What to eat when you’re expecting

A few people have sent me direct messages recently to ask me about diet during pregnancy.

Whilst I have posted a few times about fitness and exercise during pregnancy, I haven’t really talked much about what to eat when you are expecting. Given I received some great tips from CABA today on just this topic, I thought it would be a great time to write something on this.

According to CABA’s expert Nutritionists at The Natural Alternative, the key to a healthy pregnancy is simple; eat a varied, but healthy diet.

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No to nausea

Up to 85% of pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy and it can leave you feeling hungry and wanting to eat more regularly. But that doesn’t mean you can eat for 2. For many, the nausea is worse when blood sugar levels are low, so try grazing on a healthy snack every 2 hours. A quick and easy favourite is bircher muesli (recipe below) which can be made in bulk and kept in the fridge. Other snacks include;

  • gingerdownload (8)Ginger – some women swear by using ginger to ward off sickness. Try ginger tea, ginger ale or ginger biscuits.
  • Natural yogurt with a piece fruit
  • Healthy cereal (e.g. Lizi’s granola)
  • Hummus with raw vegetables (carrots, celery, peppers)

Energy boosters

It’s common for women to feel extremely tired, particularly in the first and third trimesters of pregnancy. Getting rest where you can, being even more organised and planning ahead will help, especially when it comes to meal times. Batch cooking can be a real-life saver when the last thing you want to do is cook.

Here’s some tips to improve your energy:

Iron

Towards the end of a pregnancy, many women will become iron deficient and anemic. Foods high in iron include; red meat (it’s recommended to eat red meat up to twice a week), green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, rocket), dried apricots and nuts. Some foods are known to reduce the absorption of iron. Known as phytates, these include black tea and grains found in bread, rice and pasta. Try to consume these away from high iron foods. It can also help to take an iron supplement with vitamin C to further enhance the absorption of iron. Some iron supplements can also make you constipated so stay well hydrated.

Vitamin B12

If you are vegetarian then B12 should be taken daily. B12 is involved in red blood cell formation and when this is reduced you may feel more fatigued.

Healthy baby

As well as a healthy diet, many expectant mums also turn to prenatal supplements to improve their chances of producing a healthy baby; but knowing what to take and why can be a minefield. Here’s an essential list:

Folic acid

It’s the 1st vitamin most people think about when pregnant (and better still when preparing to conceive). Taking 400mcg of folic acid daily up until at least the 12th week of pregnancy is advised by the NHS. Folic acid can help to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects including spina bifida.

Vitamin D

A relatively new entry into the pregnancy recommendations but nonetheless an important vitamin to take. Nutritionists would love to say you can get all your vitamin D from the sun but let’s face it, in the UK the sun doesn’t shine often enough. Government guidelines recommend taking 10mcg of vitamin D per day. This ‘sunshine vitamin’ allows calcium to be absorbed into your bones. You can find vitamin D in oily fish and eggs but topping up by taking extra supplements is recommended.

Calcium

Essential for the growing of bones and teeth, adding milk, yogurt and certain cheeses into your diet is essential when expecting. Cottage cheese, mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, paneer, ricotta are all OK to eat during pregnancy.  Calcium can also be found in green leafy vegetables, tofu, dairy alternative drinks that are fortified, tahini (used to make hummus) and certain fish (tinned salmon, sardines).

Omega-3

It’s not on the government list of things you should take, but there are some interesting studies relating to omega-3 (fish/flaxseed oil) and baby brain development. Watch out for the cheaper fish oil as the filtration process to remove heavy metals may not be as effective. It can be a daunting feeling, worrying whether you’re feeding your body and baby the right foods, so take a daily pregnancy supplement – that way you’re covering all bases.

bircherdownloadBircher muesli

50g rolled porridge oats

1tbsp flaxseed / handful of mixed nuts (chopped)

1tbsp chia seeds

1tbsp dried fruit

1 apple (grated)

½ tsp cinnamon (optional)

½ tsp nutmeg (optional)

120ml milk or dairy alternative (almond/oat/coconut)

Method: Combine and mix all ingredients in an air tight container and leave in fridge overnight. Add/subtract milk according to the preferred consistency.

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