Good nutrition during pregnancy helps to keep you and your baby healthy, and certain nutrients, such as iron, protein and folic acid need to be increased during pregnancy. Many women are unsure about what is considered a healthy diet and concerned about gaining excessive weight during their pregnancy. Following a healthy diet is easy, and can be supplemented with vitamins and minerals where necessary to ensure the correct nutrients for both mom and baby.
Keeping the excess weight off
Normal weight gain over the course of pregnancy is between 10 and 15kg for women who were around a healthy body weight before becoming pregnant. It is necessary for your body to provide the necessary nutrients for the baby’s development and growth.
It is important to know that there are many dangers to dieting when pregnant. Often women will choose to eat sparingly to avoid putting on the additional body fat. This can seriously harm the health of both the mother and baby and pregnant mothers should not limit their food intake or crash diet throughout the duration of the pregnancy.
To maintain acceptable weight gain it is recommended to eat a number of small meals throughout the day and ensure the foods are varied and nutritious to ensure that the body makes use of the nutrition in the food being consumed. Energy intake in the form of kilojoules does not need to be increased substantially during pregnancy, and high energy foods can be kept to a minimum, which will help to maintain a healthy weight gain.
Eating for two is not necessary
There is no need to eat more during pregnancy. Pregnant women only need a small increase in energy intake in their diet, and should keep their kilojoule intake the same as it was prior to pregnancy during the first trimester. Energy intake during the second and third trimesters should only be increased nominally and an increase in fruit servings should provide the necessary energy during this time.
A good approach is to eat to satisfy your appetite with a varied diet that provides your body with enough of each vitamin and mineral each day. It is important to choose a wide variety of foods including lots of fruits and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals and moderate amounts of dairy foods and meats. Foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt should be kept to a minimum.
Using supplements to complement your diet
Certain women may have difficulties getting an adequate amount of the necessary vitamins and minerals due to their lifestyle choices. Examples of this are vegetarians, and women who are on a weight restriction diet prior to conception. They may need to supplement their diet to ensure the correct amount of vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy pregnancy. It is important to always seek the advice of your doctor before taking any supplements.
Folic acid is the most common supplement recommended for women as the folate requirements increase substantially in pregnancy. This is a B-group vitamin that is found naturally in a variety of foods such as asparagus, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, but often in insufficient quantities to meet the needs during pregnancy.
Pregnancy also increases the need for iron in the diet as the developing foetus draws iron from the mother to make use of during the first five to six months after birth. Iron can be sourced from red meat. It is also important to include foods that are a good source of vitamin C, like oranges, to help absorb the iron.
Iodine is an important mineral needed for the production of the thyroid hormone which assists in development and growth. A deficiency of iodine during pregnancy can increase the risk of mental impairment in a newborn baby. Iodised table salt can be added to the diet through inclusion during cooking or adding to food. Foods that are a good source of iodine such as eggs, meat and seaweed should be included in the diet as well as foods that provide vitamin A, such as milk, fish and eggs.
Pregnant women need the right amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals during pregnancy to maintain good health as well as to ensure healthy development of the baby. It is always important to discuss your dietary intake and possible supplements with your doctor to ensure you and your baby are healthy during the course of your pregnancy.