Nutrition during pregnancy

Nutrition during pregnancy

What do I need to do differently?

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.

So how do I eat well?

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 cheese, a scone or muffin 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.

The reason for choosing a scone over a chocolate bar is that the energy in the scone will be more sustaining than the instant rush from the confectionery bar.

What about food cravings?

Although there are many opinions as to why cravings occur, there is no clear answer. No study has been able to say one way or the other what causes them or why some women experience them while others don't.

Whatever the craving, it should be worked into mealtimes and not eaten to excess. If for example you find you now adore ice cream, a fresh fruit salad and a scoop of ice cream for dessert will fit in with the concept of 'eating well' whereas eating a carton of ice cream for breakfast will not!

Which foods should I eat more of?

You should eat more of the following foods in the second half of your pregnancy:

Which foods should I avoid?

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.

How can I avoid 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.

What about heartburn?

Your pharmacist will be able to give you a remedy for heartburn.

What about morning sickness?

Try to continue to eat small meals at regular intervals despite the sickness.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Nuala Collins, BSc, Nutrition and Dietetics

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