Did you know that a pregnant women needs about 50% more iron in her diet than when she’s not pregnant? It’s true! During pregnancy, you’ll need this extra iron because you’re making more blood to help deliver nutrition and oxygen to your baby. You’re also building your baby’s iron stores for the first six months of his life. Not getting enough iron can leave you feeling tired, cold, and cranky.
But not all iron in food is the same. Non-heme iron, the iron found in plant-based foods and eggs, is more difficult to absorb than heme iron, which is found in meat, poultry and fish.
A simple change in your diet (adding more vitamin C-rich foods) can increase the absorption of non-heme iron. Making this change is even more important if you are vegetarian or not eating much poultry, fish or meat during your pregnancy. Keep in mind that vegetables and fruit are the best sources of vitamin C. Combining these foods with plant-based sources of iron, and eggs, will help you get more iron from your diet.
To help get you started, here are 6 easy meals and snacks that combine vitamin C-rich foods (in orange) with a source of non-heme iron from plant-based foods and eggs (in green):
1. Add berries on top of your oatmeal or cereal
2. Mix in some broccoli or snow peas to your tofu stir-fry
3. Stir some tomato sauce into your beans, lentils or pasta dish
4. Grab a fresh fruit with a small handful of pumpkin seeds for an easy snack
5. Sprinkle some red or green sweet peppers into your omelette
6. Chop up some orange slices for your spinach salad
Remember, by simply adding a vitamin-C rich fruit or vegetable to your plant-based sources of iron and eggs, you maximize the iron you can get from that meal. Doing this for most of your snacks and meals throughout your pregnancy may help you feel more energized!
Feel free to share your favourite iron-boosting combinations with us!