List of the best foods to eat during pregnancy in Nigeria

List of the best foods to eat during pregnancy in Nigeria

There is a need for pregnant women to eat healthy foods to provide nutrients to their bodies and those of their unborn babies. In most cases, this means disrupting one's usual diet and introducing a special one during the pregnancy period. While pregnancy is not a time for deprivation, you may want to consult your doctor on what to eat and what not to. Fortunately, there is no shortage of items on the list of the best foods to eat during pregnancy in Nigeria.

Foods to eat during pregnancy
Frozen vegetable and fruits are displayed at the TUTTOFOOD fair. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA
Source: Getty Images

When it comes to pregnant women, the issue of food is a sensitive one. Sometimes, women develop cravings for foods that may not be healthy for them and their babies. It can be worse when one does not have a variety of interesting foods to choose from. In Nigeria, many different food varieties are not only tasty but also healthy options for pregnant women.

How much food should I eat?

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Averagely, you should eat about 5-6 times a day for the entire period of your pregnancy. If you tend to skip meals such as breakfast, now is not the time. It is important to start your day with a healthy meal. Failure to do so may lead to weight gain and not being able to work at the optimum capacity throughout the day.

The approach is not different when it comes to fruits to eat during pregnancy. You will need plenty of fruits spanning the entire pregnancy. Some of the best fruits for pregnant women include oranges, mangoes, lemons, avocados, bananas, apples, and berries.

The best foods to eat during pregnancy in Nigeria

When developing a meal plan for a pregnant woman, the unborn baby must always be in mind. With the list of the best foods to eat while pregnant in Nigeria, it becomes easier to develop a suitable meal plan.

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1. Eggs

Eggs are considered the gold standard for prenatal protein, so they topple foods to eat during pregnancy. Eggs are readily available and cheap, which makes them a great option for pregnant women in Nigeria and other parts of the world. It does not matter whether they are scrambled, fried, or hard-boiled. In addition to protein, eggs are also a great source of iron, folate, and choline.

The choline contained in eggs is critical to fetal brain development. It also reduces the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida. To benefit from choline, you have to eat the entire egg because it is contained in the yolk.

2. Nuts

Best foods to eat during pregnancy
A man setting out a display of pistachios in a dried nut shop in Vali-e Asr Avenue. Photo: Kaveh Kazemi
Source: Getty Images

Nuts are the go-to snack, but they do more than fill you in between meals. Nuts are an essential part of Nigerian food to eat during early pregnancy. They are rich in healthy fats such as the brain-boosting omega-3. As if that is not enough, nuts also contain fiber, protein, and various other vitamins and minerals. In addition to that, noshing on nuts helps add magnesium that is very important in the current condition.

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Magnesium-rich foods such as nuts can reduce the risk of premature labor while at the same time aiding the development of the baby's nervous system. However, even as you have a stash of the power snack in your purse, you have to be in control of your cravings not to consume more magnesium than your body can register.

3. Sweet potatoes

This is another great dish that is readily available to Nigerian women. Sweet potatoes are good for pregnant women because they are rich in nutritious fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and Iron, and copper, and beta-carotene. With all these nutrients, it is the perfect food to eat during early pregnancy.

When it comes to sweet potatoes, special attention is given to them for their beta-carotene, which is an antioxidant converted into vitamin A by the body. Vitamin A is crucial for pregnant women because it aids the development of a baby's eyes, bones, and skin. Sweet potatoes also provide iron and copper, which is needed for the body to absorb iron.

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4. Lean meat

Best foods to eat during pregnancy
Extra Lean Ground Chuck and Super Lean Black Angus Ground Sirloin are seen for sale at the Eastern Market. Photo: Paul J. Richards
Source: Getty Images

Since a baby is growing inside you, your body will definitely require a lot more protein than usual. This is because the baby is utilizing the nutrients to grow and develop muscles. This means if the baby does not get enough of this mineral, there is a risk of impaired growth, preterm delivery, and low birth weight. Meat and pepper soup during pregnancy has the ability to reduce the morning sickness of pregnant women.

