Finding out you are pregnant is supposed to be an exciting time. But for some women they find it overwhelming as there is so much information out there about what do, what to eat, and what to avoid – a lot of it is contradictory and confusing and therefore very challenging for expecting Mums to know what to do.
Food is important not only for the development and life of a growing baby but also for the mother. As a result, a healthy diet should be a priority for the mother. However, as we all know, it is VERY hard to worry about what we are eating especially in your first trimester when you may be feeling unwell a lot of the time. Before getting pregnant, many women probably think that when they get pregnant they will eat lots of healthy foods – fruit and veggies, green smoothies etc. However, when you discover you are pregnant, these thoughts can go out the window depending on how you are feeling. Many women experience morning sickness through the first trimester (and some beyond) and often the last thing that you feel like are green vegetables.
I know for me, I craved carbs in the first trimester especially – Carbs, carbs and more CARBS! I was lucky enough during both pregnancies to not suffer extreme morning sickness. However, I still felt nauseous and when I wasn’t nauseous I was hungry (or “hangry” as I often referred to it) and needed carbs. This meant I snacked on crackers throughout most of the day during the first trimester, not exactly nutritious. Often this trimester is all about making it through the day and the last thing we want to do is eat those foods which albeit healthy, may make us feel awful and worse yet end up with our heads down the toilet.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel for most women and as we progress into the second trimester we start to get our appetite back and feel like the healthy foods we used to eat.
Once the nausea subsides, we can start incorporating the following foods back into our diet as this will be the main source of nourishment for the baby and it will also benefit ourselves.
It’s important to incorporate a variety of healthy foods into our diet. As an expecting mum, we often require more protein, calcium, iron, fibre and should incorporate more fruits & vegetables, and healthy fats into the diet and finally we need to stay hydrated especially in the warmer months.
Folic Acid & Iodine – It’s hard to get the recommended amount from what we eat so we can take a daily supplement. As most of you Mums will know, we should be taking a Folic Acid supplement not only when we are pregnant but prior to getting pregnant. This lowers the risk of neural tube defects in the baby. Iodine is important for healthy brain development and your LMC will recommend taking a supplement for this as well. Alternatively, a good quality pre-natal vitamin should include both of these.
Protein – Protein is the building blocks of your baby’s body’s cells. Good quality protein includes beef, lamb, chicken, fish and also vegetarian sources such as tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes etc. Note, we often don’t feel like any of these foods in the first trimester but thankfully protein is more crucial during the second and third trimesters.
Calcium – to help build the babies bones and teeth. The common misconception is that calcium only comes from i.e. milk, yogurt and cheese. However, good sources of calcium also include leafy greens, sardines, salmon, tofu.
Iron – When pregnant we need about double the amount iron we required pre-pregnancy. Many women also become very low in iron during pregnancy so it is good to ensure we include iron rich foods in our diet. Good sources include – red meat, poultry, fish, legumes, spinach etc.
Fibre: Foods rich in fibre can come in the form of whole grains and fresh fruit and vegetables. Some women during pregnancy experience constipation, fibre helps to relieve this. The majority of your carbohydrate intake should come from whole grains. Whole grains include Brown rice, buckwheat, oats and quinoa to name a few. Examples of other fibre rich foods that could help relieve constipation include blueberries, apples, strawberries, kiwifruit, lentils, beans, peas, broccoli.
Fruits & Veggies – it seems obvious but is very important as they are filled with vital vitamins and minerals. Fruit and Vegetables fall into different colour categories, so when choosing F&V, try to include a rainbow of colours to ensure you are getting a variety of vitamins and minerals into your diet. It’s often easier to include fruits but to incorporate more veggies into your diet you could snack on e.g carrot/celery sticks with a Greek or coconut yogurt or alternatively hummus (some women tend to avoid hummus during pregnancy due to the tahini so when pregnant I made my own hummus without tahini) – its a personal choice. You can also incorporate veggies into a smoothie.
Healthy Fats – healthy fats are vital during pregnancy and should not be avoided – a common misconception is to cut down on fat. I ensured to include healthy fats in my diet and also took good quality pre-natal omega’s (fish oil or vegan alternative). Foods which are good sources of healthy fats include – Avocado, nuts, seeds, eggs, coconut oil and fish.
Water: ensuring we stay hydrated during pregnancy is important and we often require more water than usual. A lot of women who suffer water retention stop drinking water as they believe that this is contributing to it. However, water helps with water retention – so drink up! I tried to have at least 2 Litres of water a day. If you are finding it hard to increase the amount of water in your day, try adding fresh fruit to your water as it makes it a lot more tolerable and also has the added benefit of additional vitamins and minerals. You could also try lemon, mint and cucumber (one of my favourites). I start the day with a lemon essential oil infused water which also helps to up the days water intake. Alternatively, try adding a drop of a good quality pure essential oil to soda water – I love lemon, wild orange and lime. If you have any questions about essential oils and pregnancy, please contact me with any questions or come along to a workshop.
So to put it simply, include lots whole foods (unprocessed foods) in your diet, plenty of fruits and vegetables, good quality protein and reduce the amount of processed foods and sugar in your diet.
Foods to avoid when pregnant:
- Unpasteurised Dairy: You’ll find that many of the soft cheeses from i.e. Europe are made with unpasteurised milk. However, in NZ we are lucky enough that most of our cheeses are made from pasteurised milk. But please be mindful in terms of how long these have been open, it is often recommended to only eat soft NZ made cheese that had been opened within the last two days.
- Raw meat/fish
- Fish with high levels of mercury
- Cold lunch meat i.e. found in the deli
Hopefully these tips help you when you are pregnant. We want to be excited when pregnant rather than it being a daunting time. Congrats to those expectant Mums and enjoy this very special time of your lives.
P.S. If you do have any questions about nutrition during pregnancy, please liaise with your LMC.
P.P.S. If you would like someone to discuss your health goals with, I would love to work with you one-on-one. I practice a holistic approach where I consider your individual needs related to health in terms of both nutrition and aspects of your lifestyle. We can work together and look at how all parts of your life affect your health and make sustainable changes that improve your health and happiness. Find out more