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What You Should Know About Nutrition in Pregnancy

By Yann, published on 18/09/2018 We Love Prof - AU > Health and Fitness > Nutrition > Optimise Your Pregnancy Nutrition

Whether you’re already pregnant or you’re thinking about trying for a baby, it’s important to know that your dietary requirements will change while you’re pregnant compared to other times of your life.

Although the thought of having a new addition to your family is an exciting time, it also pays to make sure you’re aware of what you should and shouldn’t indulge in once you are expecting, and how much you should be eating of everything to maintain a healthy weight.

How To Get The Best Pregnancy Nutrition

For better or worse, the fact is that pregnancy can feel a little limiting when it comes to what foods you can, or shouldn’t, eat. A more restricted diet may also be encountered when breastfeeding.

Often, the foods that pregnant women are recommended not to eat may be off limits for a number of reasons, including:

  • There may be a listeria risk;
  • There could be a chance that a food could give you toxoplasmosis; or
  • There haven’t been enough studies conducted to know whether a particular food can adversely affect a foetus.

Although the below is not a comprehensive list, these are some of the most common foods that the NHS recommends that pregnant women either avoid or approach with some caution when eating:

Cheese

Not all cheese is off limits (thankfully!) but there are some that you should probably just say no to when they next appear on a cheeseboard.

Pasteurised soft cheeses, such as mozzarella, feta, and halloumi, are considered safe for pregnant women to eat, as are hard cheeses (pasteurised or unpasteurised) such as cheddar and parmesan.

However, soft cheeses with white rinds such as brie, or soft blue cheeses like gorgonzola, should not be eaten cold.

A cheeseboard with various cheeses. Some cheeses aren't recommended in pregnancy diets. Knowing what cheeses you should and shouldn’t eat as part of your pregnancy diet is just one of the changes you need to manage while pregnant. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, George Hodan, PublicDomainPictures)

Alcohol

Unfortunately, to be absolutely safe, it’s recommended that pregnant women don’t have any alcohol at all while they are pregnant. Ultimately, any break from alcohol is only for the short-term and the reward at the end is a little bundle of joy, which often gives mums-to-be the motivation they need to steer clear of alcohol and to continue eating healthy, balanced meals.

If you are struggling to cut down on alcohol, it may be best to speak to an organisation that can help, or reach out to your pregnancy health care provider for tips on how to cut out alcohol.

Fish and meat

Fish doesn’t have to be cut out in its entirety but there are some fish that should be reduced or removed from your diet while pregnant. For example, the NHS recommends avoiding eating shark, swordfish, and marlin when pregnant or trying to conceive. However, not all fish is bad for you in pregnancy, and some fish can actually be a good source of omega 3 fatty acids for your growing baby.

Equally, when it comes to meat, protein is fantastic for a growing foetus but try to make sure that cuts of meat are completely cooked through before eating them, as raw or undercooked meat may carry a risk of toxoplasmosis.

It’s also worth noting that the above list is not comprehensive when it comes to getting the best nutrition during pregnancy, as there are other considerations to take into account, such as limiting your caffeine intake.

Ultimately, any of your favourite foods that you have to say goodbye to when pregnant, whether that’s pâté or rare steak, will only be off your plate for a short time.

If you are struggling with what to eat now you are pregnant or would like some suggestions about which foods to avoid, or which non-alcoholic drinks and mocktails are great during pregnancy, feel free to reach out to a nutritionist at Superprof for some personalised tips and ideas.

Fresh fruit and vegetables at a market. Good pregnancy nutrition is important to support a growing baby. A balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables is a crucial part of pregnancy nutrition. (Image source: CC0 1.0, Jean Beaufort, PublicDomainPictures)

Nutritional And Energy Requirements For a Pregnant Woman

There can be a lot of false information on the internet about what a woman should or shouldn’t eat while she is pregnant, along with how much she should actually eat to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

You’ll even hear some misinformation passed down between friends and family, so it’s worth being vigilant and checking with a healthcare professional about what you do actually need to eat when pregnant, and what you should be eating during each trimester.

Having said that, there are a few key pieces of information when it comes to pregnancy diet and nutrition that it can be incredibly helpful to know:

Try And Take A Pregnancy Vitamin

If you’re planning on conceiving, then it’s a great idea to start taking a prenatal vitamin before you actually start trying so that you have plenty of nutrients in your body that can help a baby grow.

A pregnancy supplement can either contain a range of different vitamins, or you might prefer to just have a specific vitamin, such as one for folic acid or vitamin D. It can be difficult to find certain vitamins, such as folate and iodine, in everyday foods that we eat, so prenatal vitamins can be a great way to help achieve your daily allowances.

Ideally, there are suggestions that you should start taking a prenatal vitamin, or at least a folic acid supplement, every day while trying to get pregnant, which should help give your baby great access to the vitamins she needs as she grows in your womb.

If you’ve only just found out your pregnant, then equally it’s never too late to start taking a pregnancy multivitamin for your baby. Such multivitamins can help reduce the risk of a foetus developing problems such as neural tube defects, so it can really be in your best interests to take a supplement as soon as possible.

How women react to multivitamins varies from woman to woman – some find it easier to take one during their first meal of the day, while others prefer to have theirs with dinner. It’s a case of trial and error to see what works for you!

A pregnant woman holding her pregnant belly. Good pregnancy nutrition is really important. You definitely don’t need to eat for two during pregnancy. So there’s no need to increase your food intake dramatically during a pregnancy diet! (Image Source: CC0 1.0, tunechick83, Pixabay)

You Don’t Need To Eat For Two!

This is perhaps the most oft-quoted myth of them all when it comes to pregnancy! While you may have a little human growing inside you (or maybe two or three!) there is no basis to the idea that you need to suddenly double your calorie intake because you are pregnant.

According to the NHS, you should only aim to consume around an additional 200 calories per day during the final three months of your pregnancy. There should be no other additional calories required during the first six months.

Although you will end up putting on weight while you are pregnant, and you may well feel hungrier once any morning sickness has passed, try to remember that you don’t need to double your calorie count. If you do this, then ultimately it will make it more difficult to lose the weight once the baby has arrived, and depending on how you get those extra calories, may lead to other pregnancy complications.

Of course, if you’re ever in doubt as to what you should be eating when pregnant, then it’s best to consult with a qualified medical professional, such as your midwife or obstetrician, as they will have the latest information on pregnancy nutrition and medical guidelines about which foods are safe to have, and which to avoid.

Seeing a health professional can be especially important if you are under- or overweight before falling pregnant, as this may influence how much weight you should put on over the course of your pregnancy. Equally, if you’re at high risk of gestational diabetes, a trip to your healthcare provider will be in order.

If you’re already aware of what you should be eating, but perhaps want to try and increase the amount of nutritious food you’re consuming as your baby grows, then it may be worth reaching out to a nutritionist who can help with a variety of things including:

  • Suggesting delicious meal plans week to week;
  • Recommending snacks that should help curb your hunger or craving without being high in unhealthy fats or sugars; or
  • Teaching you about the healthiest ways to prepare food, such as steaming or boiling.

Superprof has a number of nutritionists that could help you along your pregnancy journey. So if you are worried about your food intake, how many meals you should be eating, or the balance of your diet while pregnant, there’s no need to panic. Simply enter your postcode to find a nutritionist who can help either in person or remotely – the choice is up to you!

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