Good nutrition during pregnancy

Nutrition is very important during pregnancy to help fuel yourself and support the needs of your growing baby.  The food you eat is your baby’s main source of fuel, therefore it is important to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet to obtain all the essential nutrients required during your pregnancy.[1]

You may have heard the old saying that “it is important to eat for two”. This is not entirely correct and you don’t need to eat for two. There are no increased energy requirements during the first trimester and the increased energy requirements during the second and third trimester equate to only a few extra servings of wholegrains and high protein foods.[1,2] Additionally, the quality of food you eat is vital to obtain essential micro and macro-nutrients to support your growing baby, and meet your increased nutrition requirements more than the volume of food consumed.[1]

Include more wholegrains, fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats such as chicken, fish, legumes etc. and dairy or dairy alternatives. Limit processed foods as it contains less nutritional value in comparison to whole foods.[1] You don’t have to cut out all your favourite foods, however, prioritise the whole foods to obtain the nutrients you need. This will help you maintain a balance during your pregnancy.

Weight gain during pregnancy[3]

  • It is important to gain weight steadily. Gaining too much weight too quickly may not be healthy for the mother nor the baby.
  • It is recommended to gain 1-2kg in the first trimester and 400g per week thereafter.
  • If you have a healthy pre-pregnancy weight the recommended weight gain is 11.5-16kg.
  • If you’re overweight you should gain 7-11.5kg during your pregnancy.
  • If you are obese you should gain 5-9kg during your pregnancy.
  • If you’re underweight you should gain 12.5-18kg during your pregnancy.

Protein

Protein is important for the baby’s growth of tissues, organs, brain and assist in increasing the blood supply. You will need to eat 70-100g of protein per day depending on your weight and trimester. [4,5]

Good sources of protein include lean beef, chicken, fish, salmon, nuts, legumes, peanut butter.

Folate

Folate or folic acid play a role in the prevention of birth defects such as neural tube defects, which affects the baby’s brain and spinal cord. [4,5]

Good sources of folate include liver, nuts, beans and lentils, eggs, dark green leafy vegetables.

Iron

Iron helps to increase blood flow and supply enough oxygen to you and the baby. You will need 27mg of iron per day along with vitamin C rich foods to increase the absorption of iron. [4,5]

Good sources of iron include lean meats, chicken, eggs, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables and pair them with citrus fruits and vegetables like tomato, capsicum, lime etc. to obtain vitamin C to boost iron absorption.

Calcium

Consuming sufficient calcium will help build the baby’s bones. You will need 1000mg of calcium per day. [4,5]

Good sources of calcium include milk, yoghurt, cheese, low mercury containing fish such as salmon, shrimp, catfish, canned tuna.

How to manage morning sickness [6]

  1. Eat small frequent meals throughout the day.
  2. Drink fluids between meals not with the meal.
  3. Reduce the intake of high fat, sugary and very spicy foods.

Pregnancy and food safety [7]

Pregnant women have a greater risk of food-borne illness and the following food should be avoided.

  • Unpasteurised dairy products
  • Raw and undercooked eggs
  • Soft cheese
  • Soft serve ice cream
  • Sprouts
  • Pate
  • Sushi
  • Oysters, chilled prawns and smoked salmon
  • Raw and undercooked meats
  • Sandwich meats like ham, salami
  • Pre-prepared or store bought chopped fruit, salads or sandwiches

Other considerations[8]

  • It is best to abstain from alcohol.
  • Be mindful of your caffeine intake. You can consume tea and coffee during pregnancy. E.g. 1-2 cups of espresso, 2-3 cups of tea or instant coffee is generally safe. Soft drinks, chocolate and energy drinks also contain caffeine and should be limited.
  • High mercury fish should be minimised as too much mercury can be detrimental to the baby’s nervous system. Mercury containing fish include king mackerel, marlin, shark, swordfish, orange roughly. Other fish can be consumed safely 2-3 times per week.

References

  1. Plecas D, Plesinac S, Kontic-Vucinic O. Nutrition in pregnancy: Basic principles and recommendations. Srpski arhiv za celokupno lekarstvo. 2014;142(1-2):125-130.
  2. Eating for two’ pregnancy myth still risks harming mothers and their babies despite best intentions [Internet]. Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. 2017 [cited 26 November 2021]. Available from: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/news/eating-for-two-pregnancy-myth-still-risks-harming-mothers-and-their-babies-despite-best-intentions/
  3. Martínez-Hortelano J, Cavero-Redondo I, Álvarez-Bueno C, Garrido-Miguel M, Soriano-Cano A, Martínez-Vizcaíno V. Monitoring gestational weight gain and prepregnancy BMI using the 2009 IOM guidelines in the global population: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2020;20(1).
  4. Mousa A, Naqash A, Lim S. Macronutrient and Micronutrient Intake during Pregnancy: An Overview of Recent Evidence. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):443.
  5. Danielewicz H, Myszczyszyn G, Dębińska A, Myszkal A, Boznański A, Hirnle L. Diet in pregnancy—more than food. European Journal of Pediatrics. 2017;176(12):1573-1579.
  6. Mestre D, Brand G. What is the best treatment for nausea and vomiting in pregnancy?. Evidence-Based Practice. 2020;24(3):24-25.
  7. People at Risk: Pregnant Women [Internet]. FoodSafety.gov. 2021 [cited 26 November 2021]. Available from: https://www.foodsafety.gov/people-at-risk/pregnant-women
  8. Kominiarek M, Rajan P. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. Medical Clinics of North America. 2016;100(6):1199-1215.
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