Everything You Need To Know About Pregnancy Nutrition
Wondering what foods, vitamins and minerals you should be consuming during your pregnancy? Sometimes all the advice about what you can and can't eat might seem a bit overwhelming; but as long as you follow a balanced diet, there are only a few extra nutrients you need to be extra mindful of.
And don't worry, for all the nutrition advice you need, we have you covered.
Folic Acid Women should continue to take folic acid supplements at their pre-conception recommended level (at least 400 mcg) through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Vitamin D Vitamin D is important during pregnancy, it is essential to support calcium absorption for healthy bones. Pregnant women require 10µg of vitamin D every day which can be hard to reach in Ireland as the sun is the best source. Oily fish is one of the few dietary sources of vitamin D. While it is possible to increase your vitamin D intake with oily fish, it is still important to include other vitamin D sources every day such as eggs, oily fish, meat, fortified milk and breakfast cereals.
You are more likely to have low levels of vitamin D if you:
- Are of South Asian, African, Caribbean or Middle Eastern descent
- Don't get much exposure to sunlight, for example if you cover yourself when you are outside, or always wear sunscreen
- Don’t eat enough vitamin D-rich foods, such as oily fish, eggs, meat and vitamin D-fortified margarine, or breakfast cereals
- Have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above
- Are vegan or vegetarian
You should consider taking a low dose supplement (5 µg) if you are not getting adequate vitamin D Most of the other nutrients required in the first trimester and throughout pregnancy are available through a balanced diet, similar to the Mediterranean diet:
- Rich in fruit and vegetables
- Fish (such as salmon, trout, herring, sardines)
- Legumes (peas, beans, lentils etc.)
- Olive oil as the source of fat
It is important to remember that energy intake needs do not increase in the first trimester, so the focus should be on eating well, not eating more. Although the myth of eating for two is still common in some cultures, evidence has shown that women should “think for two, but not eat for two” during pregnancy.
READ ALSO: Click here for pregnancy weight gain advice!
Second & Third Trimester
Energy requirements increase in mid to late pregnancy; as your baby reaches full term, and your body prepares for labour.
Vitamin A There is an increased demand for vitamin A in the third trimester. If you have been consuming 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables, eggs, fish and dairy products there should be adequate stores in the liver to meet the increased demand.
Iron Requirements for iron increase in the 3rd trimester. You should have an intake of two servings of iron a day to meet the increased demand. Good sources of iron are meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, green leafy vegetables and iron-enriched breakfast cereals.
Low glycaemic index (GI) foods in pregnancy Where possible, women should eat foods with a low glycaemic index (GI) through pregnancy. Low GI foods are less processed than refined grains and contain more nutrients that are important for mom and the developing baby. In addition, the carbohydrates in whole grains are typically considered complex, which means they provide longer lasting energy because the glucose they contain is digested over time. Good options include 100 percent whole wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, barley, cracked or sprouted whole wheat products, high-bran cereals, buckwheat, and couscous.
Avoid foods such as white bread and rice, cornflakes, instant oatmeal, pretzels, popcorn and rice cakes.
For more information on nutrition during pregnancy, visit kathywhytehealth.ie
Written by Kathy Whyte, for eumom.ie.