By Umm Layth
When pregnant, it doesn’t take long to realize that our world no longer revolves around us. It’s the tiny being inside of us who calls the shots now, especially in terms of our nutrition.
Foods we used to have passion for become abhorred, while those we never even thought of eating become regular cravings. On top of it all, our doctors, friends, and family are presenting us with whole lists of ingredients we can’t even go near, for the health of our baby of course.
And while going through this experience may be unsettling at times, we should really be grateful. After all, many women in the world aren’t able to conceive. Yet Allah, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen pregnancy for us, whether it’s our first child or our 15th.
In the Qur’an we’re told, “To Allah belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female offspring upon whom He wills and bestows male offspring upon whom He wills. Or he bestows both males and females and He renders barren whosoever He wills. Verily He is the All-Knower and is able to do all things, (Ash-Shoora: 49-50).”
But with this great blessing comes the great responsibility of doing everything we can to properly nourish our bodies to help support the growth and development of our unborn children. Out of those most essential nutrients to consume during pregnancy, protein is by far the most important.
Protein is the main ingredient for growing healthy cells and manufacturing hormones that help regulate life. During pregnancy our body’s need for protein increases dramatically to meet the demands of our growing baby so it’s recommended to consume 80-100 grams each day.
Not having enough protein can result in maternal fatigue and moodiness, as well as low fetal birth weight, slowed fetal brain development, and other pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and toxemia.
“But won’t increasing my protein make me gain more weight?”
Protein is a caloric nutrient, meaning it does have the potential to add pounds to your body. But remember that we’re talking about pregnancy here, a time when moms are supposed to gain weight to keep themselves and their budding babes healthy.
The current weight gain recommendation for a healthy single pregnancy is 25-35 pounds (11.5-16 kilos), most of that being gained during the second and third trimesters when your baby is growing the fastest.
Also, consuming more protein doesn’t mean you have to consume more fat (although fat isn’t necessarily a bad thing during pregnancy either). There are plenty of high protein, low fat foods you can choose from such as beans, legumes, nuts, fish, dairy, egg whites, and poultry.
Eating these foods regularly will also boost your body’s health and your baby’s growth with important vitamins and minerals like Calcium, Vitamin D, Phosphorus, Vitamin E, Thiamin, Niacin, and Iron.
Try a few of the following ideas to add a punch of protein to your diet without padding your hips.
- Use low-fat milk to make your cereal or oatmeal in the morning. You can even use it to make a glass of hot chocolate for a tasty evening treat.
- Sprinkle a handful of nuts on top of your salad and take a couple of handfuls with you to work to snack on when your energy gets low.
- Poultry with the skin on has 50-60 percent fat. To cut this down, remove all the skin and fatty parts of the meat before cooking and serving it. This will reduce the fat content to just 8-15 percent without compromising the protein.
- Top raw fruit or veggies with a yummy nut butter like almond or peanut butter. This works just as well with apples as it does celery.
- Skip the meat and have a seafood night! Enjoy fresh tuna or other low-fat fish. You can grill it, bake it, roast it, or BBQ it, and much, much more! What’s best is that not only will you get loads of protein; you’ll also get a good dose of Omega-3 Fatty acids like DHA which are vital for your baby’s brain development.
Want to know more about pregnancy nutrition, childbirth and more? Enroll in our Blessed Start Online Childbirth Education Course.
Share some of your favorite protein sources and recipes in the comments!