Forget the coffee, these fatigue-zapping foods will put some pep in your step.
Most moms-to-be are too familiar with all-out energy drains—that exhausted feeling that breaks you down mentally to the point where the only activity you can fathom is watching TV with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. While many people turn to caffeine-laden drinks to bolster flagging energy reserves, expectant women are advised to limit their intake of the stimulant during their expectant months.
However, it’s possible to tweak your diet in a way to provide enough energy to run around like your pregnancy self on a latte binge! When you’re experiencing a general lack of get-up-and-go, work these foods into your meals and get ready to see those energy levels soar.
Pumpkin seeds: These jack-o’-lantern cast- offs, also known as pepitas, are a leading source of the mineral magnesium. While magnesium gets little fanfare, it’s required for hundreds of reactions in our bodies— including generating energy. So when levels begin to dip, yawning fatigue can be a consequence. In fact, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that women with low magnesium levels required more oxygen to complete low-level activities, therefore requiring their bodies to work harder to keep on moving.
Energy tip: Give your day an early boost of energy by sprinkling a generous amount of pumpkin seeds onto your morning cereal. You can also try toasting the seeds in a dry skillet and using them as a garnish for soups and salads. You can even blend them straight into smoothies.
Steel-cut oatmeal: There’s nothing flaky about starting your day with a hearty bowl of steel-cut oats. Compared to sugary boxed cereals and more processed rolled oats, the carbohydrates in steel-cut oats are released into your bloodstream at a slower pace, helping to keep your energy levels up throughout the morning hours. As an energy-boosting bonus, oats are a rich source of thiamine, a B vitamin our body uses to convert the carbohydrates in whole grains like oats into energy. Plus, the healthy amount of fiber will work to quash pregnancy cravings.
Energy tip: Sure, you may not have the time (or energy!) to hover over a pot of simmering steel-cut oats in the morning. But soaking them overnight is a stealth way to get them into your belly much quicker. Simply place 1 cup oats in a saucepan with 2 1⁄2 cups water; bring to a slight simmer, turn off the heat, and let sit covered overnight. Come morning, simply reheat with some additional water or milk and spices. (Try cinnamon!)
Eggs: The humble egg is a great way to kick-start a day of a high-flying you. Inside the shell lies a healthy dose of protein to help stabilize energy levels and keep you feeling full all morning long. What’s more, egg yolks are naturally high in B vitamins, which are responsible for converting food into energy. The oval orbs are also one of nature’s richest sources of choline, a nutrient required for the proper brain development of your child.
Energy tip: To make a perfect hard-boiled egg every time, place up to six eggs in a saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a strong boil over high heat, remove from heat, and cover. Let sit for 10 minutes. (Don’t go longer, or you’ll end up with those loathed green rings around the yolk.) Remove with a slotted spoon, and gently tap on the countertop to crack the shells in a few places. Dunk in an ice water bath for about one minute. Prepared eggs can be chilled for up to a week for a quick shot of morning protein.
Lentils: The huge dose of fiber in this inexpensive superfood can stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent any mid- afternoon energy crashes. Lentils are also a good source of thiamine and iron, both of which are needed to keep your mind and body energized. Of course, we would be remiss if we did not point out the bounty of folate that lentils provide. The benevolent B vitamin is a must-have during pregnancy to help reduce the risk of birth defects.
Energy tip: For a near perfect lunch salad, toss cooked lentils with chopped vegetables and a lemon vinaigrette. The vitamin C in vegetables like cherry tomatoes can help increase your absorption of the iron in lentils.
Sprouted bread: One of the keys to keeping plenty of gas in your tank all day long is to keep your blood sugar balanced, so energy levels stay constant. That’s why it’s time to upgrade your lunch sandwiches by making sprouted bread (like those made by the Food for Life baking company) the foundation. A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that breads made with sprouted grains have a lower glycemic index than their counterparts made with regular flour, which results in a more sustained release of carbohydrate fuel and leaves you feeling less pooped later on. Sprouting also amplifies the levels of vitamins and minerals in grains that are essential for a healthy mom and baby.
Energy tip: Most sprouted breads are made without preservatives, so it’s best to store loaves in the fridge to keep them fresh and at their energy-enhancing best. For this reason, you’ll often find sprouted bread in cold storage at the supermarket.
Oranges: The natural sugar in fruit like oranges provides a quick pick-me-up when you’re feeling tired—and there’s no subsequent energy crash because the sugar is bundled with fiber to help keep your blood sugar levels steady. Enjoying sweet fruit with lunch is also a way to take in extra water to keep energy-sapping dehy- dration at bay. Plus, you and your baby can benefit from the payload of vitamin C —it’s required for making collagen, a structural protein that’s a component of cartilage, tendons, bones and skin.
Energy tip: To breathe new life into your lunch sandwich, try cramming iron-rich, nitrate-free roast beef, orange slices, pasteurized blue cheese and baby kale between two slices of toasted sprouted bread.
Bison: You’re pregnant, so you deserve a little splurging when it comes to your chow. And there’s no better contender than bison. Similar to buffalo, bison has a wonderful sweet-rich flavor and is loaded with iron. The mineral iron is an essential component of haemoglobin and myoglobin, two proteins needed to transport oxygen to your cells and muscles. So coming up short during pregnancy, a time when iron requirements increase significantly to compensate for increased blood volume, can make it feel like you’re always dragging your feet. Grass-fed bison have also been shown to possess higher amounts of omega fats than the typical beef raised in industrial feedlots; these fats are crucial to the proper development of your tiny tadpole.
Energy tip: Beyond farmers markets and well-stocked butchers, bison steaks are available at an increasing number of mainstream supermarkets. Try ground bison in your chili, burger and meatloaf recipes.
Clams: Loading up on vitamin B12 might help end your energy crisis. In fact, studies show that a shortage of vitamin B12 can contribute to fatigue. The vitamin lends a hand in making DNA for new cells, including those involved in energy metabolism, and there’s no better way to top off your stores than reeling in clams from the fishmonger. A mere ounce of this fruit of the sea delivers about 10 times the daily requirement for pregnant gals. Additionally, high- protein foods like clams are rich in the amino acid tyrosine. The body uses tyrosine to produce norepinephrine, a brain chemical that helps you feel more alert.
Energy tip: Clams are an absolute cinch to prepare on harried weeknights. Simply steam them in a cup of liquid such as water or broth along with any desired aromatic ingredients like garlic, shallots and herbs until they pop open—about seven minutes. Discard any shells that don’t open during the cooking process.
Asparagus: A fixture in the produce aisle, deserve a little splurging when it comes might help you end your energy crisis. this green giant is laced with B vitamins (including that much sought-after folate), which are a natural way to support healthy energy levels each and every day. The stalks are also stocked with a notable amount of blood sugar-steadying fiber.
Energy tip: For a meal full of energy- making potential, serve steamed asparagus on a bed of cooked quinoa, and top it with a protein-packed poached egg.
Article courtesy of Matthew Kadey, MS, RD at Pnmag.com