Protein is an essential nutrient during pregnancy because the building blocks of protein, called amino acids, play countless roles in the body — from maintaining the structure of our muscles, skin, and bones to producing critical hormones for growth. Eating enough protein during pregnancy also supports your baby’s development, since amino acids are required for normal cell growth and function, said Dr Manan Vora, sports medicine expert and orthopaedic surgeon.
“Meeting your daily protein needs may also lower the risk of complications like fetal growth restriction and preterm labour. Most pregnant women should take in about 70 grams of protein every day to meet their minimum needs. Keep in mind that you may need more than that as protein requirements vary based on weight and activity level,” Dr Vora.
Here are 5 food options that you can consider, suggested Dr Vora.
Packed with quality protein and essential nutrients, eggs contribute a lot to a woman’s daily nutritional needs while pregnant. Eggs contain 13 different vitamins and minerals, omega-3 fat as well as antioxidants, and are also a rich source of quality protein, which are essential for the healthy development of the baby.
Legumes are an excellent source of the vitamins, minerals, and protein that your body needs during pregnancy. Legumes are also rich in fibre, which can help prevent certain common pregnancy problems like constipation and haemorrhoids. This includes beans, peas, soybeans, peanuts, and lentils.
The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of every cell in both your and your baby’s body. High-protein foods, such as lean meat, also keep hunger at bay by stabilising blood sugar. In addition to being protein-packed, it is also high in iron, critical to help your baby develop their red blood cell supply and support yours, too.
During pregnancy, it is essential to have whole grains in your diet. A good source of nutrients, whole grains keep you and your baby fit and strong. Whole grains are a good source of folic acid, a type of vitamin B. It helps in generating new cells in your body. Whole grains contain a good quantity of fibre of two types — soluble and insoluble, both of which are beneficial for pregnant women. Also, since fibre digests slowly, it makes you feel fuller for a longer period of time. However, all types of whole grains are not high-fibre. Pregnant women can take quinoa, brown bread, oats, and barley in their diet.
Protein powder can be made from plant sources like soy, rice, peas or hemp, but it can also be made from animal-based products like eggs and milk. Often, a scoop of protein powder can contain 10 to 30 grams of protein. If a pregnant person finds they’re having a hard time getting enough protein in their diet, they may turn to protein powder. “While you should always try to get protein from food sources during pregnancy, protein powder may be helpful for women who are unable to tolerate food due to prolonged nausea or vomiting during pregnancy. Ask your doctor before adding protein powder to your routine,” Dr Vora said.
Other good food options not included here are fish, dairy products, nuts, berries, and sweet potato, he added.