Meat has made a comeback in recent years, thanks to Atkins and other low-carb diets. In addition to being high in protein, it is loaded with iron. "Iron-deficient anemia is very prevalent among women in their 20s," says Grieger, "It can cause weakness, fatigue, inability to pay attention, reduced resistance to cold temperatures, and inability to regulate body temperature adequately. Plus, the need for iron goes up considerably during pregnancy." Eating meat is one of the easiest ways to get enough iron into your system. Stick to the leanest cuts of meat (hint: choose anything with the word loin in it, such as "sirloin") to ensure that you get plenty of iron and protein, without excessive amounts of fat. A thinly sliced steak on a bed of greens with balsamic dressing makes a delicious low-carb, iron- and protein-rich lunch or dinner option.
Recommended Serving Size: 3 ounces, cooked, 200 calories
An excellent source of vegetable protein, fiber, magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron, beans are beneficial for any age group. But their high concentration of folic acid, especially in lentils, makes them particularly good for women who plan to become pregnant or who are currently expecting. Studies show that including folic acid in a woman's diet, even before she conceives, significantly reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the developing fetus. Goldberg suggests using dried beans instead of the canned varieties, which often contain high amounts of sodium and fat.
Recommended Serving Size: 1 cup cooked, approximately 225 calories
If you're craving something sweet, pass on the cookies and grab a handful of strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, or raspberries instead. These nutrient-rich fruits are loaded with fiber and vitamin C. "I recommend berries to my clients because they are a low-glycemic index food, which means that they will satisfy a sugar-craving without the surge of insulin," says Goldberg. An added bonus to these superfoods: Studies show that certain varieties, especially cranberries, can help prevent urinary tract infections. Layer plain yogurt, berries, and low-fat granola for a healthy Superfoods Sundae!
Recommended Serving Size: 1/2 cup, 60 calories
Originally published on BHG.com, March 2005.