Protein foods for pregnancy

We need protein to repair and maintain our bodies during pregnancy, to grow new cells and help protect us from infection. Animal proteins include meat, fish, cheese and eggs, and vegetable proteins include nuts, cooked beans, lentils or meat substitutes.

People are often surprised by the relatively small amount of protein needed in a balanced diet. Even though you require a little extra protein during pregnancy, you still only need to eat two to three servings each day. A serving means:

  • 2 slices of beef or turkey
  • A small lamb or pork chop
  • A small fillet of cod
  • 2 tablespoons of tuna chunks
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of cooked beans or chickpeas

Proteins are made up of a mixture of different types of amino acids. The balance of amino acids in animal protein is similar to the balance needed by our bodies, so meat is a convenient source of protein. The protein in vegetable protein foods is less concentrated, so portions need to be bigger. The disadvantage with meat is that many types contain a lot of saturated fat: the unhealthy type of fat we should try to eat less of.

Keep in mind these guidelines:

  • Poultry and fish contain less saturated fat than red meat
  • If you enjoy red meat, buy lean cuts (you don’t need very much)
  • Cut off any visible fat
  • If you can, grill small cuts of meat rather than fry them
  • Skim the fat off the surface of stews after cooking

Reviewed by the babyworld midwife

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