Pregnancy is a magical time.
Your skin is glowing, your hair is thick and your nails are longer and stronger than they’ve ever been. You’re also constipated, moody, often nauseated and prone to frequent bouts of vaginal thrush. Like I said, magical. Good nutrition is always a priority in my life but even more so now that I am pregnant with baby number two. Nutrition in pregnancy isn’t really that different from normal – the basic principles of healthy eating remain the same: get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats and water.
The old “eating for two” adage doesn’t hold up these days, with a pregnant woman’s average energy needs only increasing by about 300 calories – the equivalent of a salad sandwich. Therefore good nutrition during pregnancy is very much a matter of quality of food rather than quantity. There are, however, certain nutrients that pregnant women do need to make sure they are getting enough of – here’s what tops the list, as endorsed by the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.
Folate is a B vitamin found naturally in green leafy vegetables, fruit (e.g. citrus, berries and bananas) and legumes. When this vitamin is added to food or used in dietary supplements, it is known as folic acid.
Not having enough folate during early pregnancy has been linked to increased risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend that, as well as eating a healthy diet rich in folate, women need an extra 400 micrograms of folic acid a day for at least one month before conception, and for the first three months of pregnancy. This can be achieved by taking a folic acid supplement.
Try these Vegetable and Lentil Fritters.
Throughout pregnancy, especially during the third trimester, your baby needs calcium to build healthy bones. Calcium also helps your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally.
Recommendations for calcium during pregnancy and breastfeeding are actually the same for non-pregnant women (1000mg per day), as during pregnancy you absorb calcium more efficiently from your diet so your growing baby’s needs are met.
Calcium is found readily in dairy products, broccoli, kale, almonds, soy and canned fish like salmon and sardines. Try this Kale, Quinoa and Almond Salad.
Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. During pregnancy your blood volume expands to accommodate changes in your body and help your baby make his or her entire blood supply — doubling your need for iron (which is why iron-deficiency anemia is common during pregnancy).
Rich sources of iron are meat, particularly red meat, legumes, leafy greens and iron-fortified cereals.
Consuming eating foods that are rich in vitamin C (e.g. tomatoes and oranges) will help your body absorb iron.
Try this Slow Cooked Massaman Lamb Shoulder.
Iodine is essential to the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system. Your iodine requirement increases by 47 per cent during pregnancy and by 80 per cent during breastfeeding.
Seafood, seaweed (kelp and nori), some dairy products and fortified bread can be valuable sources however iodine supplementation is often recommended during this time to ensure your baby’s demands for growth are met.
More protein is needed during pregnancy to support your baby’s growth and changes in your own body such as increased breast and uterine tissue. It also helps with the formation of new blood cells, brought about by an increase in blood volume.
In general, a healthy balanced diet will provide enough protein to meet your minimum needs during pregnancy (around 70-100g). Protein is found in a variety of foods inducing lean meats, dairy products, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Remember - maintaining a healthy diet through the duration of pregnancy gives your baby the best start at life! If you want to out these recommendations into practice check out the Healthy Mama Meal Plan - a 24-hour meal plan for a healthy pregnancy!
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