This post was written by Dietician – Rosemary.
Pregnancy is an exciting time! And from the moment of conception, nutrition plays a large role in the growth and development of your little one.
This is a real motivation to get you to start eating clean and fresh foods which are full of nutrients.
Here we are going to look at some of the top nutrients and foods you want in your diet while you are pregnant.
Folate or folic acid is a very important B vitamin before and after conception. Folate plays a major role in early development. Making sure that you receive adequate amounts of folate will help prevent neural tube defects in your baby.
It is suggested that you make an extra effort to get in enough folate one month before pregnancy and during your first trimester.
Now that we know folate is one of the most important vitamins during pregnancy, what is in it?
The easiest way to remember this is that it is in high amounts in beans and lentils as well as green vegetables. Be inspired to make a lentil curry or have baked beans as a side for an English breakfast. Indulge in summer salads with lettuce, kale or spinach. Enjoy a vegetable side like asparagus or broccoli with dinner. Folate can also be found in mangoes and oranges, which are both great fruits for a fruit salad.
If you feel you won’t be able to take in enough folate via your food. Chat to your doctor about going onto a folic acid supplement.
Blood volume increases by 40% to 50% during pregnancy to help supply oxygen to your baby. And during the third trimester, your baby needs to build up their own iron stores and this relies on your intake. This means that your iron requirements shoot up.
Pregnant women should be taking in 27mg of iron daily. An iron supplement is normally provided but don’t be scared to take iron through some natural forms as well.
It is important to note that iron supplementation can lead to a bit of constipation. So remember to keep your water and fibre intake high.
When eating food for its iron-rich properties, remember that we want to consume heme-iron, as it is absorbed more easily. Heme-iron is from animal origin. To help increase the absorption of iron, pair it with foods containing vitamin C. By including a small glass of orange juice or some raw fruits and vegetables with your meals you will be increasing your iron absorption.
Animal sources of iron are through liver, eggs, all meat and seafood including molluscs. So make some liver pâté, a mussel broth, enjoy an English breakfast or a steak on the barbeque.
Non-animal sources of iron include; nuts, seeds and your leafy greens like spinach, kale and turnip and beet greens.
P.S. Nuts and seeds are a great idea to snack on while you are pregnant. They are full of iron, protein and healthy fats. Nuts do not have to be avoided during pregnancy – only if mom herself is allergic to them.
Omega 3 helps with mental and visual development in infants. It is actually important to have good omega 3 intakes during pregnancy as well as during lactating.
Not only does omega 3 help with neurological development but it has also been shown to reduce the risk of premature birth.
Omega 3 fats naturally are found in seafood, especially oily fish. The recommended serving is 2 to 3 servings a week.
Many new moms to be are worried about the mercury and its harmful effects on their unborn child. The fish that you want to be eating are mackerel, tuna, salmon and sardines. The fish we should be looking out for, because of their potential mercury levels, are; marlin, swordfish and deep sea perch.
Splash out and have that grilled salmon and tuna twice a week. For safety reasons while pregnant make sure your fish and meat are well cooked and avoid sushi during this time.
Most people have not heard of choline before but it is very important during pregnancy – and most of us are not getting enough of it. Choline helps with mental development, giving us smart babies and children. This mental development, specifically memory, which happens in uterine lasts a lifetime.
In pregnancy, research suggests we should be getting in 450mg/d and in breastfeeding 550mg/d. Choline is not only important in pregnancy and lactation but it is very important in early childhood years as the brain’s development is immense at these times.
Great! So what can we find choline in?
Some of the best sources of choline are; meat, fish, dairy, eggs, wheat germ and your crucifier vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Tip: Add wheat germ to smoothies and yoghurt or even oats to receive these benefits.
With all the changes that are going on to your body, you need more protein. So enjoy as much meat and protein rich foods as your heart desires. An added bonus is that a lot of these protein rich foods contain a lot of the other vitamins that you need – you can hit two birds with the same stone.
Protein requirements are between 60g and 70g of pure protein a day and this is a lot more than is sounds.
When we look at the protein we should be having, we want to be having a complete protein. A complete protein is a protein we get from animal sources. If we are consuming non-animal sources of protein we need to pair our proteins smartly to get a complete protein.
Sources of protein from animals are meat, fish, eggs, dairy and even whey powder.
Non-animal sources of protein are soy, beans, nuts and peanut butter.
P.S. Snack on yoghurt and nuts to increase your protein intake. Add cheese or egg to sandwiches and salads. And even add whey powder and or peanut butter to smoothies to increase your protein intake. You can even have a glass of chocolate milk before bed.
Iodine once again helps with the nervous system and brain development. And a severe deficiency of it can cause major retardation. And just like choline, iodine amounts should be kept high during pregnancy, lactating and early childhood.
A lot of doctors may choose to put you on an iodine supplement as requirements are increased during pregnancy.
Salt is fortified with iodine, so all of us should be getting some amount of iodine. Other natural sources that you can get iodine from are; cranberries, plain yoghurt, potatoes (but keep the skins on) and navy beans. Another high iodine containing food is seaweed – Why not try a miso soup?
Last but not least is fibre.
Fibre is one of those things you don’t want to forget about while you are pregnant! With all the changes going around in your body, your gut may not function like it did in the past and you can be prone to constipation.
One of the best ways to avoid constipation is to keep your fibre and water intake high. And don’t neglect the water. Always have a bottle of water around with you no matter where you go. That way you are sure to sip on it throughout the day. Avoid high consumption of tea, coffee or fizzy drinks – they are loaded with caffeine and are diuretics. Check out some great drink ideas here.
Being active will also help keep you regular.
To increase fibre go for your whole grains, snack on fruits and pile your plate full of veggies!
Adding wheat bran to breakfasts or yoghurt can also increase your fibre intake.
Tip: Drinking warm prune juice works like magic in relieving constipation!
And that is it, the 7 most important nutrients while you are pregnant. Happy eating!
Rosemary is a dietitian who loves everything related to food and nutrition. Want to learn more about nutrition? Visit her website: Slim and Trim Meals.