First of all, congratulations! Whether you are a first time Mum or have done it all before, this is an exciting time and you are doing something naturally amazing. Giving your body some extra nutritional support during this special time is important, so read on to get some clarity on what you do, and don’t, need to grow a healthy baby.
Morning sickness ☹
First of all, let’s talk about morning sickness. As you may already know sadly “morning” sickness doesn’t just happen in the morning. “Morning” sickness can make you feel dreadful all day any day, but I promise you it will pass and there are a number of things you can try to minimise your symptoms, including:
small regular meals that include protein
ginger or peppermint teas
sniffing peppermint essential oil on a tissue
sniffing an alcohol swab (strange but true)
taking deep slow breaths and reminding yourself that it will pass
A healthy pregnancy diet
You do need more calories during pregnancy, but probably not as much as you think, and pregnancy is, unfortunately, not a licence to go nuts eating as much as you like.
In the 1st trimester you only need around an extra 70 calories/ 293kj which is the equivalent of one boiled egg or half a banana. In your 2nd trimester you might need approximately an extra 270 calories / 1130kj (roughly two bananas or one Carmen’s fruit free muesli bar). It’s not really until the 3rd trimester, when your baby is really growing and putting on weight, that you need any significant extra energy intake, around 500 calories or 2000kj, which is what you would find in a healthy light meal. Or a Big Mac, but we won’t go there…
So while you don’t really need all that much in terms of extra calories you are however nourishing for two and therefore a diet rich in unprocessed and nutritious food is what to aim for. This means vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts and seeds are in, and cake, biscuits and chips are out… Remember your bub is taking what it needs from you to grow so if it’s not in your diet, your baby can’t get it, and if it’s in your diet but not in adequate amounts for pregnancy, your baby will take it from you and leave you depleted. This can have implications after your baby is born, in terms of establishing breast feeding and avoiding post-natal depression and so is all the more reason to get the good stuff in!
However, please note that if you are feeling too dreadful from “morning” sickness to eat much at all, remember that if you were eating well prior to pregnancy then you should have adequate stores of many nutrients to last for a while, so don’t worry too much. Just make sure that when you do eat it is as nutrient dense as possible.
Good food to include
Protein is essential for your growing baby and to maintain your health. Include protein with each meal and snack. Eggs, dairy, meat, fish, and nuts and seeds are all good sources of protein. Fish is recommended during pregnancy, especially the oilier fish like salmon, tuna and sardines, for the DHA content (important for your babies’ brain and eye development). One to four serves of fish per week during pregnancy is generally considered safe and adequate.
Fibre is also important and keeps constipation away (and therefore haemorrhoids, nobody wants those). Constipation is a common complication during pregnancy as your progesterone levels rise and relax your muscles in preparation for birth, but also slows down the motility in your gut. Eat fruit and plenty of vegetables, including leafy greens.
Water will also help keep constipation at bay. Try for 6-8 glasses spread throughout the day (if your bladder is up to it). Add berries, ginger, lime or mint to make it more interesting if you find water boring.
Your micronutrient requirements (vitamins and minerals) increase during pregnancy, especially in regard to iron, iodine, DHA, calcium, Vitamin D and folate. Having good amounts of these nutrients in your diet helps your baby to develop and helps you to maintain your health. If you are vegetarian or vegan you will need to be even more conscious than usual of meeting all your nutrient requirements, as these diets are typically low in B12, iron and calcium.
No matter the type of diet you have, pregnant women are often recommended supplementation and there are some good products on the market that can help maintain your nutrient status. Your GP has likely recommended one already.
Foods containing helpful nutrients
I like to do things with food where I can, so some foods that contain the important nutrients I mentioned above are listed here:
meat (the darker the meat the more iron it has)
dried fruits like prunes, dates, and apricots
leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, bok choy, and kale
lentils, almonds and quinoa.
(Squeeze lemon juice over your leafy greens to help you absorb the iron).
DHA - Omega 3 sources include
nuts and seeds
leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini
cod liver oil (mmm, yum)
sunlight (expose your arms and/or legs for 10 minutes a day)
nuts and seeds
I suggest you include the following foods every day to ensure a good balance of nutrients:
Nuts and seeds – omega 3’s, good fats, fibre, calcium, protein, etc – snack on these.
All vegetables and especially the leafy greens. These are excellent in pregnancy as they contain iron, folate , fibre and calcium.
Fish – iodine, protein, DHA.
Organic & pesticide free produce
Conventional produce can contain high levels of pesticides, placing an extra load on your liver. Fresh seasonal foods that are organic or pesticide free are therefore best where possible, and at the very least wash them thoroughly with a store-bought fruit and vegetable wash, or do your own vinegar wash. This is one part vinegar to four parts water. You add your produce and leave for an hour to soak, then rinse and store. (Note - this doesn’t work so well for stone fruit as it makes the skin weird but they still taste fine).
Foods with an outer inedible layer don’t necessarily need to be organic (eg. bananas, oranges, watermelon) but do try to get produce such as apples, strawberries, tomatoes, stone fruit, broccoli, and spinach organic or pesticide-free (or do the vinegar wash) as these items tend to have a fairly high pesticide residue.
There are a number of websites in Australia that you can order organic or pesticide-free produce through, including:
Spray Free Farmacy at Kenmore https://www.sprayfreefarmacy.com/
Farm Fresh Organics at Rocklea https://www.freshorganics.com.au
Munch Crunch Organics https://munchcrunch.com.au/
Foods to avoid
Caffeine - best avoided as it is stimulating and increases your heart rate at a time when there’s already an extra load. Go for decaf or at least half-strength coffee if you still fancy it (many women go off coffee while they’re pregnant).
Alcohol - there is no established safe limit for alcohol in pregnancy so it’s best to give this a miss as well.
Keep it simple! If you maintain a nutritious, varied, wholefood diet you should be getting all the nutrients you need. You can do this by:
Eating plenty of veges and fruit – 5&2 as a minimum, organic where possible
Having a variety of proteins with each meal and snack
Drinking plenty of fresh filtered water
Avoiding food that won’t nourish you or your baby
And remember to relax and enjoy. This is a special time and you are doing an extraordinarily amazing thing!
(Please note that the advice here assumes normal health status and does not consider any allergies or intolerances, or your individual circumstances. Please consult your GP or book an appointment with me to discuss any special dietary considerations).