Eating a nutrient-dense diet during pregnancy is one of the most important things you can do for both yourself and your baby’s health and wellbeing. Everything you consume has a direct impact on your developing baby and eating well is one of the first things you can do to care for your child.
During pregnancy, eating well can help prevent anemia and reduce other pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and fatigue. Not only will eating well help reduce pregnancy complications by keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar and weight at healthy levels, but it can also help prevent birth defects sometimes caused by a lack of nutrients.
Loss of pregnancy weight is made easier after birth by a healthy diet during pregnancy, which many women find more difficult to do if they’ve eaten a diet high in calorie-dense, processed foods.
The three most important things to focus on are food quality, food quantity and the addition of certain nutrients.
Eat a variety of natural, unprocessed foods. Processed and refined foods like fast foods, white breads, pastries and sweets contain “empty calories” which have little nutritional value.
Nutrient dense foods include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and rolled oats, and organic, grass-fed meat and poultry. When it comes to fish, stick to salmon, herring and trout. Healthy fats are important for your baby’s brain health and your hormones so include avocados, nut and seed oils, coconut and fatty fish in your diet too. When shopping, stick to the outskirts of the grocery store and only enter the centre aisle for oils, nuts and whole grains.
Eating for two during pregnancy is a thing of the past and being pregnant shouldn’t be your excuse to double up on everything you eat. Consume an extra 300 calories per day to nourish the baby well and to gain the expected amount of weight.
These extra calories should be nutrient-dense and additional calories do not mean adding an extra donut to each day.
An additional 300 calories can look like a potato topped with 1/2 a cup of beans and a tablespoon of tahini or two slices of seed bread topped with 1/2 an avocado. On the sweet side, it can look like 1/2 a cup of yogurt with a small fruit and a handful of nuts.
Folic acid, calcium and iron are three nutrients to increase.
Folic acid will help prevent serious abnormalities and decrease the risk of premature birth. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, leafy greens, peas, chickpeas and dried beans are high in this nutrient.
Calcium is important for your and your baby’s bones and teeth as well as nervous system function. This includes dairy products and green vegetables. Make an effort to get regular sunlight as vitamin D will help your body to use calcium.
Iron is important and your body will need double the amount of iron it usually does to make the blood supply needed for your baby. Sources of iron include lean red meat, oily fish, eggs and dark leafy greens. Pair your dark leafy greens with a citrus fruit like an orange to help the iron absorption.
Consider seeing a registered dietitian or nutritionist to get a more personalised plan for your pregnancy and contact your health provider to discuss additional supplements.
Certified Health Coach