Healthy Eating For Pregnant Women

If you have been following us for a while, you might remember us mentioning before that a sizeable proportion of our fan base are women in their twenties onwards, some of whom are in that stage of life where families are being started. As such, today’s post focuses on healthy eating with an emphasis on pregnancy.

Needless to say starting off your pregnancy with a healthy, well-balanced diet is the best thing you can and should do for yourself and your baby.  Truth be told, if you are already a healthy eater, you’ll only need to make a few adjustments during your pregnancy. If you are not there yet, check out the articles on this blog, or even better, get the Strategic Nutrition Guide today! On to the specifics:

Be mindful especially during your first trimester. If you find it tough to maintain a balanced diet during your first trimester, you can rest assured that you are not alone.  Due to queasiness, some women will eat all of the time and gain a lot of weight in the process.  Other women have trouble getting food down and subsequently lose weight.  Both of these are absolutely normal, so don’t fret.

However, the two things you must really focus on during the first trimester are preventing malnutrition and dehydration. Remember, you are eating and drinking for two now. Even though the foetus is still small, you need to get used to this mindset early. It’s hard for you, we understand, because any change is hard. But do persist.

How about calories? i.e. the big evil word. There is no standard guideline to this, but as a rough guesstimate, you need to consume around 300 calories more than usual every day when you are pregnant. Unlike how you plan your eating before being pregnant, the best way to go about doing this is listening to your body when you are hungry.  You should try to eat as many foods as possible from the bottom of the food pyramid.

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The next thing you have to do is monitor your weight gain, especially after the first trimester. If you find yourself gaining weight too slowly relative to what is expected, try eating small meals and slightly increasing the fat content in your diet. You should always eat when you are hungry, as you are now eating for two instead of one. Once again, don’t worry about losing weight at this stage – that is not the priority.

As you progress to the second trimester, you’ll need around 1,500 milligrams of calcium each day for your bones and your baby’s development. This is a little more than what you usually need, and is the equivalent of a little more than a quart of milk. Generally, Calcium is something that’s missing from many diets, even for non-pregnant people.  Along with milk, other great sources for calcium include dairy products, calcium fortified juices, and even calcium tablets.

Another top tip is to ensure you take in enough fibre. Why? It is because fibre can help to prevent constipation, which is a common pregnancy problem.  You can find fibre in whole grains, fruits, and even vegetables.  Fibre supplements such as Metamucil and Citrucel are safe to take during pregnancy, so do not brush those off.

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Unless you happen to be a strict vegetarian or vegan, your protein intake is not normally a problem for women who eat a balanced healthy diet. As for vegetarians and vegans, ensure you put in intentional effort to consume more of your protein sources, including beans and certain vegetables. Of course, vegans already know that our human need for protein is often exaggerated, but when you are pregnant, do err on the safe side.

On that note of calcium, most women also do not pay enough attention to their iron levels. A lot of women will start their pregnancy off with a bit of iron deficiency.  Good sources of iron include dark leafy green vegetables and meats.  Iron supplements should be avoided, as they can cause internal symptoms such as cramping, constipation, or diarrhoea.

What about vitamins? Seeing as how you get a majority of the vitamins you need in your diet, you may want to discuss prenatal vitamins with your doctor.  Folate is one of the most important, and if you are getting enough of it, you may be able to avoid vitamins all together – just ask your doctor to make sure.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Now, I must disclose that I am not an expert at pregnancy-related diet issues. Most of my work in this area pertains to healthy eating in a general sense, simplified in my book the Strategic Nutrition Guide. But yes, do get specialist advice, and all the best!

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