Ensure The Health Of You And Your Unborn Baby, By Following These 12 Pre Natal Nutrition Tips
By Lucy Gornall, Health Journalist of the Year (HFMA) and personal trainer specialising in pre and post-natal fitness
We understand that you want to give your baby the best possible start in life, so ensuring you give it all the vitamins and minerals it needs, is vital. As well as this, you need to be caring for your own health, to ensure a happy, comfortable pregnancy. Do keep in mind that you aren’t ‘eating for two’, although by the third trimester, an extra 200 calories is recommended. You may need more if you have a high energy expenditure.
Now more than ever, it’s key to eat a healthy balanced diet but there are a some nutrients you’ll need more of, and some foods that are best avoided. These tips will ensure optimum health…
1. Take A Folate Supplement
Pregnant women should be taking 400µg a day of folic acid until the 12th week of pregnancy, to protect against brain and spine defects. Folic acid can also be found in dark leafy veg, fortified cereals, broccoli and orange juice (to name a few) although a note to remember; folate can be lost from these foods if you overheat them.
As a guideline, one cup of spinach contains around 100 µg of folate, half a cup of lentils contains 180µg of folate and broccoli has 104µg per cup.
2. Iron Woman!
Iron is key to ensure enough oxygen gets to you and your unborn, so by the third trimester you’ll need more, as your blood flow increases. Most women won’t need to supplement, however your midwife will advise you at your 28-week blood test. Good sources include lean beef and poultry, fortified breads and cereals, eggs, dried fruits and dark green, leafy veg.
3. Vitamins A, B, C
These are all essential throughout pregnancy however they do become more important as the months go on.
With vitamin A, avoid supplementation, as excessive amounts can be harmful. Instead, enjoy foods containing this immune boosting vitamin, including cheese, eggs and fortified low fat spreads, as well as spinach, carrots and sweet potatoes; these contain beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A.
Vitamins B1 and B2 are also needed in greater quantities by the third trimester. Milk and milk products, cereals and cereal products (opt for fortified breakfast cereals), and meat are good sources.
As for vitamin c, it’s essential to help with the absorption of iron. Enjoy citrus fruits, peppers, kiwis, broccoli and strawberries.
4. Boost Bones With Vitamin D
During your second trimester it might be wise to up your intake of vitamin D rich foods to support your baby’s developing bones and teeth. As the majority of our vitamin D is obtained through the sun, it can be hard to hit our daily intake, so speak to your GP about a supplement, particularly from September through to March.
5. Health with Vitamin K
To help your body heal as best as it can and avoid blood clotting post-birth, add vitamin K rich foods to your plate in the third trimester. This vitamin is also critical for newborn babies as they naturally have lower levels. Green, leafy vegetables are an excellent source, as are Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli.
6. Cap Your Coffee
You can still enjoy your morning cappuccino, however the NHS advise no more than 200mg of caffeine a day. To put this into perspective, a mug of instant coffee has about 100mg and 100g of dark chocolate has around 50mg.
7. Keep Up The Calcium
Dairy tends to be our first port of call when it comes to getting adequate calcium, essential for bone development and throughout pregnancy you’ll want to be eating about three portions a day.
However, swerve mould-ripened cheeses such as Brie, soft blue cheeses like Gorgonzola and any un-pasteurised cow/goat/sheep milk as well as un-pasteurised foods made from these products. Although the risk is small, this is simply to avoid listeriosis, a bacterial infection, which could lead to miscarriage.
Dairy free? Ensure any non-dairy alternatives are calcium fortified so you can be sure you’re getting enough of this essential nutrient.
Other dietary sources of calcium include nuts, dried fruit, some leafy greens and soy products.
8. Get Your Five A Day
The NHS recommends you eat a minimum of five portions of fruit and veg a day, although remember this is a minimum – eating more will certainly do no harm!
A portion equates to 80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables, 30g of dried fruit or one 150ml serving of fruit or vegetable juice. An 80g portion of beans and pulses also counts, but only once a day.
Potato fans, we’re sorry to disappoint, but spuds don't count towards your five a day, however they can still play a key role in your pregnancy diet…
9. Enjoy Carbs!
You and your baby need plenty of energy and starchy foods are an important source, ideally making up a third of your plate. Opt for wholegrain bread, brown rice, potatoes and wholewheat pasta. Don’t forget, these starchy carbohydrates contain fibre, so to avoid pregnancy constipation, be sure to enjoy plenty of fibre filled foods and drink plenty of fluids.
10. Prioritise Protein But Keep It Cooked
Protein at every meal is key to help with the growth and development of many aspects of yours and your baby’s body, including bones, muscles and cartilage. However, if you like your steak rare, you might need to switch things up!
Be sure that all meat including poultry, burgers, beef and pork are cooked thoroughly, with no pink meat or juices. Toxoplasmosis, a parasite infection, can come from raw or undercooked meat, and in turn can cause miscarriage.
Plus, it’s best to avoid liver (due to high levels of vitamin A), cured meats, pate (even veggie pate!) and game meats such as pheasant as there’s a chance these still contain the lead shot.
Veggie? Eggs are a great source of protein, just be sure that you avoid raw or partially cooked eggs as there is a risk of salmonella. The NHS encourages pregnant women to eat only British Lion Eggs as these are less likely to contain salmonella.
If you’re vegan, there are still plenty of ways to ensure you’re getting adequate quality protein. Opt for nuts, nut butters, cooked beans and lentils, quinoa, tofu and other soy-based products. The key to vegan protein is ensuring it comes from a variety of different sources.
11. Omega 3 For A Healthy Brain
Oily fish is a great way to pack in omega 3 fatty acids, important for the development of baby’s brain, particularly in the third trimester. However the NHS advise against having more than two portions a week as some oily fish can contain toxins. Enjoy salmon, sardines and/or mackerel for a healthy hit of omega 3. During pregnancy it’s best to avoid shark, swordfish and marlin as they can contain mercury, which will damage the fetus.
12. Swerve The Cocktails
Unless they’re virgin, avoid cocktails, and alcohol in general. Although it’s a well-discussed topic, alcohol, especially in the first three months of pregnancy can harm your unborn. Choose alcohol-free drinks – there are some fantastic ‘prosecco’ options out there that taste just as great as the real thing!
Read More: Reasons To Consider Pregnancy Supplements