Everyone has an opinion on what you should and shouldn’t eat during pregnancy, well meaning friends and family can be overbearing with advice and it can be very confusing. Many women are scared of making the wrong choices and may just stick to what they usually eat which may not meet the nutritional requirements for a healthy pregnancy.
How well you eat during your pregnancy has a big impact on the health of your growing baby, not to mention your health during pregnancy and your recovery after childbirth. Now that your body is home to your growing baby for the next 40 weeks isn’t it time you looked at your diet?
Increased Nutritional Requirements for Pregnancy – Your nutritional requirements skyrocket during pregnancy, your baby needs extra nutrients to grow and develop and all available nutrients go to the baby first and you second. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies which may leave your feeling tired and run down during your pregnancy and a slow recovery from birth.
What you eat is more important than how much you eat – ‘Eating for two’ is a bit misleading really! You need to make sure that each meal is nutrient rich to cope with the increased nutritional demand. The type of food you eat is more important than the amount, if your diet is highly nutritious you won’t be left with cravings that can lead to over eating and inappropriate weight gain in pregnancy. If you have a healthy diet you can be lead by your appetite, it will let you know when you body needs more.
What is a Healthy Pregnancy Diet?
Providing your baby with optimal nutrition for healthy growth and development means that you need to eat from a wide variety of healthy foods and pay special attention to making sure you get enough vital nutrients. These should include:
Whole grains and cereals – Complex carbohydrates are the best source of energy for you and your baby. Brown rice, wholegrain bread, cereals, amaranth, quinoa, couscous, oats, corn, wholemeal pasta and noodles. Complex carbohydrates are the best source of energy for you and your baby. Avoid refined foods such as white bread and pasta as these contain ‘empty energy’ and won’t provide the essential nutrients founds in wholegrain products. High GI, refined carbohydrates lead to weight gain and can contribute to nutritional deficiencies if you fill up on empty carbohydrates instead of eating nutrient rich foods.
Vegetables and fruit – Eat as many as you can! These will provide you with an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and other vital nutrients. Choose a rainbow of colours to make sure you are maximizing your nutrient intake. Make sure you have vegetables with every meal and snack on fruits and vegetables between meals. Try to have 7 different types of vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit per day.
Protein – Protein is very important – it provides us with valuable nutrients including amino acids and iron. Try to make sure you have some protein at every meal including lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, seafood and legumes. If you are a vegetarian mum you must take special care in pregnancy to make sure you have a balanced intake of combined vegetarian proteins to make sure you are getting a full compliment of amino acids – see your nutritionist for a comprehensive dietary plan for pregnancy.
Healthy Fats – Don’t be afraid of fat in the diet, this provides us with valuable fat soluble nutrients and a quality source of energy. Deep sea oily fish, flax seed oil, olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds are all sources of healthy fats. Avoid trans fatty acids, deep fried food and heated oils – cooking with olive oil is fine.
Legumes – Beans and pulses are an important source of vitamins, minerals, fibre protein and other important nutrients and help to balance your blood sugar and keep your bowel regular.
Nuts and Seeds – Nuts and seeds contain valuable fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients; make sure you have a handful each day, chose from almonds, walnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pepitas, sunflower seeds, tahini and sesame seeds. Avoid roasted and slated nuts as they are lower in nutrients.
Milk, yoghurt and hard cheese – These are great sources of calcium, which is very important, especially in the last two trimesters of pregnancy when your baby draws on your calcium supply to grow and strengthen their bones . If you are lactose intolerant there are other great sources of calcium – see your nutritionist for a comprehensive dietary plan for pregnancy.
Water – So simple, yet so easy to forget! Make sure you drink up to between 1.5–2 litres a day. It’s best to get your fluids intake from water as opposed to sugary drinks or tea and coffee. Room temperature is best, add a squeeze of lemon, lime, orange or a sprig of mint in your water to make it taste great and add nutrients.
Getting a healthy eating plan from a qualified Naturopath or Nutritionist at the start of your pregnancy can take the guesswork out of your diet, especially if you’re a ‘special needs’ mum-to-be – vegetarian or diabetic for example. Everyone can do with some dietary advice and inspiration from time to time and pregnancy is the perfect time to hone your nutritional knowledge and get a healthy eating plan in place!