Take advantage of spring’s colorful, tasty and nutritious bounty — foods that boast big benefits for both you and your growing baby. Whether you’re at the farmer’s market or your local grocery store, you’ll have plenty of healthy options to feed your blossoming belly. Here are a few pregnancy-friendly foods to put at the top of your shopping list this season along with how to eat them.
When it’s in season: Although asparagus can be found year-round, the peak season runs April through May in most states and all the way through July in parts of the Midwest and East Coast.
Why it’s good during pregnancy: These green stalks are incredibly high in vitamin K, which helps transport calciumthroughout the body and aids in fetal bone formation and health. Plus one cup of asparagus provides over half of your daily folate needs, which helps prevent neural tube defects in babies.
How to eat it: A drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon is all you need to bring out the flavor in asparagus. Steam, grill or roast ’em and eat them as a side — or add to salads, pasta and rice dishes.
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When they’re in season: Nothing says spring like a sweet, juicy strawberry. The peak season is April through June, but you’ll likely see these beauties on shelves long after.
Why they’re good during pregnancy: Not only are strawberries a healthy way to satisfy those sweet cravings, just one serving (about eight) contains more vitamin C than an orange. In addition to supporting your immune system and baby’s growth and bones, it also helps you to absorb iron — important considering anemia (or iron deficiency) is a common problem during pregnancy as your blood volume increases to support fetal development.
How to eat them: A cup of strawberries is a perfect stand-alone treat after dinner, but you can also use them in Greek yogurt parfaits for breakfast, or add slices to a spinach salad at lunch. Add a 3 oz. piece of wild salmon and a tbsp. of sunflower seeds to that salad and you’ll more than meet your needs for folate, iron, protein and healthy fats. Not sure where to invest your dollars on organic produce? When in doubt, consult this list.
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When they’re in season: Enjoy avocados virtually all year long, even though they’re typically considered a spring fruit.
Why they’re good during pregnancy: Avocados are packed with “good” monounsaturated fats, which help to lower cholesterol while also offering essential nutrients — such as B-complex vitamins and folic acid — necessary for a baby’s developing brain, eyes, nervous system and fatty tissues.
How to eat them: A little goes a long way. Mash a quarter of an avocado, then mix in a squeeze of lime and pepper and spread over whole grain toast for a nutritious, filling breakfast. Don’t like the taste or texture of avocados but still want to reap the benefits? Add a few slices to a smoothie with a frozen banana and unsweetened almond milk for one creamy treat.
When they’re in season: Beets thrive in milder temperatures, so it’s best to enjoy them in early spring before it gets too hot.
Why they’re good during pregnancy: Just one cup of this colorful root vegetable offers over 30 percent of your daily folic acid needs — which, as you know by now, is essential for your baby’s spine and brain health. Beets are also a good source of fiber (which helps prevent pregnancy constipation) and potassium (which fights fatigue and muscle cramping) — while a shortage during pregnancy can result in edema, especially in the third trimester.
How to eat them: Beets may seem intimidating, but they couldn’t be easier to prepare. Simply boil until tender, allow them to cool and rub off the skins with a paper towel. Add them to salads, whole grains, soups, egg dishes and even smoothies.
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When they’re in season: Dried apricots can be enjoyed any time of year, but these tangy stone fruits are at their peak May through August.
Why they’re good during pregnancy: The dietary fiber in apricots help ease digestion, which can be a lifesaver for expectant moms who experience bloating. Apricots are also an excellent source of vitamin A, which helps keep your immune system strong for a healthy pregnancy while protecting your — and your baby’s — vision.
How to eat them: Just one fresh apricot accounts for a full serving of yellow fruit in your pregnancy diet — and this spring fruit is an easy way to add variety to salads. Keep a bag of sliced apricots in the freezer to have on hand for a cool and satisfying treat.
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When it’s in season: Sure, you can grab a bag of this nutritional super food anytime, but spinach is known to be a spring-harvested crop that’s freshest in-season. Look for baby spinach — the small, tender, bright green leaves that are picked before they develop into more mature plants.
Why it’s good during pregnancy: This leafy green is packed with iron — crucial for a healthy pregnancy, since requirements for this nutrient almost double when you’re expecting. Iron helps your body to make hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells. Since the amount of blood in your body increases during pregnancy, you need more iron to make more hemoglobin. You also need extra iron for your growing baby and placenta.
How to eat it: Perhaps the best thing about spinach is its versatility. Use it to make big salads, or chop it up and hide it in smoothies and whole grain pasta dishes — you’ll get the nutrients without even tasting it.