Healthy diets tend to naturally include more folate and other vitamins and minerals essential for healthy pregnancies. Here are some tips to help you enjoy more folate and essential nutrients in your daily menus.
Focus on nutritious foods
Whether you’re planning your meals, writing your grocery list or eating out, try to focus on choosing nutrient-rich foods. Remember, folate is found naturally in nutritious foods such as green leafy vegetables (think spinach, romaine lettuce, and broccoli), many other vegetables, citrus fruits and juices, berries, legumes (including dried beans, peas and lentils), nuts, seeds and eggs. Breads and pasta made with enriched flour and ready to eat cereals are also enriched with folic acid now to help women get more.
Grocery shop strategically
Make a habit of starting your trips to the grocery store by choosing naturally nutrient-rich foods from the outer walls. That’s where you will usually find many of the most nutritious foods, including fresh vegetables and fruit, citrus juices, enriched breads, milk and other milk products, fresh meats, poultry, and fish and eggs. You’ll often find bulk food bins with nuts, seeds, dried beans, peas and legumes, and whole grains such as oats there also.
Learn to read labels
Look for the Nutrition Facts on food labels to help you make informed food choices. Compare the % Daily Value in the Nutrition Facts table in similar foods to see if a food has a lot or a little of a certain nutrient, such as folate or folic acid. For example, some eggs contain twice as much folate, providing 30% of the Daily Value and are “an excellent source of folate”, compared to regular eggs that provide 15% and are also considered “a good source of folate”. The Daily Values are based on the Recommended Daily Intakes.
Eat out wisely
When it comes to meals prepared outside the home it’s also important to choose wisely. It’s no secret that fast foods are often high in calories, fat and salt and lacking when it comes to essential nutrients such as folate. But there are many healthier options that can provide you with more of the folate you need. For example, for a nutritious lunch, order a spinach salad topped with a sliced hardboiled egg, with a whole grain bun and orange juice. With a little planning, it’s easy to make a simple meal like this at home and take it to go for lunch. Or make for dinner and set some aside for lunch.
Plan to snack well
Planning healthy snacks can also make a big difference in your nutrient intakes. Fortunately, there are lots of foods that provide folate and folic acid that make for nutritious snacks. Try the following healthy snacking ideas:
• Enjoy a trail mix made with your choice of nuts, seeds and dried cranberries.
It’s easy to make your own at home.
• Dip baby carrots, broccoli and cauliflower florets or wholegrain pita wedges
into humus (a dip made with chickpeas and lemon juice).
• Spread some ripe avocado or egg salad onto a small slice of whole grain
• Eat a fruit that contains folate, such as an orange, clementine or a half a cup of
• Cook up some hard-boiled eggs and store them in the refrigerator to reach for
when you want a healthy snack.
Enjoy a healthy balance
When planning meals and snacks at home, you can also boost your folate intake by simply enjoying a healthy balance. Combine foods that provide folate or folic acid from different food groups. Eat a variety of vegetables and fruit, grain products made from enriched flour or cereals enriched with folic acid, as well as meat alternatives such as legumes, nuts, seeds and eggs.
For a great example of how to combine a number of nutritious foods with folate as part of a balanced meal that includes all four food groups from Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, see this recipe: Italian Pasta Frittata.
Want to learn more? See, Folate for Healthy Pregnancies