The following information is kindly provided by MAM Baby.
This month we are going to look at healthy eating during pregnancy and the importance of this for both expectant mothers and their babies.
Pregnancy is the one time in your life when your own eating habits directly affect another person. Your decision to incorporate delicious vegetables, whole grains and legumes, lean protein, and otherwise food choices into your eating plan before and during pregnancy will give your baby a strong start in life.
Fact and Fiction
There are quite a few myths surrounding pregnancy and healthy eating so we have shed some light on the most common ones:
Myth: “Now that you are pregnant, you should be eating for two.”
Fact: It is true that your nutrient needs increase, but energy requirements only increase by about 300 calories per day for the second and third trimester of pregnancy.
Myth: “Gaining less weight during pregnancy will make delivery easier.”
Fact: Mothers who do not gain enough weight during pregnancy place their babies at risk for severe complications such as premature birth, which can cause lung and heart problems.
Myth: “If you gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy, none of it will be fat gain.”
Fact: A healthy pregnancy includes fat storage. Your body uses this excess fat as energy during labour and breastfeeding.
Myth: “Pregnant women only crave the foods their bodies need.”
Fact: Pregnant women can crave foods of any type. Cravings should not be the sole indicator of nutritional needs.
Myth: “A pregnant woman who is healthy will not experience discomforts.”
Fact: Nausea, heartburn, and constipation are not biased! They will afflict women regardless of healthy living. However, women who regularly eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly, and avoid excess sugar and fat may significantly reduce these uncomfortable symptoms.
The most Important Dos and Don’ts for Expectant Mothers
- Drink plenty of fluids (at least two litres per day – water is best)
- Always cook meat well
- Wash hands and food items thoroughly
- Observe good kitchen hygiene
- Do not break the cooling chain: pay attention to refrigerator and freezer temperatures
- Raw milk products and foods that contain raw eggs
- Cold smoked/fermented fish (ie graved salmon) and raw fish (ie sushi) and other seafood (ie oysters)
- Alcohol and nicotine
- Caffeinated drinks (max. 3 medium cups of coffee, black/green tea)
You don’t need to go on a special diet, but it’s important to eat a variety of different foods every day to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby need.
It is best to get vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat, but when you’re pregnant you need to take a folic acid supplement as well, to make sure you get everything you need.
Folic Acid before and during Pregnancy
You should take a 400 micrograms (mcg) folic acid tablet every day while you are trying to get pregnant and until you are 12 weeks pregnant.
Folic acid is important for pregnancy, as it can help to prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects, including spina bifida. If you didn’t take folic acid before you conceived, you should start as soon as you find out that you are pregnant.
You should also eat foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid), such as green leafy vegetables. Some breakfast cereals and some fat spreads such as margarine may have folic acid added to them.
It’s difficult to get the amount of folate recommended for pregnancy from food alone, which is why it is important to take a folic acid supplement.
Vitamin D in Pregnancy
All adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, need 10 micrograms (10mcg) of vitamin D a day, and should consider taking a supplement containing this amount.
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to summer sunlight. Vitamin D is also in some foods, including oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines), eggs and red meat.
Iron in Pregnancy
If you are short of iron, you’ll probably get very tired and may suffer from anaemia. Lean meat, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts contain iron. If you’d like to eat peanuts or foods that contain peanuts (such as peanut butter) during pregnancy, you can do so as part of a healthy balanced diet unless you’re allergic to them, or your health professional advises you not to. Many breakfast cereals have iron added too. If the iron level in your blood becomes low, your GP or midwife will advise you to take iron supplements.
Vitamin C in Pregnancy
Vitamin C protects cells and helps to keep them healthy. It is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and a balanced diet can provide all the vitamin C you need. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges and orange juice, red and green peppers, strawberries, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussels sprouts and potatoes
Calcium in Pregnancy
Calcium is vital for making your baby’s bones and teeth. Sources of calcium include milk, cheese and yoghurt, green leafy vegetables such as rocket, watercress or curly kale, tofu, soya drinks with added calcium, bread and anything made with fortified flour and fish where you eat the bones – such as sardines and pilchards.
Vegetarian, Vegan and Special Diets in Pregnancy
A varied and balanced vegetarian diet should give enough nutrients for you and your baby during pregnancy. However, you might find it more difficult to get enough iron and vitamin B12. Talk to your midwife or doctor about how to make sure you are getting enough of these important nutrients.
If you are vegan, or you follow a restricted diet because of food intolerance (for example, a gluten-free diet for coeliac disease) or for religious reasons, talk to your midwife or GP.
Recommended Daily Servings
It is helpful to pay attention to recommended daily servings from each food group. Most foods come with a nutrition label attached. This nutrition label will help you to know what amount constitutes one serving.
Experts recommend 75 to 100 grams of protein per day. Protein positively affects the growth of foetal tissue, including the brain. It also helps your breast and uterine tissue to grow during pregnancy, and it plays a role in your increasing blood supply.
Examples of daily sources of protein:
2-3 servings of meat, tofu, nuts, legumes, beans
The daily requirement of calcium is around 1000 milligrams during pregnancy. Calcium helps our body regulate fluids and it helps build your baby’s bones and tooth buds.
Examples of daily sources of calcium:
3-4 servings of dairy products, eggs, tofu, salmon, almonds, white beans
In combination with sodium, potassium, and water, iron helps increase your blood volume and prevents anaemia. A daily intake of 27 milligrams is ideal during pregnancy.
Examples of daily sources of iron:
2-3 servings of green leafy vegetables (1 serving = approximately 1 cup)
Folic acid plays a key role in reducing the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida. Experts recommend 600 to 800 micrograms (.6 to .8 milligrams) daily.
Examples of daily sources of folate:
2 servings of dark green leafy vegetables (1 serving = approximately 1 cup)
Fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C will promote wound healing, tooth and bone development, and metabolic processes. Experts recommend at least 85 milligrams per day.
Examples of daily sources of Vitamin C:
3 servings of fruit or vegetables (1 serving = approximately ½ cup)
Without a doubt, a nutritious, well-balanced eating plan can be one of the greatest gifts you give to your developing baby. Supplying your own body with a tasty blend of nutritious foods can improve your fertility, keep you feeling healthy during pregnancy, and pave the way for an easier labour. Ideally, adopting a healthy eating plan before pregnancy is best but no matter how many weeks are left on your countdown calendar, it’s never too late to start!
If you have any unanswered questions related to this topic then please consult your healthcare practitioner.
For further information regarding pregnancy please visit the MAM Baby website at www.mambaby.com/you-and-your-baby/pregnancy/ . For any other queries please contact us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAMCyprus/.