One of the first things newly expectant moms do when they find out they’re pregnant is to start eating healthier. And rightfully so. Giving your body (and baby) a well-balanced diet can have a profound effect on the health of your child in years to come. But just how important is protein during pregnancy? Let’s look at why it’s something you can’t afford to exclude from your pregnancy diet.
Benefits of protein during pregnancy
Did you know that you actually need to increase your intake of protein during pregnancy? It’s an essential nutrient that provides amino acids necessary for foetal tissue development and maternal tissue expansion. In fact, protein is the single most critical element for foetal neurological development.
Pregnant women that follow a protein-rich diet have better breast and uterine tissue, produce more adequate blood supply and give their babies what they need for optimal development.
Just how much protein do pregnant moms need?
The USDA recommends that pregnant women consume between 70 and 100 grams of protein per day. This is 25 grams more than non-pregnant women, who need just 45 grams per day.
Protein is most important during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. This is when the foetus does most of the growing work.
Are you eating enough protein?
A lot of women don’t consume enough protein on a daily basis. According to some studies, most pregnant women have protein levels that are below the norm. The good news is that this is something that’s easy to correct by adjusting your diet slightly.
Foods that pack protein power
To up your protein intake during pregnancy, try including more of the following foods in your diet:
One small chicken breast contains about 25 grams of protein.
A large egg provides you with 6 grams of protein
The leaner the cut, the more protein it packs. A lean, 200g beef steak has about 23 grams of protein.
As long as you don’t overdo it with the fish, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t include it in your diet. Pregnant women can safely consume up to 300 grams of cooed, low-mercury seafood on a weekly basis.
Just one cup of milk has 8 grams of protein, but if you opt for soy, it only has about 6 grams of protein.
Kidney, pinto, white, black or cranberry beans and lentils, split peas as well as other legumes have between 15 and 18 grams of protein per cup.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are what vegetarians use to supplement their protein source, and so can you. Peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios and almonds have between 4 and 7 grams of protein per serving. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and chia seeds house between 5 and 9 grams of protein per small serving.
Grains are great for pregnant women. Whole grains are naturally high in protein. Just two tablespoons of wheat germ can deliver 3.3 grams of protein. A cup of oats or wild rice has between 6 and 11 grams of protein per serving.