Basic Pregnancy Nutrition

shutterstock_284898002The First Trimester

First trimester eating can be very stressful. You find out that you are newly pregnant and all you want to do is read every book and web article you can find on your growing baby. What you should eat, what you shouldn’t eat and then just when you sit down to your first pregnancy meal, you look at the plate of food in front of you and wonder why you even remotely thought you would feel like eating ‘that’. Welcome to first trimester nausea and just  generally feeling YUCK!

The secret about this trimester is that your baby lives off its little yolk sac so the growth is more related to the overall health of your egg and not whether you get every nutrient in perfect proportion, however alongside your baby is the developing placenta that will soon be his life source. The health of your placenta is determined by a number of factors and one of them is a good intake of protein and enough calories. So although you may not be feeling great in the first trimester, it is important to aim at developing a healthy and nutritious eating pattern. Shakes that are balanced are great to fill the meal gaps in the early days. When looking for a shake, look for one designed for pregnant women, they generally meet your vitamin and mineral needs. These shakes are often lower in fats and high in proteins and low glycaemic sugars. This enables your blood sugar to stay stable. Eat small frequent meals throughout the day, fill the gaps with a good healthy shake and take your folic acid and you will have a good start to a healthy pregnancy.

The Second Trimester

In the second trimester, you gain more weight than your first trimester. All this weight isn’t going straight to your baby; additional breast tissue, an increase in your fluid volume, amniotic fluid around the baby, placental growth, increased uterine muscle, and extra stores of fat and protein all contribute to the extra weight gain. Most women feel wonderful in the second trimester. Nausea has finally disappeared, and your baby isn’t big enough to put pressure on your organs and make it hard to eat. Don’t let feeling good or the fact that you finally look pregnant lull you into throwing dietary common sense out the window. Excess weight gain increases your risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery.

Both you and your baby need high-quality foods to supply the vitamins and minerals, as well as the calories, you need for your baby’s optimal growth in the second trimester. Protein helps create new tissue for your baby, which he’ll need. Protein requirements increase during pregnancy. Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and pork are your best protein bets; if you follow a vegan diet, get protein from nuts, seeds, soy and whole grains.

Throughout your pregnancy, carbohydrates supply the bulk of your energy needs. But all carbs are not equal; eating cakes doesn’t pack the nutritional punch of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These not only contain the carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals you need, but also provide fiber, which helps you avoid constipation, a common complaint as your baby grows and puts pressure on your intestines.

Fats have a bad reputation, but they’re a necessary part of your diet during pregnancy; The key is picking the right fats: healthy fats such as unsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids can help lower your lipid levels and provide nutrients essential for your baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system. Fish such as salmon, trout, herring and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Because fish contains methylmercury, a toxin, limit your intake to 2-3 servings per week. Vegetarians can get omega-3s from soy and walnuts. Avoid trans fats, found in processed foods and saturated fats; they can increase your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.

While getting enough of all vitamins and minerals is important throughout pregnancy, two nutrients are especially important in the second trimester: calcium and iron. Calcium helps build strong bones in your baby’s developing skeleton, and iron helps create new red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body and to your baby via the placenta. Get at least 1200mg of calcium daily in food or supplements, while increasing your iron intake to 30 mg per day. A prenatal vitamin can ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals you need, but getting your nutrients from food is always best.

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The Third Trimester

The last trimester of your pregnancy is often the busiest as the countdown begins, there are more frequent visits to the Gynae or midwife, long lists of baby gear to buy, showers to attend (yours!) and work projects to complete. But as you go about the hectic (and exciting) business of getting ready for baby, don’t forget to schedule in your Daily Dozen! Not only is baby getting bigger and hungrier, but brain development is fast and furious. Fuel that brain growth (and the development of baby’s eyes) with a diet rich in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. This fabulous fat is found in salmon, Omega 3 eggs, and walnuts. And don’t forget about foods rich in fibre to ward off constipation.

You will find that your appetite is actually less and your stomach capacity halved due to the extra space your little one is taking up. Heartburn can be a real ‘pain’ at this stage and it is important that you tell your health care provider so that they can treat it for you to avoid unnecessary suffering! Eat small frequent meals throughout the day and drink plenty of water! (you will go the toilet frequently anyway so you might as well keep hydrated).

Lastly and definitely most importantly take advantage of the last few weeks of “pregnancy pampering from your partner” and go out for a romantic dinner or stay in for a romantic take away dinner! Either way choose a favourite and call it a craving!!! Before you know it you will be holding your gorgeous newborn in your arms!