Pregnancy is the one time in your life where your eating habits directly impact another person. Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet whilst pregnant plays such an important role in ensuring mothers and developing bubs are getting the adequate nutrients that they need whilst their body is going through a demanding and dramatically changing time.
I am loving all the mumma’s that are coming to me with queries on how to maintain a healthy diet and keep physically active in a safe manner during their pregnancies through nourishing whole foods and hope that this blog may help you. However, before I go any further I'd like to highlight that everyone's nutritional and energy requirements vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. Some of these include your activity level, current diet, age, whether you have underlying injuries or illnesses, any food allergies or preferences i.e. vegan – the list goes on.
I’d also like to point out that just as with my first blog in this three part series (Exercise During Pregnancy), nutritional and energy requirements during this time could also be discussed for days and in great detail. WARNING: it will not be ALL covered here. This is a blog. So I've wrapped up some key take-aways for you just as I did in part one, feel free to contact me if you’d like to know more or book a consult to discuss requirements specific to your needs.
PART TWO: NUTRITION DURING PREGNANCY
I’M PREGNANT, THAT MEANS I CAN EAT FOR TWO RIGHT?
You definitely do not need to ‘eat for two’, as the old saying commonly suggests. It is more important as to WHAT you actually eat to ensure that you are setting your bub up for the best start to life and that you are fuelling your body with what it needs to grow a happy, healthy baby.
If the thought of eating for two excites you and has you going back for seconds for dinner or saying yes more often to the lunchroom cakes, think again. The initial stages of pregnancy actually requires very little change in your daily energy intake, so it’s time to put down the ice cream (sorry to be the bearer of bad news).
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEY NUTRIENT REQUIREMENTS DURING PREGNANCY?
The nutrient requirements for pregnancy cannot be based on the same criteria that is applied to those in a non-pregnant state, recommend dietary intakes (RDI’s) for almost all nutrients are increased to some extent during pregnancy. There is an increase for most micronutrients during pregnancy such as your B vitamins and folate and iron. The RDI’s for sodium, calcium, potassium and vitamin D however, are however not increased for pregnancy.
When it comes to your key macronutrients (carbs, fats & proteins), again in the first trimester energy requirements do not increase greatly.
PROTEIN: What is particularly important is to ensure you are consuming a minimum of 1-1.5g/kg/day of protein in the second and third trimesters. Protein positively affects the growth of fetal 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.
Think: lean meats: (chicken, turkey, beef, pork), greek and natural yoghurt, nuts, tofu and seafood.
FATS: Be sure to limit foods highly processed and high in saturated fat (chips, biscuits, frozen or fried foods). Some healthier sources of saturated fats include beef, eggs and cheese. Look to consume and increase your intake of unsaturated and polyunsatured fats such as omega 3’s. These are vital to your growing baby to help fuel proper brain growth and eye development, particularly during the third trimester. Some good sources or saturated
Think: avocados, almonds, mixed nuts, salmon, flaxseeds, olive oil, butter, egg yolks.
B VITAMINS & FOTATE: B Vitamin intake is increased during pregnancy with many of the pre-natal vitamins containing these micronutrients. The increased requirements for B vitamins can easily be met as long as your diet consists of some animal products, so if you are a vegan it may be necessary to supplement your diet with vitamin B12. Vitamin B6 may also help to reduce nausea of vomiting in pregnant women. RDI 1.9mg/day
Think: animal products (such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs, or dairy); it is also found in fortified breakfast cereals and enriched soy or rice milk.
FOLATE: Folic acid plays a key role in reducing the risk of neural tube defects, including spin bifida. This is particularly important leading up to falling pregnant and within the first three months of pregnancy prior to the neural tube closing. It is advised to begin supplementing with folate or increasing this through your diet if you are thinking about starting a family or adding to your brood and continue especially throughout the first trimester of pregnancy. Recommendation of 400micrograms daily leading up to falling pregnant and within the first three months of pregnancy with the help of a folate supplement.
Think: foods high in folate include asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, chick peas, dried beans, lentils & spinach.
IRON: In combination with sodium, potassium, and water, iron helps increase your blood volume and prevents anemia. During pregnancy iron requirements are increased because your developing bub draws iron from you to last it through the first five or six months after birth. Iron is often something that women can become deficient in during pregnancy, so it is so important to try to get enough of this through a varied diet. Your doctor will test your iron levels regularly and you may require a supplement to boost your levels if required.
Think: green leafy vegetables, whole grains, oats, fortified cereals, lean red meat or poultry. RDI of 27mg per day for pregnant women.
