of cardiovascular, muscular, and nervous systems. When calcium intake is not adequate enough, the body will begin pulling from storage depots such as bones and teeth. Disorders can also include heart disorders, heart arrhythmias, hypotension, and muscle cramps.

Recommended Intake: 1,000 – 1,300 mg per day while pregnant and lactating

Top Foods Containing Calcium: Hard cheese (Parmesan), yogurt, collard greens, rhubarb, sardines, milk, spinach, dark green vegetable sprouts, cauliflower, sesame seeds, red beans, Brazil nuts, herring.

Recipes To Try

Sweet Potato & Farro Melt

Farm to Table “Sautéed Veggie & Bacon Risotto”


All recipes are Healthy Chew original recipes, all rights reserved. 


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The Best Things You Can Eat by David Grotto RD, LDN



5 Comments Add yours

  1. Jack Bratley says:

    You’ve written a great, detailed list. I would also say that iodine is very important as well as it is crucial in bone and brain development

    1. thehealthychew says:

      Thank you, I agree with iodine- a nutrient most people tend to forget about but is very important for thyroid health

  2. Jack Bratley says:
    I’ve nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award.

  3. Kirsten Sewsankar says:

    Hi Stephanie! I am a new Healthy Chew reader as well as Lake Lifer and Fishing Freak! I am going to send you a more in depth e-mail today but I just wanted to say I love this! I am recently married and am hoping to start my little family in the next year but I am wanting to get in better health before trying. I think that would be a great post to add to the collection, how you should prepare before getting pregnant. As well as maybe some new mom tips and tricks you have learned since you had Emmie. Congrats on the beautiful baby girl!

    1. thehealthychew says:

      Hi, congrats on the new marriage, this is such an exciting time in your life! Yes, I agree! These are great ideas for a blog post, I have recently been thinking about posting more on mom/baby life and everything I am learning as well.

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