Your baby receives all their nourishment from you, so it’s really important that what you eat is healthy and gives you the right balance of nutrients to promote growth of that little one. Everyone talks about the foods to avoid (another blog coming on this shortly), but it’s rare to hear about the things we SHOULD be eating, so I’m going to give you a run down.
And, as a side note - now is not the time to make drastic changes. Giving up certain food groups or dieting are not recommended, so it’s more about being sensible with your food choices.
What are the essential nutrients your body needs during pregnancy?
Folic acid (or the better option is the natural Folate)
Why: this is an essential B vitamin shown to reduce the risk of baby developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
Where: Found in broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, asparagus, peas, chickpeas, baked beans, brown rice, fortified breakfast cereals, wholemeal bread and some fruit (such as oranges and bananas).
How much: It’s recommended that you also take a daily 400mcg supplement from the time you stop using contraception to the 12th week of pregnancy.
Why: Pregnancy increases your body’s need for iron and it’s vital for new cell and hormone formation
Where: Found in red meat, pulses, green leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals and bread. Have some fruit juice or other food high in vitamin C at the same time, as these foods will help your body absorb the iron better.
How much: It’s recommended you have 14.8mg a day
Why: Helps build your baby’s bones and teeth, as well as protecting your own bones and is essential for blood clotting.
Where: Milk, cheese and yoghurts are the best sources, but also in tofu, canned fish with bones and green leafy vegetables
How much: Your body in pregnancy adapts to absorb more calcium from your food and your own calcium stores are then used to supply baby. You need at least 700-800mg daily
Why: Essential for your baby’s healthy bone growth and for absorbing calcium
Where: Most of our vitamin D comes from sunlight in the summer, however you can also get it from certain foods including oily fish, organ meats, eggs, and dairy foods such as milk or yogurts. Some foods, (fat spreads/breakfast cereals) are also fortified.
How much: It is recommended that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a supplement containing 10ug/day to cater for the increased use in pregnancy.
Why: Essential for growth, immune function and cell replication
Where: Lean red meat, eggs, canned sardines, wholegrain cereal and dried peas and beans
How much: Recommendation is about 7mg daily
Omega 3 fatty acids
Why: Important for your baby’s brain and visual development. They are also though to reduce the risk of high blood pressure in pregnancy and are a good natural anti-inflammatory.
Where: Oily fish like salmon, trout or mackerel. Lean meats, seeds and nuts
How much: Aim to have two meals of oily fish a week
What other things should I think about?
As normal it’s recommended you have lots of fruit and veg (5 a day) as well as carbohydrates for energy (complex carbs such as wholegrain products also provide the fibre needed to help prevent constipation!) and protein for building baby’s blood cells, tissues and organs (through meat, fish, eggs, pulses or tofu).
If you’re vegetarian or vegan then you may need to think a little more as to how you get all these essential nutrients. Eggs and dairy in particular, provide a lot of nutrients, so vegans will find it much harder to get the right nutrients and therefore may need to take additional supplements.
It’s not only food you need to think about – ensure you hydrate yourself enough. Water is important to flush out your system and keep it operating properly. It can help prevent UTI infections, will help with energy levels and preventing headaches, swelling and overheating.
And finally – eating for two is a myth!! You only actually need an extra 200-300 calories a day in the final trimester. That actually equates to a couple of slices of wholegrain toast, so don’t go crazy and binge on chocolate! 😊
If you need any advice on your nutrition. I offer EatFit, a food diary checking service. You provide me with a 7 day diary of everything you’ve consumed and I will come back with recommendations on where to tweak your diet to get optimal nutrition.
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