How to Maintain a Healthy Diet During Pregnancy
While hot chips and chocolate is often all you want to eat while pregnant, maintaining a healthy diet in pregnancy is important.
A balanced, well-rounded diet is the easiest way to ensure you’re receiving all the nutrition you need. While ‘eating for two’ doesn’t mean eating enough kilojoules for two, it does mean that you need to increase your nutrient intake and that means making every mouthful count.
What does a nutrient-dense diet look like?
Nutrient-dense foods are those that are high in nutrients but relatively low in energy, or kilojoules – it’s all about quality over quantity. So, what does that look like? Well as a general rule of thumb, anything that is minimally processed is more likely to be more nutrient-dense than highly processed foods such as sweets, cakes, and crisps.
Foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, lean proteins, and dairy products or alternatives can all help to increase your nutrient intake. Incorporating these foods into your main meals and snacks is the easiest way to ensure you’re meeting your nutrient needs throughout the day.
When pregnant, it’s a good idea to focus on getting adequate iron, folate, iodine, vitamin D, omega-3, and calcium for a healthy pregnancy. Here is a guide on how to help you achieve this:
Iodine is a naturally occurring mineral that is needed by the thyroid gland which releases hormones that play a key role in physical and mental development for babies and young children. Increase your iodine intake with:
- Fish and seafood (low mercury varieties)
- Milk and yogurt
- Wholegrain bread (most Australian bread is made with iodised salt)
Omega-3 rich fats are essential for the development of a baby’s brain, nerve and eye-development. Babies store most of this within the last trimester of pregnancy, so it’s a great idea to increase your intake at this time, and while breastfeeding, with these foods:
- Oily fish – sardines, tuna, and salmon
- Seeds – linseed, flaxseed and chia seeds
- Eggs – particularly omega-3 enriched varieties
Folate (or folic acid) is a B-group vitamin which is important for a baby’s development. Studies have shown that a diet rich in folate can lessen the risk of your bub developing Neural Tube Defects. Foods rich in folate include:
- Green leafy vegetables – spinach, broccoli, kale, asparagus, bok choy
- Nuts and legumes – peanuts and hazelnuts contain the most folate
Your iron needs increase significantly from 18mg/day before pregnancy to 27mg/day during pregnancy as your baby stockpiles iron for its life outside of the womb. Make sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet with these iron-filled staples:
- Lean red meat – include a few servings per week
- Fish and poultry
- Firm tofu
- Iron-fortified breads and cereals
Calcium is necessary for healthy bones and teeth for both mum and bub during pregnancy. Whilst your calcium needs don’t actually increase during pregnancy, its essential to make sure you’re getting enough in your diet – you can do this by including the following in your diet:
- Dairy – milk, hard cheeses, yogurt
- Calcium-fortified plant milks
- Green leafy vegetables – bok choy, spinach, kale
- Firm tofu