Thanks to our guest blogger – Nicola Weedin (New Life Nutrition) for this information

Healthy eating is always important, but even more essential during pregnancy to provide nourishment to your growing baby and to maintain good energy levels. The quality and quantity of food consumed needs to be considered to give your baby the best start to life.

It is expected that women will put on a little weight during pregnancy due to the fetus, increased blood volume, placenta and to give you a little extra to use postnatally as sustenance for breastfeeding.

Excess weight gain can increase the risk of gestational diabetes and make it harder to get back to a weight that you feel comfortable at post pregnancy. The recommended weight gain depends on your pre pregnancy weight but the main focus isn’t on dieting, but instead on nourishing your own and your baby’s body.

Institute of Medicine (2010) recommendations for total and rate of weight gain during pregnancy, by pre-pregnancy BMI

Pre-pregnancy BMI Total weight gain in kg Rates of weight gain* 2nd and 3rd trimester in kg/week
Underweight (< 18.5 kg/m2) 12.5 – 18.0 0.51 (0.44 – 0.58)
Normal weight (18.5 – 24.9 kg/m2) 11.5 – 16.0 0.42 (0.35 – 0.50)
Overweight (25.0 – 29.9 kg/m2) 7.0 – 11.5 0.28 (0.23 – 0.33)
Obese (≥ 30.0 kg/m2) 5.0 – 9.0 0.22 (0.17 – 0.27)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extra nutritional needs

Every woman has different energy requirements but the average energy increase during the second and third trimester is equivalent to about 1 cup yoghurt or about ¾ cup of cooked rice. Whilst your energy needs aren’t greatly increased during pregnancy, your nutritional needs are, meaning you need to select your foods based on their nutritional value and nourishment.

Protein is required for building muscle, for bubs growth and to provide energy. Protein is richest in food such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes and dairy foods. It is recommended that you have around 3-4 servings of protein rich foods per day with 1 serving equivalent to just 65g cooked red meat, 80g poultry, 1 small tin fish, 2 eggs or 1 cup of legumes. Consuming about 2-3 serves of dairy foods will also help to boost your protein intake and can be met by consuming 1 cup of milk, ¾ cup of yoghurt and a slice of cheese each day.

Folate or folic acid is a type of b group vitamin and is one of the most important nutrients to consider during pregnancy, required for building new cells and for the prevention of neural tube defects. Folate is high in yeast extracts (e.g. vegemite), nuts, wholegrain cereals, green vegetables and some fruits, such as oranges and strawberries. Folate can be destroyed during cooking so consuming raw vegetables or lightly steaming or stir frying is best. During pregnancy, your requirements increase from 400μg to 600μg per day and most women require a supplement one month prior to conception and during the first trimester for optimum levels. Speak to your GP or dietitian about which supplement is best for you.

Iodine is essential during pregnancy for healthy brain development. It is most abundant in seafood, dairy products, seaweed (kelp), eggs, fortified bread, some vegetables and iodised salt. As our intake of iodine is often inadequate, The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that all women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy take an iodine supplement of 150 mcg each day. If you are concerned, speak to your GP or dietitian about which supplement is best for you.

Iron is an essential mineral, which makes blood its bright red colour. It is vital to carry oxygen through the body to maintain energy levels and immunity. Your baby also requires iron for growth and development and inadequate dietary intake will leave you exhausted. Your requirements increase from 18mg to 27mg during pregnancy making iron rich choices essential. Iron is provided through haem (animal sources), which is readily absorbable and non-haem (vegetable sources), which is less absorbable. Red meat is the richest source of iron, followed by other meats and then foods such as fortified cereals, eggs, legumes, lentils, leafy greens and dried fruit. You can boost the absorption of iron by consuming vitamin C in the same meal, which can be done by eating meat with bright vegetables such as tomatoes and capsicum and enjoying tropical fruits and berries with iron fortified cereals. Avoiding tea and coffee with meals can also assist as tannins can inhibit absorption.

Fibre

Some women find that their bowels can be sluggish during pregnancy due to the pressure of your baby on your organs and changing hormones slowing down your bowel movements. Drinking plenty of water and including adequate daily fibre can assist with regular bowel habits. Fibre is found in fruits and vegetables (particularly in the skin), legumes, nuts, wholegrain bread and cereals. If you’re finding it hard to get enough fibre into your diet try adding a piece of fruit to some oats at breakfast, snacking on a small handful of nuts and including salads or vegetables at lunch and dinner. Sweet potato, kidney beans and pears contain soluble fibre, which when mixed with water helps move stools smoothly through the body. Fruits such as kiwi fruit and pineapple contain digestive enzymes that can help to break food down to pass through the body comfortably.

Mercury in fish

Unborn babies and young children are more vulnerable to the effects of mercury, which may cause developmental delays. Fish containing higher levels of mercury include shark (flake), ray, swordfish, barramundi, gemfish, orange roughy, ling and southern bluefin tuna. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand recommend the following guideline with one serving being equal to 150g for adults and 75g for children.

Limit to one serve per fortnight – billfish (swordfish, broadbill and marlin) and shark (flake), with no other fish eaten in that fortnight.

Limit one serve per week – orange roughy (deep sea perch) or catfish, with no other fish eaten that week.

Consume 2–3 serves of other fish per week – of any other fish or seafood (for example, salmon or tuna).

For more information visit: http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/

Eating well during pregnancy will not only fuel you to feel your best but gives bub the best start to life. If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant and would like some help with your diet, we have a dietitian on hand who can help to work out your nutritional needs.