A Girlfriend’s Guide to Folate-Rich Foods For Pregnancy

A Girlfriend’s Guide to Folate-Rich Foods For Pregnancy

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Inside: A one-stop-shop for finding the best folate-rich foods for pregnancy (especially the first trimester!) and how to work them into a typical meal plan.

Can I just be real with you for a second?

I have read through at least 10 articles about this exact topic and struggled to find all of the information I’m looking for in one place. 

Like, couldn’t it be possible to find the best folate-rich foods to eat in the first trimester, see the ACTUAL amounts of folate in each food, AND how to actually work them into a meal plan?

What I couldn’t find, I created, instead. You’ve come to the right place!

I am going to be walking you through all things folate-rich foods:

  • What foods are highest in folate
  • How many mcg’s of folate are actually in each food
  • The yummiest ways to eat each of these folate-packed foods
  • A great (free) printable pregnancy meal plan
  • A printable pregnancy food chart for quick reference

Let’s do this!

Author’s Note: I am in no way a medical professional. Please view this post as a cliff notes version of many, many articles compiled together. Follow through with your own research using the links that I provide along with the information that I am sharing as one mom to another mom.

THIS POST PROBABLY CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS. AS AN AMAZON ASSOCIATE, I EARN FROM QUALIFYING PURCHASES. YOU CAN READ OUR FULL DISCLOSURE POLICY HERE.

Folate-Rich Food for Pregnancy: All Your Questions Answered

Wait, wait, wait – before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about why it is UBER important to be getting a high amount of folate through real food during early pregnancy. 

Also, you might be wondering, what’s the deal with folate versus folic acid? Are they different? The same? I’m confused!

Folate is just the natural form of folic acid. Getting folate naturally through folate-rich foods is a great way to reinforce what you’re getting through your prenatal vitamins.

Editor’s Note: Please do NOT stop taking your prenatal vitamins because you think you’re getting enough with all the folate-rich foods listed here. DO consult with your doctor before making any changes to your vitamin intake or diet.

What Does Folate (folic acid) Do, Anyway?

Folate is absolutely necessary during pregnancy to help with rapid cell division and growth.

In addition, giving your body proper amounts (400-800 mcg of folate a day) is integral to decreasing the risk of anemia and Neural Tube Defects, like spina bifida, in the baby.

It’s as simple as that.

If you are considering the benefits of getting your folate naturally versus taking synthetic folic acid, you can see this helpful article from Wellness Mama: Folate vs. Folic Acid.

Top 16 Foods That Are Folate-Rich

This list was compiled using the information from Healthline.com and UnityPoint.org.

I have numbered these foods based on the amount of folate per serving (highest to lowest).

Easy, peasy. Let’s get us some folate!

1. Lentils

A one cup serving of lentils contains 358 mcg of folate and 18 grams of protein.

Holy folate! Seriously, top of the list on every list.

Lentils are a favorite in our family. My favorite way to prepare lentils is in the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Lentils {Recipe}

  • Combine one pound of brown lentils, 8-10 cups water, cayenne pepper, Bragg’s liquid aminos, 2 teaspoons salt and a sprinkle of black pepper.
  • Cook on low in the slow cooker all day. Enjoy!

2. Asparagus

One half cup of asparagus contains 134 mcg of folate.

Ahhh, asparagus. Tastes great but makes your pee stink. Ha! Not hungry anymore?

Easy, Yummy Asparagus {Recipe}

  • Trim white ends off and lay on a baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle salt and pepper.
  • Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 15-20ish minutes until soft when poked with a fork.

3. Beef Liver

In a 3-ounce serving, beef liver contains 212 mcg of folate and 24 grams of protein.

Honest confession: Never have I ever cooked liver. I’m super excited to try it though when our local butchers have it back in stock this winter.

4. Chicken Liver

One chicken liver contains 254mcg of folate.

I’m ashamed now. You’ve caught me… I’ve never even eaten a chicken liver either!

Be brave – cook some up and let me know how it goes!

5. Beets

One cup of raw beets offers 148 mcg of folate.

Here are a couple of recipes to get you started on your beet loving journey:

Pickled beets are also a delicious way to get your beets! These can be found at most grocery stores – no cooking required.

6. Mango

One mango contains 144 mcg of folate.

Now, we’re talkin’. Mangos make my heart happy.

I like to eat mango a few ways:

  • Diced and mixed into cottage cheese
  • In a smoothie
  • Sliced and put straight into my mouth
  • Dried mango (beware the added sugar though)

7. Kidney Beans

One cup of kidney beans contains 131 mcg of folate.

