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The importance of nutrition during pregnancy


Nutrition is an incredibly important part of overall health. During pregnancy – and before, when you’re trying to conceive, or after, when breastfeeding – your nutritional status not only influences your health, but the health of your baby.

While there are scientific guidelines to nutrition, it is also a very personal thing. An approach that considers each person’s individual needs, access to nutritional food, cultural or ethnic food culture, and body mass index is recommended in order to ensure the best outcomes.

Plus, most nutritional recommendations are geared towards women with uncomplicated, typical pregnancies. For anything a little out of the ordinary – like gestational diabetes – adjustments will likely need to be made. A nutritionist can help you tailor an eating plan to your specific needs, though there are some general guidelines you can start with.


Foods to eat during pregnancy

Following a healthy diet before, during and after pregnancy is important to ensure your and your babies health. Some food groups to focus on include:

  • Vegetables: Get plenty of vegetables in your diet, including a variety of types and colours. This can include beans and legumes as well.

  • Wholegrains: Healthy wholegrains like brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, bread, couscous, cereals should be a part of your diet.

  • Protein: A good source of protein is important and might include lean meats, fish, chicken, eggs, nuts and seeds.

  • Fibre: Increase your fibre intake with foods such as oats and chia seeds to maintain your gut health and regular bowel movements.

(Healthy eating during your pregnancy 2024)

There are also foods you can include in your diet for specific reasons. For example, if you’re suffering from nausea, citric fruits like lime, lemon and pineapple on ice cubes or raw ginger in tea may help.

And don’t forget to drink plenty of water!


Foods to avoid during pregnancy

It’s important not to keep to a restrictive diet during pregnancy, because that may lead to your baby missing important nutrients. However, there are some foods it’s better to avoid, as they have a higher risk of contamination or causing food poisoning. These include:

  • Allergens. If you have any pre-existing food allergies, such as a nut allergy, you should continue to exclude those foods from your diet during pregnancy. This won’t have an effect on your baby developing the same allergy symptoms.

  • Raw eggs. Raw eggs may contain salmonella, so should be avoided. Cooked eggs are fine.

  • Foods which may contain listeria bacteria. This includes soft cheeses (brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue cheese), sandwich meats, bean sprouts, pre-prepared salads and pâté.

  • Fish that may contain high levels of mercury. Food Standards Australia New Zealand recommend limiting your consumption of fish. You should eat no more than 100g of cooked flake, marlin or swordfish per fortnight or 100g of cooked deep-sea perch or catfish per week. You should avoid eating more fish than that.

It’s also a good idea to limit highly processed foods, or foods high in added salt or added sugar, like biscuits, pastries, cakes, pies, processed meats, commercial burgers, fried foods, potato chips. (Healthy eating during your pregnancy 2024)


Weight gain during pregnancy

You may be anxious about fluctuating weight during your pregnancy, especially if you usually follow a specific diet or have had weight issues previously. Steady weight gain during pregnancy is normal and important to support your growing baby. However, too much or very sudden weight gain can lead to conditions such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.

Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet can make sure you’re gaining weight in a controlled and appropriate way while your baby develops.


Should I take supplements before pregnancy?

Prenatal multivitamins can be very helpful and are generally recommended while you’re actively trying to conceive, and during pregnancy. Some of the most important vitamin supplements during pregnancy include:

  • Folic acid – responsible for neuro tube foetal development

  • Omega-3 fatty acids – critical for foetal brain development and associated with improved vision and better cardiovascular health

  • Iron – regular iron needs nearly double during pregnancy

  • Vitamin D – vitamin D deficiency is common during pregnancy

  • Vitamin A – vital for cell differentiation and proliferation as well as development of the spine, heart, eyes, and ears

(Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation 2016)

Food and nutrition can be a very personal choice, but when you’re soon to be a mother, it’s also a choice you make for your new baby. A nutritionist can help prescribe the best plan for you and your growing family. Book an appointment with our friendly team today.

 

Sources

Eat For Health, Healthy eating during your pregnancy, accessed 2024

Kominiarek MA, Rajan P, Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation, Med Clin North Am, 2016

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