Nutrition · Pregnancy

Brain food for you and your baby

Italian cuisine. Marinated sardines.

What foods help your baby’s brain develop?

As a dietitian, I’m often asked by pregnant clients what food they should eat to help their baby’s brain develop. The easy answer is to choose foods high in DHA, a type of omega-3 fat. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, it’s important to get enough DHA. This healthy fat can be your infant’s best friend even before she is born. It helps support your baby’s heart, brain, eyes and nerves to develop.

During the last three months of your pregnancy as well as the first year of your baby’s life, your baby’s brain is growing at its peak. By the time your baby is a year old her brain has tripled in size. This means that your baby’s need for this must-have nutrient increases as well.

So, where will all this brain food come from?  You –by eating a healthy diet rich in DHA! The tricky part is in knowing what foods to choose. Start by trying my top three tips to get DHA in your diet:

1. Eat fatty fish that are low in methyl mercury – Aim for at least 2 servings of safe fish per week. One serving is 75 grams or 2.5 oz or the size of the palm of your hand. Try these safe fatty fish:

  • Anchovies
  • Atlantic Mackerel
  • Atlantic Herring
  • Rainbow trout
  • Sardines
  • Salmon
  • Anchovies

Read A Guide to Eating Fish for Women, Children and Families, to get more information on choosing safe fish for you and your family. Food sources of DHA, including fish, are a healthy choice for your whole family.

2. Include foods with added DHA – Look for omega-3 eggs, or milk, margarine and yogurt with added DHA in stores and include them as part of your regular diet

3. Consider a fish oil supplement – If you’re vegan or don’t eat fish, fish oil supplements may be a choice for you. Talk to your dietitian or healthcare provider about the supplement you plan to take; they can help you read the label and check its safety. Avoid products made from fish liver (like cod liver oil). These products may be too high in a form of Vitamin A that is known to cause birth defects.

Feel free to share your recipes and ideas with us. Tell us how you and your family get your brain food?


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