CALCIUM: No need to stress about drinking more milk which is commonly thought of during pregnancy. The RDI for women and calcium whether pregnant of not is 1000mg per day for those aged 19-50yrs, 1300mg/day for those 51yrs +). From 2007 the Australian dietary recommendations for increased calcium intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding have been revised. Although the baby has a high requirement for calcium during the third trimester of pregnancy, (as it starts to develop and strengthen its bones), the mother’s increased capacity to absorb dietary calcium means that there is no need for extra intake. Just make sure you’re still meeting your 1000mg/day.
HOW MUCH MORE FOOD DO I ACTUALLY NEED?
As you progress through your pregnancy, your physical activity levels may change - the intensity, duration and frequency may reduce depending on your energy levels or if you are experiencing any contraindications to exercise such as pre-eclampsia, uncontrolled hypertension or pubic symphysis dysfunction. This will in turn affect your energy requirements.
Generally your basal metabolic rate (BMR) increases by the fourth month of pregnancy and can reach a 15-20% increase from its baseline towards the end of your pregnancy. These increases are mainly due to the increase in oxygen demands by your growing little bubba and the increased cardiac output; I don’t know about you – but I definitely noticed the shortness of breath when walking up a flight of stairs or performing activity that would normally not trigger a bit of huffing and puffing.
So if your body is working harder due to the growing demands of bub and your metabolic rate is increasing – what exactly does this mean in terms of how much extra food you can eat? As mentioned above, in the first trimester energy needs does not change dramatically. As you reach the second trimester your energy needs increase to an addition approximate 300 calories per day extra, and approximately 450 calories per day by the third trimester. So no need to go over board ladies – this could be achieved by adding in a piece of fruit with a serve of greek yoghurt and oats or a small sandwich (okay - or the occasional brownie).
I’VE BEEN EATING WELL BUT CONCERNED ABOUT WEIGHT GAIN – WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Firstly – you are pregnant so those scales are going to continue to increase and you may find yourself upgrading your wardrobe. Try not to stress over weight gain throughout your pregnancy. Look at these 9 months as a chance to fuel your body to grow a healthy mini-me and enjoy the break from high intensity and impact exercise (something I initially struggled to come to terms with, now I am loving the change and trying activities that I would previously not prioritise).
When looking at the percentage of total weight gain during pregnancy in a normal, healthy pregnancy only about 26 – 30% is from body fat. The remainder comes down to the fetus (27%), extracellular/vascular fluid (15%) and blood (10%), with the uterus, placenta, amniotic fluid, and mammary glands accounting for the rest.
Are you feeling puffy and like you are retaining fluid? Don’t stress, overall water accounts for over half of the maternal weight gained during pregnancy and will disappear soon after you give birth to you little miracle.
WEIGHT GAIN & DIETING DURING PREGNANCY
If you are concerned about your weight gain or loss throughout pregnancy always speak to your doctor. Whilst is can be difficult having to step out of your favourite One Teaspoon shorts, go up a size in the underwear department and upgrade the work wardrobe, try to embrace the journey that your body is headed on. Pregnancy is most certainly not the time to be dieting or restricting your food intake (unless you have been advised to by your doctor). You don’t have to make friends with the scales, but make sure you do make friends with salad both during and after your pregnancy.
TOP TIPS FOR HEALTHY EATING DURING PREGNANCY
- Enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables – choose plenty of different types and colours
- Limit foods that are high in saturated fats and sugar – especially the refined stuff. Life is about balance, so enjoy these in moderation.
- Ensure you are getting adequate iron from both plant and non plant sources
- Be prepared: food prep each week some healthy snacks – veggie sticks, energy balls, some healthy whole grains to add to your lunch etc. Fail to plan = plan to fail.
- Keep your intake of ‘good fats’ up – fuel that babies brain development
- Don’t forget to drink plenty of water - almost all of my clients where pregnant or not are not drinking enough water on a daily basis. If you are pregnancy your hydration requirements are greater than those non-pregnant peers, so fill up that water bottle and get drinking!
- Incorporate some healthy whole grains into your day, this also assists with adequate fibre intake.
- Look at food as fuel for your baby – is what you are putting in your mouth going to benefit and nourish both yourself and bub? If not put it down & opt for something healthier.
Make sure you are choosing plenty of fresh, whole, healthy foods to give your baby the best head start possible and keep up the regular activity; the benefits of this to your physical and mental health and baby are countless.
No matter if you are trying for a baby or only have a few weeks to go before you meet your little one – it is never too late to start. Eating a balanced, varied and nutritious diet can help with fertility, keep you energized and healthy during pregnancy and assist in your recovery.
If you are looking for the right way to fuel your body during pregnancy to optimise the health of both yourself and bub feel free get in touch to discuss your specific nutritional requirements and arrange a consult.
Stay tuned for Part Three: The Role of Maternal Nutrition and Lactaction – coming soon. To make sure you don’t miss it, subscribe below