Nutrition Tips for Expectant Mums
by Aimee Weston
Having a baby is an exciting time and it often inspires women to improve their nutrition and ensure their baby is getting all the nutrients they need to healthily grow. Here you will find a list of nutrients to include in your diet before, during, and after your pregnancy. These are also useful if you are not pregnant, as they support all women and our hormonal needs too.
It is important to gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy. After all, you are growing a beautiful little human/s inside of you, and it is an incredible feat your body will go through. How much weight should we gain? There is no magic number. We are all unique and will respond to pregnancy in different ways. One thing to note is, it is not a time to put pressure on yourself - no crash diets and no excessive overeating either. Your GP will usually advise that it is safe to consume an extra *200-400 calories in the second and third trimesters. (*NHS UK). Seek professional advice if you are unsure.
Vitamins and minerals you both need
When it comes to the best foods you can eat during pregnancy, reach for foods packed with nutrients rather than empty calories (not forgetting to indulge every now and then though!). This will ensure you and your baby are getting the key vitamins and minerals you both need. These include:
Omega 3 and Vitamin D are important for your baby’s brain and eye development, bones, and immune system. These include most fish, (avoiding un-cooked fish and fish high in mercury), eggs and red meat. Vegetarian options include hemp, flax and chia seeds, edamame, walnuts, and kidney beans.
Folate/Folic acid is important to help to prevent neural tube defects. Food high in these nutrients include leafy greens, broccoli, avocados, citrus fruits, legumes (beans, peas, lentils, quinoa), beetroot, fortified cereals (added folic acid) and nuts and seeds. *It is recommended that you take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before you are pregnant and up until 12 weeks. (*NHS UK).
Fibre is particularly important during pregnancy as it is kind on the stomach, improves our nutrient absorption, helps to balance blood-sugar levels and relieve constipation. Dense leafy greens are full of fibre, folate, and antioxidants. Berries, pears, melon, oranges, carrots, peas, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, and skinned potatoes are all high in fibre and Vitamin C too.
Your iron intake usually needs to be doubled during pregnancy. The foods listed above in fibre are high in iron (as well as red/lean meats).
Protein is the vital building block our body uses to create muscles, bones, skin, and hair. Foods that are high in protein include eggs, lean/organic poultry, fish, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and cottage cheese.
Calcium promotes strong bones, teeth, nerves, and muscles. Most of the foods listed above contain calcium, including fish and leafy greens. Other foods include, milk, cheese, yoghurt (opt for organic if you can), fortified cereals, juices and plant-based milk.
Include pasta, rice, and breads in your diet if that is what you like, opting for wholegrain, brown (or gluten free) where you can which are less processed and will keep you fuller and satisfied for longer.
Vitamin B6 is an important vitamin to promote healthy tissue and brain growth. Avocados are high in B6 as well as bananas, sweet potatoes, leafy greens and eggs.
As you can see, a lot of these foods are fresh superfoods. Plan ahead and include them in your main meals. If you are on the go, smoothies, soups, and salads are perfect. Meals you can freeze like lasagnes, curries and bakes are brilliant time savers. If you are not sure where to start, try some simple recipes, or if you would like a little extra help, explore companies like mindful chef and gousto. They do most of the work for you by designing the recipes, sourcing fresh local produce, and delivering it to your door.
Foods to avoid
Whilst we are talking about the best foods to eat during pregnancy, there is a list of foods to avoid. These contain bacteria and chemicals which can make you sick and perhaps you should steer clear of until your baby is born. Ask your GP about these or visit your local healthcare provider’s website. Remember to wash your fresh produce thoroughly and check the ingredients on the labels of products if you are unsure.
Drink lots of water. Unfortunately, this may not help with already needing to go to the toilet frequently, however, it is so important to help your body absorb all the wonderful nutrients listed above. Water is perfect for cleansing any toxins, aiding your digestion (reducing constipation) and reducing any risks of infections.
As well as a nutrient-dense diet, taking a pre-natal vitamin daily will ensure that you are getting the right balance of nutrients you and your baby needs. There are some wonderful supplements on the market, if you are unsure, speak to your GP and do a bit of research yourself. Choose supplements which are high in pure ingredients with preferably little to no fillers.
What about those cravings?
It is a time to embrace those cravings too if they ever pop up!
I asked a group of girlfriends what their cravings were and there were variety of answers, including:
- Orange juice
- Frosty fruit ice blocks (husband had to bulk-buy)
- Every single brand of salt & vinegar crisps
- Red meat, burgers, burgers, burgers
- Tinned peaches
- Chocolate buttons
- Fruit, fruit, fruit
- Tomato soup
- Anything with tomatoes
- Fresh salsa
- Meat pies
- Anything sweet, lollies
- Raisin toast
- Hot chips
- Ginger beer
- Sparkling water
- Chicken or vegetable broth
- Spinach with soya sauce
- Ginger nut cookies
- Corn chips and guacamole
- Canned sweetcorn
- Cheddar cheese
- Caramelised red onion chutney
How is that for a diverse list? Hardly any two were the same and it just goes to show how different our taste buds are! If you find you are craving things which are not food, it could be a deficiency, so speak to your midwife or GP.
One thing to keep in mind is the time of day we enjoy the indulgences. Food high in sugar/caffeine can affect our sleep and we need good sleep! Heavy carbs and meats can sometimes contribute to indigestion too. Listen to your body and take note of when certain foods might be causing you discomfort.
If you suffer from morning sickness, try to eat what you can and drink lots of water. Keep track of your weekly intake and seek professional help if you feel you are not getting the right amount of nutrients you need.
It’s worth it in the end
Enjoy this wondrous time and look forward to when baby is out in the world so you can enjoy the foods that you couldn’t have during pregnancy. My sister is due any day now and I asked her what food she misses the most. She cannot wait to have eggs royale with raw salmon and runny eggs. A platter of soft cheeses and Pâté, with a glass of champagne. Yum!
I hope you found this useful and if you would like some well-being tips for expectant Mums, click here, take a look at my website www.youfirstnutrition.com or visit my Instagram page @youfirst.nutritionwellbeing for more nutrition and well-being tips. I would love to hear from you if you would like any personal advice, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.