Get some chili going, kidney beans are just what your prego body needs!

8. Broccoli

½ cup of cooked broccoli has 84 mcg of folate; one cup of raw broccoli is 57 mcg of folate.

I love steamed broccoli that is loaded with grass-fed butter. Yummm!

To eat it raw, dip it in some ranch!

Another way to eat it raw: Melissa’s Amish Broccoli Salad (this is a family favorite!)

9. Spinach

One cup of raw spinach contains 100 mcg of folate.

I can see this going two ways… in smoothies and salads. Otherwise, I’d just feel like a goat chomping on plain ol’ spinach.

10. Avocado

Half an avocado contains 82 mcg of folate.

Thou shalt eat avocado – yes, please! Here are a few ideas:

  • Mash and spread on toast.
  • Smash and scoop tortilla chips… guac is my love language.
  • Slice and serve on eggs, enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and really anything that you want.

11. Brussel Sprouts

½ cup or brussel sprouts is 47 mcg of folate.

My absolute favorite way to eat Brussel sprouts: roasted. This is a super simple but scrumptious recipe for Brussel sprouts.

12. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits vary in folate content. For example, one large orange has 55 mcg of folate.

Citrus fruits are best eaten raw or in a fruit salad with other fruits.

13. Papaya

One cup raw papaya contains 53 mcg of folate.

Some favorite ways to enjoy papaya:

  • Smoothies
  • Dried (again, watch the sugar)
  • Papaya & Black Bean Salsa

14. Nuts and Seeds

These contain varying amounts of folate, but they typically range around 25 mcg of folate per ounce.

Throw them in some trail mix, or enjoy sprinkled on top of greek yogurt with a little honey.

15. Banana

One banana has 23.6 mcg of folate.

Bananas don’t need to be eaten plain Jane all the time though! Try a few of these ideas to change it up:

  • A smoothie with 2 frozen bananas, a large spoonful of peanut butter and one cup of milk
  • Banana Bread: this recipe is AMAZING
  • Honey, peanut butter and banana sandwich on wheat bread

16. Eggs

One egg contains 23.5 mcg of folate.

There are a bajillion ways to eat eggs, of course. A few favorites:

  • Egg Salad on sandwich bread
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Hard-boiled and sliced on top of salad

What If I’m Too Nauseous to Eat Folate-Rich Foods?

Yup. I’ve been there, girl.

I so desperately wanted to want to eat healthy foods but all I could stomach some days was chocolate ice cream and bread.

Here are some tips to help end your decision fatigue and guilt.

1. When everything else makes you want to puke (or actually puke), skip the healthy folate, and just eat the junk food.

If you can’t stomach anything whatsoever that is healthy, eat the dang junk food already.

You need to eat whatever you can at this point!

2. If you ARE able to eat healthy, folate-rich foods, but healthy food just doesn’t sound exciting to you…just eat healthy food.

Your baby and your body need the extra awesome nutrients right now!

Let food be thy medicine.

3. Make sure that you are eating every 1.5-2 hours.

Small, frequent meals will save you by squelching your nausea.

During early pregnancy, hunger doesn’t feel like a typical hunger. It feels like nausea and total yuckiness.

When it doubt, have a little snack with protein, carbs, and fats.

Related: 10 Tips for Surviving the First Trimester (when you feel like crap)

Putting It All Together: Folate-Loaded Meals and Snacks

In summary, every 1.5-2 hours during early pregnancy you want to be eating foods rich in folate AND have a balance of protein, carbs, and fats.

Here are some ideas to get you started. (For more healthy and easy snack ideas, click here.)

Snacks Rich in Folate:

  • Turkey and spinach wrap
  • Banana and peanut butter
  • Mango and cottage cheese
  • Berry Banana Kefir smoothie (add ½-1 cup spinach for folate)
  • Avocado toast
  • Raw broccoli with dip
  • A large orange with a cheese stick
  • Trail mix

Meals Rich in Folate:

  • Lentil soup
  • Chili – loaded with kidney beans
  • Beef liver served with asparagus and mashed potatoes
  • Fried eggs topped with sliced avocado, served with cubed mango
  • Grilled chicken breast, roasted brussel sprouts, and raw beet salad

Free Downloads for Easy, Folate-Rich Eating

Click the links below to automatically download these free resources to make eating folate-rich food during pregnancy ridiculously easy!

A great (free) printable 5-day pregnancy meal plan & a printable pregnancy food chart for quick reference.

Read Next: 3 Easy Steps to the Perfect Pregnancy Diet


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