Iron is equally important at this stage as well. Apart from aiding the baby's growth and development, iron is also important for the mother because it aids in red blood cell formation, thus preventing anemia. The blood volume increases during pregnancy; therefore, iron intake has to be increased. Meat also contains vitamins B6 required to grow the baby's tissue and brain and B12, which ensures nerves remain healthy and red blood cells are maintained.

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5. Beans and lentils

There is no better alternative for pregnant women who do not eat meat than beans and lentils. They are cheap and are easy to find anywhere in the world, even in Nigeria. These act as rich sources of protein and iron. They also have other essential nutrients such as fiber, folate, and calcium. Baking beans enrich them with zinc as well.

Beans are perfect for pregnant mothers because they contain what can be referred to as baby-and mom-friendly minerals, which can be found in animal products. Vegetarians do not have to worry about missing out on these minerals as long as they consume beans. The zinc contained reduces the risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and prolonged labor.

6. Yoghurt

Best foods to eat during pregnancy
Dannon brand yogurt sits on display in a supermarket in New York. Photo: Daniel Acker
Source: Getty Images

Many people do not know that plain yogurt contains slightly more calcium than milk. It also contains other important bone-building nutrients such as B vitamins, zinc, and protein. The major function of calcium is to keep the bones and teeth of the mother healthy while helping the baby to develop his/her.

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Pregnant women should get plenty of calcium because it reduces the risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery. If the supply of calcium to the body is not adequate, the mother will utilize calcium from the bones that the baby otherwise needs. This results in a risk of osteoporosis later on.

7. Orange juice

Orange could be the best fruit for pregnant women, but orange juice is even better. Drinking just one cup of orange juice in the morning can help fill up folate, vitamin C, and potassium. Folate plays an important role in preventing several congenital disabilities during the early stages of pregnancy. Even after that, it is also important for ensuring a healthy pregnancy.

Orange juice contains potassium plays a role in maintaining muscle function and metabolism. It also keeps the body's overall health in check. Since the blood volume expands during pregnancy, pregnant women have to consume more potassium, as is iron. Other functions of orange juice are the provision of vitamin C which fights colds, helps the body to absorb iron better, and keeps the teeth of the mother and baby healthy.

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8. Leafy greens

Best foods to eat during pregnancy
The vegetarian food is mixed with pieces of tomatoes and olives. Photo: Roberto Machado Noa
Source: Getty Images

This should be the first item on pregnant women's shopping list as the best food to eat during pregnancy. Leafy greens are known for their abundance of antioxidants and nutrients. The variety one can choose from is also never-ending. There is a myriad of dark-green vegetables such as asparagus, kales, spinach, and broccoli, among many others.

Vegetables are termed superfoods because they provide the body with several essential nutrients. Apart from antioxidants, veggies supply potassium, calcium, fiber, vitamin A and folate. There are very many types of veggies to choose from, so it will be easier to rotate them from meal to meal; hence, you won't have to be bored with just one type.

9. Salmon

Generally, nothing beats fish as the best food for pregnant women and not just because of their taste but also because of the nutrients they supply. Salmon is an oily fish making it the perfect source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Incorporating salmon into a pregnant woman's diet is important because the omega-3 fatty acids aid the development of the baby's brain. This will ultimately lead to a higher IQ, advanced motor skills, and fewer neurological problems later on.

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Omega-3's also aid in the development of the baby's eyes. Mother's need not worry about lean protein deficiency because it is present in salmon. This type of fish is low in mercury, making it a safe food for pregnant women.

10. Oatmeal

Best foods to eat during pregnancy
Variety of dried fruits, nuts, honey and oat flakes in ceramic bowls for cooking homemade healthy breakfast. Photo: Natasha Breen
Source: Getty Images

Oats are especially rich in fiber, vitamin B6, and protein, making them the perfect morning meal for pregnant women. Don't forget that whole grains are good at keeping the body's energy levels up. This will come in handy in times when you feel drained due to morning sickness. The fibre contained in oats also helps with constipation.

Oatmeal is equally important for the development of the baby as well. The protein and vitamin B6 contain nutrients a baby cannot do without in the early stages of development. If you can get oatmeal that is fortified with iron, folic acid, and B vitamins, it is even better.

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