Are you currently pregnant or planning to fall pregnant in the near future? A brand new chapter awaits your life and even though you might be incredibly excited, you might also have some questions around the nutritional needs of an expecting mother?
With pregnancy, comes responsibility, and one of those responsibilities include a good, balanced diet to ensure that the foods you eat are healthy for you and your baby.
“Healthy bodies make healthy babies, so you have nothing to lose!”
– Heidi Murkoff
In this article, we will explore some of the important questions you might have like:
“What is a healthy diet for a pregnant woman?”
“What foods should I avoid?”
“I have terrible cravings for all the wrong foods, what can I do?”
The health of the tiny miracle growing inside you, is now your responsibility. Luckily, living healthily will ensure you look after your unborn baby while you look after yourself. It is therefore important to take note of the foods that are good for you and the foods that you should avoid altogether.
Here are the tips, good foods for pregnant women and what to exclude in your pregnancy nutrition plan.
What Food is Good for a Pregnant Woman?
It is important to cultivate healthy eating habits while you are expecting as this will provide the much needed nutrition for the developing foetus to flourish. Nutrient-dense foods should be on the top of your list and here are a few pregnancy power foods you can add to your diet:
Beans and Lentils
Women need an extra 10 grams of protein daily while they are expecting. Beans and lentils are an excellent source of protein making them not only a suitable food choice for expecting mothers, but also for any vegan or vegetarian.
Broccoli is one of the most nutrient dense vegetables with loads of calcium, folate and vitamin C. High in natural fibre, it will make you feel fuller for longer and is ideal if you are looking for foods to curb the cravings.
Combining broccoli with an iron-rich food like brown rice, beans or chicken, will also aid and improve iron absorption rate, ensuring you fulfil the much needed iron needs of your body.
Did you know? When you combine foods that are rich in Vitamin C and iron your body more easily absorbs the iron.
A lot of woman have challenges with pregnancy fatigue. Bananas are loaded with potassium and will not only fight off the fatigue, but it will also help curb the nausea from morning sickness.
Breakfast smoothies are a convenient and tasty way of getting a wide variety of nutrients and you can combine delicious fruit, oats, yogurt, nuts and berries before you take on the day.
Your daily iron needs double during pregnancy so it is important to eat iron-rich foods. Chicken, Beef and Ostrich are all options for protein and iron and if you combine them with a vegetable that is high in Vitamin C, like broccoli or kale, it’ll increase your iron absorption.
Hard Cheeses, Like Cheddar and Mozzarella
Cheese is a tasty way to spruce up most meals and it can help you reach your daily calcium requirements. Ensure you eat the right types of cheese (more about that later).
Apart from being a great source of protein, eggs contain all the essential amino acids your body needs. Unfortunately, you will have to leave the ‘sunny side up’ eggs for your partner as raw eggs can contain bacteria and place the life of you and your baby at risk.
Spinach contains high levels of folate while kale provide much needed calcium. Swop out the traditional lettuce for darker leafy greens (the dark colours signal a higher vitamin content); you’ll not only feel more nourished after a meal, you’ll also feel fuller than with normal lettuce.
Delicious, freshly-squeezed orange juice can come as a sigh of relief on those hot summer days. Not only will it quench your thirst, it will also give your body the immunity boost it needs. Vitamin C is vital for mothers to be, so be sure you add oranges and berries to your daily diet.
Try to incorporate these foods as much as possible into your diet. This is only a short list and there are plenty of other great options. Do some research or speak to a professional for more insights around foods with high nutritional value and benefits for you and your baby.
What Foods Should a Pregnant Woman Avoid and Why?
Raw or Undercooked Fish
Any raw, undercooked fish or shellfish may contain harmful bacteria or parasites and some fish types, like tuna, should be avoided altogether. Fish contains many of the essential oils you need for optimal bodily functions, so be sure to include it in your diet, but ensure it’s cooked properly at 74 degrees Celsius.
Cold and Processed Meats
Listeria is a harmful bacteria can sometimes be found in cold and processed meats. Generally a healthy immune system can keep infection at bay, but Listeria is deadly to your baby and can increase the chances of an unfortunate miscarriage.
It is suggested to cook meats to 74 degrees Celsius, which makes cold and processed meats off limits for expecting mothers.
Cheeses like feta, brie, camembert and blue cheese are also not recommended for expecting mothers. They are generally made from unpasteurized milk and may contain harmful bacteria like Listeria or E.coli.
Nutrition Tips for Pregnant Women
Every woman has her own preferences when it comes to diet. There are however some tips from other mothers, nutritionists and healthcare specialists that can come to your aid if you are new to this pregnancy nutrition journey…
Take a Multivitamin
Prenatal vitamins are supplements made especially for pregnant women. Virtually no one gets a nutritionally perfect diet every day, especially pregnant women when morning sickness is driving you to the bathroom every other hour.
A multivitamin may act as dietary insurance if you question whether you are reaching your daily nutrition goals and will ensure your baby gets the nutrients it needs.
Every individuals’ needs may differ, that is why it is important to consult with your healthcare provider to choose the right multivitamin that you should take on a daily basis.
Pickles dipped in peanut butter, chips dipped in ice cream, and the list of weird combinations of foods goes on. Yes, you heard right, those tastebuds will go haywire in your first trimester and during the beginning of your second trimester. You will want to eat the weirdest combinations of food and a lot of the times it won’t be healthy or pretty.
An ice-cream or cookie here and there is fine as long as it’s in moderation. That is why it is important to replace the bad cravings that are caused by calorie-dense foods, with options that are healthy and nutrient-dense.
Here are a few swops you can try:
- Potato Chips < Popcorn
- Ice cream < ‘Nice cream’
- Chocolate < Switch to 70% dark chocolate
- Cake < Banana bread
Here are a few additional tips on how to curb those cravings with healthier options.
Do Not Eat for Two
Being pregnant is no excuse for eating double or eating unhealthy as it will certainly not provide the needed nutrition your body needs during this time. Follow the important and wise advice of Catherine Jones and Rose Hudson, authors of Eating for Pregnancy: The Essential Nutrition Guide and Cookbook for Today’s Mothers-to-Be.
“Strike a balance between healthy weight gain and nutritional intake. Try to keep in mind that you are not eating for two, you are eating carefully for one.”
This book is an excellent choice if you are an avid reader seeking a practical cooking guide while pregnant. A must for expecting mothers looking for innovative recipes and meal options.
Most mommies-to-be like to be prepared for this exciting event in their lives. In order to make this experience as stress-free as possible, means investing in a healthy diet plan to follow throughout your pregnancy. If you need assistance or advice during this process you can book a consultation with a nutritionist near you. They will help with a customised nutritional plan to take all the think work out of your new diet.
Another tip I can give you is to make a list of the foods that you love and the foods that you don’t like, but know is necessary to consume. Now you can seek out recipes that include the foods you like less and try to make them more pleasant to eat while answering the nutritional needs of your body.
A story with a happy ending are the best stories, aren’t they?
Be sure you include healthy, balanced nutrition plan as part of your planned successful pregnancy to ensure you are one step closer to a happy ending for both you, and your new little miracle.