Healthy eating for pregnancy
Healthy eating is important at all stages of life, especially during pregnancy. What you eat and drink at this time can affect your health and the health of your baby for many years to come. There is only a small increase in the amount of food you need to eat while you are pregnant. However, you do need more of certain nutrients, so it is important that you make food choices so you and your baby get all you need for healthy growth and healthy pregnancy.
Healthy eating for pregnancy – essential nutrients You need and how you get them
A sample meal plan to show you how this all fits together
Managing healthy weight gain in pregnancy
Managing food-related side effects, like constipation, heartburn, and morning sickness
Being active during pregnancy
It is especially important in the month before you fall pregnant and the first trimester (three months) of pregnancy. A good intake of folate reduces the risks of your baby being born with conditions such as spina bifida. All women planning a pregnancy and in the early stages of pregnancy should take a folic acid supplement of at least 400mcg (micrograms) per day. Women who have diabetes or are overweight (with a BMI > 30 kg/m2) should take a higher dose of folic acid of 5mg (milligrams) per day. You should also eat a variety of folate containing foods. Foods high in folate include green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, and salad greens, some fruits, and cereals and bread with added folic acid.
Iodine in pregnancy is needed for your baby’s growth and brain development. Your body needs more iodine during pregnancy. All women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or considering pregnancy, should take a supplement of 150mcg (micrograms) of iodine. You still need to consume foods that are high in iodine.
These include freshly cooked and consumed seafood, bread with added iodine, eggs and dairy. Iron during pregnancy Iron is needed to form red blood cells for you and your baby. It helps carry oxygen in your blood and is needed for your baby to grow. During pregnancy, you need a lot more iron than when you are not pregnant. It is best to get the iron you need from your diet. The best sources of iron are lean meats (especially red meat), some vegetables (especially green leafy ones), legumes, and cereals with added iron. Iron from animal food sources is absorbed more easily than iron from plant foods. Some foods and drinks may stop your body from using iron from your diet. To reduce this, avoid:
Drinking tea or coffee with meals
Taking your iron supplement with a meal that includes dairy
Eating more than 2 tablespoons of unprocessed bran. You can help your body absorb iron from the food you eat or drink by:
Including vitamin C with meals (e.g. citrus foods, tomato, capsicum)
Including animal protein with green leafy vegetables at a meal
Supplements needed in pregnancy:
- Folic acid supplement (important during The first trimester)
- Iodine (during pregnancy and breastfeeding).
- Iron, only if your iron levels are low.
You may choose to get these nutrients from individual tablets or from a multivitamin. If you do take a vitamin or mineral supplement during pregnancy, choose one that is specifically designed for pregnancy. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements as high doses can be harmful and reduce the absorption of other nutrients. Herbal supplements and preparations Many herbal preparations have a drug-like effect. These should be used with the same caution as with other drugs.
Eating fish during pregnancy:
Fish is a safe and important part of healthy eating. It is an excellent source of protein, is low in saturated fat, high in omega 3 fish oils and a good source of iodine. Omega 3 oils are important for the growth of your baby’s brain and eye development. It is important to eat fish when you are pregnant but you need to be careful about the fish you choose. Some fish may accumulate mercury, which may be harmful to your baby’s developing nervous system.
Limit drinks containing caffeine during pregnancy. Cola drinks, Mountain Dew soft drinks, tea, coffee, chocolate, chocolate-flavored beverages, cocoa, and energy drinks all contain caffeine. It is best to not have more than two or three of this food and drinks per day.
Dietitian Anushree Acharya