Despite what the movies may lead you to believe, pregnancy doesn't mean you're on an all-you-can-eat diet. While you do get to eat a few extra calories during the second and third trimesters, those extra calories should come from nutrient-rich foods like the sweet potato. Packing in more nutrition with the right food ensures both you and your baby have a healthy and happy pregnancy.
Sweet potatoes during pregnancy pack in a ton of good nutrition for both you and your baby.
Eating for Two
Despite what "eating for two" may sound like, your diet during pregnancy doesn't mean you should eat twice as much as normal. What it really means is that you need to eat not only to support your nutritional needs, but the nutritional needs of your baby, too.
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You do get to eat more calories during pregnancy — an extra 300 calories a day — but not until your second and third trimesters. You want to be careful how you spend those extra calories so you and your baby get the most nutrition. While your cravings may have you leaning towards an extra bowl of ice cream sprinkled with potato chips, you should instead add a bowl of whole-grain cereal with nonfat milk.
You may not enjoy the regular weigh-ins when you go to see your OB/GYN, but the regular check of your weight can help you and your doctor assess if you're eating too much, not enough or just the right amount. Gaining too much or too little weight can affect your baby's growth and your delivery.
Read more: Pregnancy Diet for the Third Trimester
Your pregnancy food choices aren't all that different from what you should be eating when following a healthy diet when you're not pregnant and should include whole foods from all the food groups. However, during pregnancy, your nutrient needs increase to support the growth and development of your baby, making it that much more important that you include the most nutrient-rich choices possible.
Notable nutrients that you need to pay special attention to during pregnancy include:
- Protein: You need about 71 grams of protein a day to support the growth of your baby throughout pregnancy. Good pregnancy food sources of protein include lean meats, eggs, Greek yogurt, legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Iron: Iron is essential for the formation of healthy blood cells and the transportation of oxygen to all your body organs and tissues. Your blood volume increases during pregnancy in order to supply your baby with oxygen. During pregnancy, you need 27 milligrams of iron a day, compared to 18 milligrams when you're not pregnant. Good pregnancy food sources of iron include lean meat, whole grains, legumes and vegetables.
- Folate: Getting an adequate amount of folate in your diet may help prevent the development of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in your baby. You need 400 micrograms a day. Good pregnancy food sources of folate include leafy greens, legumes, oranges, whole grains and fortified breads and cereals.
- Calcium: An adequate intake of calcium during pregnancy not only supports bone growth for your baby, but may protect your bones too, according to a 2019 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. This study found that women who consumed the recommended amount of calcium during pregnancy had better postpartum bone recovery. During pregnancy you need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. Good pregnancy food sources for calcium include milk, Greek yogurt, leafy greens. and fortified juices and cereals.
- Vitamin A: Fat-soluble vitamin A is essential for growth and cell differentiation of your baby. You need 750 micrograms of vitamin A a day during pregnancy. Good pregnancy food sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, spinach, black-eyed peas, carrots and beef liver.
Read more: Fruits and Vegetables Containing Folic Acid
Sweet Potato Nutrition
When it comes to packing in good nutrition, you really can't go wrong when it comes to sweet potatoes, and they most certainly make a healthy addition to your diet during pregnancy. They're low in calories, fat-free, rich in fiber and an excellent source of vitamin A.
- 103 calories
- 2 grams of protein
- 24 grams of carbohydrates
- 4 grams of fiber
The sweet potato also meets more than 10 percent of the daily value (DV) for potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin C, niacin, thiamine and vitamin B6. The colorful tuber also contains some of the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy, including folate, iron and calcium, although less than 10 percent of the DV.
But what the sweet potato is best known for is its vitamin A content, which is in the form of beta carotene, meeting 730 percent of the DV. While vitamin A is essential during your pregnancy, you need to be careful about how much you get from certain food sources.
Preformed vitamin A from foods such as milk, eggs and liver, as well as supplements, can accumulate in your body and lead to toxicity when consumed in excessive amounts. However, provitamin A, which is the form of vitamin A found in sweet potatoes and other fruits and vegetables, has not been shown to have the same effect, making sweet potatoes during pregnancy a good choice for getting some of your essential nutrients.
Read more: Nutrition Facts on Boiled Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potato During Pregnancy
The sweet potato is a versatile vegetable that can easily be incorporated into your pregnancy food plan. You can enjoy it plain as a healthy snack to tide you over between meals or as a side dish with a meal. You can also top your sweet potato with Greek yogurt, chopped walnuts and raisins or black beans, cilantro and onions for extra flavor.
You can make sweet potato hash with your leftover baked potatoes, sauteing them with onions and peppers and serving them with your favorite style of eggs.
As an aside, both Greek yogurt and eggs make excellent additions to your pregnancy food plan. Greek yogurt supports pregnancy calcium and protein needs, while eggs in pregnancy supply protein, iron and folate.
Pregnancy Superfood List
As with most superfood lists, sweet potatoes during pregnancy definitely make the cut. But you can also add a few other nutrient-rich items to your pregnancy superfood list to maximize your nutrient intake to support you and your baby's health, such as:
- Spinach, broccoli and other leafy greens
- Berries, bananas and oranges
- Lentils and beans
- Lowfat or nonfat milk and yogurt
- Soymilk or other fortified plant milks
- Quinoa and brown rice
And, of course, you can add both Greek yogurt and eggs to your pregnancy superfood list.
Salmon is a source of mercury, so it’s generally advised that you limit your intake to no more than two servings a week. You also want to cut out swordfish, king mackerel, tile fish and shark from your pregnancy food list, as well as raw cookie dough, luncheon meats, and unpasteurized juice and milk.
- MedlinePlus: Pregnancy and Nutrition
- FamilyDoctor.org: Healthy Eating and Pregnancy
- MayoClinic: Pregnancy Diet: Focus on These Essential Nutrients
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Folate
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effect of Prenatal Calcium Supplementation on Bone During Pregnancy and 1 Year Postpartum
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin A
- MyFoodData: Sweet Potato, Greek Yogurt, Egg
- Bon Appetit: Creative Ways to Top a Baked Sweet Potato
- American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: The Best Foods to Eat During Pregnancy