IF YOU'RE LIKE MANY pregnant women, you vowed to eat healthier the minute you found out you were expecting. You may even have started making a mental list of nutritional do's and don'ts:
Eat more calcium-rich foods, get more protein, cut out the caffeine and junk foods.
The Good thing: Developing healthy eating habits will set the stage for your baby to grow into a strong child and adult, as well as ultimately reduce his risk for certain diseases. There is no doubt that there are plenty of things to think about over the coming months. One thing to get started on straight away is to make good food choices that will help both you and your baby.
Are you eating well? What exactly should you eat? What should you avoid and why?
Here are some facts and tips for the different types of food to watch out for during this very special time-
- Firstly you need to eat more of certain foods. Some people see pregnancy as an opportunity to eat freely. After all, you are going to put on 10-12 kg at least that is the expected weight gain for a healthy pregnancy. However, pregnancy is a risk period for the development of obesity and it is always more difficult to lose weight than gain it. Getting the balance right and eating well now is important for the health of the baby as well as the mother.
- Eating regular meals and a wide variety of food is the definition of 'eating well'. It really is that simple. It also means making time for yourself and eating at least three meals each day.
- Snacking between meals will be very helpful for those who experience fatigue during the day. Fruit, yoghurt, crackers and buttermilk, is the type of snack that is recommended.
- A cup of coffee and a chocolate bar, however, is not recommended. It is energy you need as opposed to feeling awake. No more than two cups of coffee per day is recommended during pregnancy.
Which foods should I eat more of?
You should eat more of the following foods in the second half of your pregnancy:
- Calcium rich food: Your baby’s teeth will begin to develop as early as the sixth week of pregnancy and calcium is also needed for bone development. Milk, cottage cheese and yoghurt are the best sources of calcium. Some examples of calcium-rich foods are milk on cereal, a glass of milk, a cheese sandwich, all types of yoghurt, and milkshake. Calcium is also found in the soft bones in fish, in broccoli, cabbage and spinach.
- Iron rich foods: Iron is needed for the growth of your baby’s brain. As you go through pregnancy your baby will build up a store of iron which will last until they reach six months. 75% of women do not eat enough iron. The best dietary source is lean red meat and you should aim to eat it 3-4 times a week. Fortified breakfast cereals, beans, eggs, apricots, prunes, figs, spinach and broccoli also contain iron but you also need a good supply of vitamin C to make use of the iron.
- Vitamin C Rich Foods: Vitamin C rich foods include gooseberries, guavas, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, limes, kiwi, blackcurrants, mangoes and nectarines. Any drink made from these fruits is also high is vitamin C. Potatoes are also a reasonably good source. The need for vitamin C increases by 33% during pregnancy. Choose two of the foods listed above to meet your daily Vitamin C requirements.
- Oily Fish: Mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines and kippers contain oil which is essential for the development of your baby’s brain and eyes. Aim to eat oily fish 2-3 times a week.
- Drink plenty of liquids: Drink at least eight glasses of water daily to help prevent dehydration. Without enough water, many of our regular body functions can't take place, including cell respiration, digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Foods to be avoided
- Peanuts: These are a possible allergen.
- Unwashed fruit and vegetables Take extra care when eating out and only choose cooked fruit and vegetables.
- Liver: It may contain too much vitamin A.
- Raw eggs: Ensure the yolk and white are solid when having a boiled or fried egg and avoid homemade mayonnaise.
- Undercooked meat: Even cooked until pink is not cooked enough.
- Unpasteurized milk and milk products such as cheese and yoghurt.
- Alcohol: The balance of evidence suggests that drinking alcohol should be avoided during pregnancy, alcohol while pregnant; even small amounts have been linked to serious birth defects.
- DON'T fill up on empty calories. Candy, cake, cookies and ice cream definitely don't count as double-duty, nutrient-rich foods. It's OK to have them during pregnancy but in moderation. Limit these foods to thrice a week, you won’t feel deprived and you also won't overeat.
- DO remember that you're not really eating for two while you are pregnant.
What about folic acid?
Folate is a folic acid supplement available from your pharmacy. It contains 400 micrograms of folic acid and should ideally be taken three months prior to conception and up until the twelfth week of pregnancy. It aids the vital development of your baby’s spine and brain, thereby preventing the conditions spina bifida and anencephaly (jointly known as Neural Tube Defects or NTD).
Some foods are fortified with folic acid and will help to increase the high intake required during pregnancy. These include bread, breakfast cereal and milk supplemented with folic acid.
To avoid constipation
A lot of pregnant women suffers from the problem of constipation. To avoid constipation:
- Choose high fibre foods such as whole wheat or wholegrain breakfast cereal, wholegrain bread, pasta and rice.
- Fruit and vegetables are also an excellent source of fibre. Aim to eat four or more pieces a day. In practical terms, this means eating at least one portion of fruit or vegetables at each meal and then one more in between meals.
- Eight to 10 glasses of water each day is also vital to help avoid constipation