How to take care of your nutrition during pregnancy

Ensure you and your developing baby get all the nutrients you both need.

18 May 2011
by The Clicks health team

Some of the most common questions when one falls pregnant are:
• “What can I continue to eat and what must I avoid now that I am pregnant?”
• “Can I still exercise now that I am pregnant?”
• “How do I make sure that my baby is getting the right amount of nutrients during my pregnancy?”

Taking care of yourself

The important fact to keep in mind during your pregnancy is that by having a good balanced diet, eating the right quantities (not “eating for two”), taking your supplements and drinking enough water and fluids, you baby will receive all the correct nutrients he/she needs.

Some women, during their pregnancy, often experience morning sickness, constipation or even diarrhoea. It may also be hard to keep food down, or they may simply feel too sick to even eat. Remember that these are all common signs during pregnancy. To assist during this time, here are some tips to follow:

 

  • Morning sickness: Ginger is an excellent source to aid with the nausea. If you don’t like the taste of ginger, try a bit of ginger in a glass of warm water, or even ginger tea. Try and eat plain biscuits, crackers, or pretzels. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day and definitely try and avoid any fatty, fried, or greasy foods.
  • Diarrhoea: make sure you keep yourself hydrated by drinking water and fluids. Even if you simply have a few sips every 10 or 15 minutes. Try eating foods such as bananas, oats or oatmeal and refined wheat bread.
  • Constipation: Drink plenty of water – up to 8 glasses a day. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Ensure that you are getting plenty of roughage into your diet.
  • Heartburn: Drink milk before a meal. Try to have small meals throughout the day. Limit your intake of caffeine. Avoid very rich and spicy food.

 

Nutrition tips to consider

On average you should look to consume no more than about 250 to 300 more calories per day than you did before you became pregnant. Put some variety into your diet – that way you will get all the nutrients you need. A base guideline to follow is the following

  • 2 to 4 servings of fruit
  • 3 to 6 servings of vegetables
  • 4 to 6 servings of breads and grains
  • 2 to 4 servings of dairy products
  • 2 to 3 servings of protein sources (meat, poultry, fish, eggs or nuts)
  • Use fats and sweets sparingly.

Choose foods high in fiber such as whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables. This will help with the digestive system.

Take a prenatal vitamin supplement – speak to your local pharmacist or doctor for advice. Ensure you take a Folic acid supplement as well. While pregnant woman needs approximately 0.4 mg of folic acid per day to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Vitamin C – such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, green peppers, tomatoes, and cauliflower are all good sources of vitamin C.

Make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your daily diet while pregnant.

Ensure you are taking in plenty of dairy products and calcium-rich foods to help ensure that you are getting 1000-1300mg of calcium in your daily diet during pregnancy.

Eat iron-rich foods to ensure you are getting approximately 27mg of iron in your daily diet.

Only one portion of vitamin A is needed per day. This includes carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, spinach and apricots.

Cheeses that can be eaten include hard cheese such as cheddar, feta, gouda, processed cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt.

Don’t try to diet or lose weight during your pregnancy. Both you and your baby need the proper nutrients in order to be healthy and to allow for growth and development.

If you are a vegetarian – continue with your vegetarian diet – there is no need to change. Your baby can receive all the nutrition he or she needs to grow and develop. Simply make sure that you eat a wide variety of healthy foods that provide enough protein and calories for you and your baby. If need be, increase your diet by approximately 300 calories per day during your pregnancy.

Things to avoid

Avoid alcohol – Alcohol has been linked to babies having a low birth weight, premature delivery and even mental retardation and birth defects.

Limit your intake of caffeine per day. Remember chocolate contains caffeine too.

Certain types of fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and white snapper as are known for having high levels of mercury and other pollutants. The current recommendation is only have these once or maybe twice a week. Also avoid raw fish such as oysters and clams. There are other supplements that you can take should you not like fish or are allergic to fish.

Avoid soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, blue-veined such as Stilton, and goats or sheep cheese. These cheeses are often unpasteurized and may cause Listeria infection. This can cause miscarriage or severe illnesses with your newborn.

Stop smoking.

Wear gloves when gardening or picking up dog/cat litter so as to avoid toxoplasmosis (rare but can affect your unborn baby).

Avoid raw or soft cooked eggs as well as undercooked meats as you could contract Salmonella infections.

Exercise

Can you exercise during pregnancy? The answer is – YES. By following an exercise programme during your pregnancy you will be strengthening your body which will assist with the extra weight that you will be gaining during your pregnancy. Plus it shall give you the strength and endurance required during your labour. It will also be much easier to get back into shape after you baby is born.

Exercise is not only good for you and the baby, it has also been established that it has a positive effect on brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate your emotions and mood.

For those that exercise on a regular basis i.e. play sport etc. you can definitely continue with this as long as it feels comfortable for you or unless your particular sport carries a risk of you experiencing falls or knocks.

Exercises that are known to be beneficial to you during your pregnancy include yoga, swimming and walking.