Adequate protein intake is essential in every life stage; however, some stages require increased protein intake for optimal health. During pregnancy, it is recommended that women consume 1.1 g/kg body weight of protein per day, which is up from 0.8g/kg prior to pregnancy. The second and third trimester are the most important times to pay attention to protein levels, as this is when the baby will be growing fastest, placing more demand on the mother for all essential nutrients.
Why is protein so crucial during pregnancy? The healthy pregnancy position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that “Unbalanced diets during pregnancy, particularly with respect to protein and carbohydrates, have been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes, including low birth weight and other long-term effects on blood pressure.” More specifically, protein is necessary to help build the baby’s tissues and promote adequate growth in the womb.
Eggs, in particular, are a good source of all-natural, high-quality protein, which helps support fetal growth and is associated with a healthy birth weight. They also provide other nutrients that are vital to a baby’s development, such as folate, choline, iron, vitamin D and zinc.
For a healthy diet during pregnancy, give eggs the company they deserve, and pair with plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Also keep in mind that food safety is especially important for those who are pregnant. Eggs should be cooked until the whites and yolks are firm or, for dishes containing eggs, until an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is reached.
Choosemyplate.gov has specific information on ways to build a healthy plate during pregnancy and lactation. USDA’s Supertracker tool can also be used to personalize information based on height, weight, and stage of pregnancy. The recipe below is a great example of combining eggs with other nutritious ingredients to boost protein, folate, iron, choline and vitamin D.
Makes 4 servings
- 3-1/2 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 small zucchini, quartered, thinly sliced (2 cups)
- 1 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup chopped drained oil-packed artichoke hearts
- 4 EGGS
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (2 oz.)
- ½ tsp. dried basil leaves
- ½ tsp. dried oregano leaves
- 2 cups marinara sauce, warmed
- HEAT oven to 425°F. PRESS potatoes evenly on bottom and sides of greased 10-inch quiche dish or pie plate. COAT lightly with cooking spray. BAKE in 425°F oven until potatoes are lightly browned and crisp, about 30 minutes. Reduce oven setting to 375°F.
- HEAT butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. ADD onion and garlic; sauté until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. ADD zucchini, bell pepper and artichokes; sauté until crisp-tender.
- BEAT eggs, milk, cheese, basil and oregano in large bowl until blended. ADD zucchini mixture; mix well. POUR into potato crust.
- BAKE in center of 375°F oven until knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. LET STAND 5 minutes. CUT into wedges; serve with marinara sauce.
Nutrition Information (per serving)
Calories: 452, Total Fat: 17g, Saturated fat: 6g, Polyunsaturated fat: 3g, Monounsaturated fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 206mg, Sodium: 845mg, Carbohydrates: 57g, Dietary Fiber: 8g, Protein: 19g, Vitamin A: 2701.2IU, Vitamin D: 60.2IU, Folate: 81.5mcg, Calcium: 233.5mg, Iron: 3.8mg, Choline: 158.4mg
Mayo Clinic. “Pregnancy diet: Focus on these essential nutrients.” Retrieved fromhttp://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy-nutrition/pr00110/nsectiongroup=2.
American Dietetic Association. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrition and Lifestyle for a Healthy Pregnancy Outcome. JADA. 2008; 108 (3): 553-561.