A healthy diet is important to us all, but even more so if you are pregnant. There is so much conflicting advice out there on what to eat and what not to eat. In addition to all the worry on what you can and can’t take, you also have to deal with 3 or 4 months of having little to no appetite due to nausea, the next 3 months of eating everything in sight, and then your last 2 months of not being able to eat more then a golf ball sized amount before feeling full! Diet and your appetite in pregnancy is a roller-coaster ride!
I recently spent a morning with the team from NUK and Lila Bruk, a Registered Dietician, where we learnt about pregnancy and post pregnancy nutrition, and we got to cook up some balanced, healthy meals that are perfect for pre and post partum mums.
Here are some Top Tips to get you through a healthy pregnancy:
- Don’t Eat for Two – I know this one is easier said then done. Whilst I didn’t “eat for two” during any of my pregnancies, I certainly indulged in more then my fair share of ice cream! Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can predispose you to conditions, such as pre-eclampsia, so try to keep up a healthy, balanced diet as you usually would. I varied between gain 12 and 15 kgs throughout my three pregnancies.
- Increase your calcium – This is the serious part. Calcium is essential for your baby’s growth and if you don’t get enough calcium through your diet then your body will have to rely on your own stores to compensate for these needs (i.e; your teeth and bones. Yes my teeth suffered the most from my pregnancies). You can get calcium from dairy products (e.g. yoghurt, cheese, milk), but also in tofu, and fish with edible bones (e.g. kipper, sardines, pilchards). If you are taking your calcium as a supplement, be sure NOT to take it with fibre, caffeine or Iron as it interferes with absorption. (Another gem I didn’t know).
- Stock up on Healthy Fats – Essential for your baby’s health and brain development. Healthy fats include those found in nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and olive oil. It is especially important to ensure that you eat enough omega- 3 fatty acids, which are essential for your baby’s brain development. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish (e.g. sardines, pilchards, trout), walnuts and flaxseed. I couldn’t take Omega-3 supplements as they contributed to my nausea but I upped my nut and fish intake.
- Fill up on Fibre – Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, I cant emphasize his one enough. Especially in my last pregnancy, I really had to actively increase my intake. You can get your fibre from oats, bran flakes, fruits, veggies, wholegrain starches, (e.g. brown rice) and legumes. I used to add a couple of spoons of oat bran to my yoghurt in the morning.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – When you are pregnancy your blood volume increases. Aim for at least 10 glasses per day to meet your fluid needs. Soups, water and herbal teas count as water, but anything with caffeine does not. If you don’t cut out caffeine completely, then keep it to a max of 2 to 3 cups per day. Funnily enough with my last pregnancy I couldn’t even stomach the thought of a cup of tea for the first 4 months!
- Pump up the Protein – You are building the muscles of a tiny human! Try to increase your protein by eating more fish, meat, eggs, poultry, cheese, legumes and dairy.
- Don’t forget the Folic acid – My doctor once told me, if you take only one thing during pregnancy, make sure it’s folic acid. Some pregnancy vitamins make me more nauseous, so her advice to me was to cut out the vitamins but keep taking the Folic acid. It is important for the development of your baby’s nervous system and is necessary to prevent neural tube defects (e.g. spina bifida). Ideally you should start taking a folic acid supplement 3 months before conception.
- Check your iron levels – I struggle with this on a good day, and it is always a concern in my pregnancies. If you don’t get enough iron, you can develop anaemia and you may start to feel extremely fatigued, pale and lethargic. It is a good idea to focus on eating more iron-rich foods, such as red meat. DON’T do what I did and eat livers, because that can actually have bad side effects for your baby.
So what should I eat?
I have put together a table to make it easier for you. Personally, I would only focus on the “No” portion, and keep eating as you normally would, with an increased awareness of upping your vitamin and mineral intake. This was an eye opener for me, when I was in my last pregnancy my Iron levels were extremely low. So I turned to what I normally do when I feel anaemic, good old Nando’s livers. I had NO idea the effects that livers could have on my baby. Thank goodness I only had one or two!
Next week I’ll be sharing some more information from the morning, specifically for post-partum and breastfeeding mums. A healthy balanced diet is crucial to milk supply, so check in next week for more. Let me know below if you would like recipe ideas.
Thank you to the NUK team and Lila Bruk for sharing this knowledge with us!