Healthy Snacks for Pregnancy

healthy snacks for pregnancy

Healthy snacks for pregnancy are crucial for your baby’s development, satisfy your hunger cravings and provide you with the energy you need. Getting the best nutrition is important at all times, but it’s most crucial during pregnancy. The nutrients in the food you eat support the growth and development of your baby. The changes in appetite you may experience are among the first things you could encounter as your body develops and adapts to pregnancy. Food desires, aversions, and cravings are very typical during pregnancy. In this article, you will read some tips as to how to satisfy your hunger and appetite by having healthy snacks for pregnancy.

Should You Snack When Pregnant?

Some pregnant women start noticing an increase in hunger as early as the first trimester. Pregnancy can cause an increase in appetite, especially by the second trimester when appetite increases and morning sickness may subside. From the second trimester, you require more calories to feed your developing baby. Any time of the day, but possibly notably overnight and early in the morning, you might feel more hungry due to the steady decline in blood sugar levels.

Based on your activity level, age, and individual size (we are all very different) everyone will have slightly different dietary demands. The majority of pregnant ladies can normally maintain a balanced diet without ingesting more calories throughout their first trimester, as a general rule of thumb.

Women should consume about 340 extra calories during the second trimester and 450 extra calories during the last trimester. A pregnant woman of typical weight needs to consume roughly 1,800 calories daily during the first trimester, 2,200 calories daily during the second, and roughly 2,400 calories daily during the third trimester. Remeber these are very rough broad popualtion guidelines – they ar enot individual advice.

Having nutritious, healthy snacks for pregnancy on hand can be a lifesaver, either if you are ridiculously hungry or need to pick all through the day.

What Are Good Snacks to Eat While Pregnant?

Healthy snacks for pregnancy should be substantial enough to satisfy your hunger, without being excessively calorie-dense or interfering with your appetite for a meal. Healthy snacks for pregnancy includes;

  1. Fiber
  2. Protein
  3. Healthy fat and
  4. Not too high in calories
healthy snacks for pregnancy

Fiber, protein, and healthy fats are the three essential components found in the perfect healthy snack for pregnancy. This snacking trio helps you feel fuller for longer and helps to maintain stable blood sugar levels, which may help to reduce cravings. Choose foods that are high in fiber and low in fat and added sugar. If you choose foods that have a protein source you’ll feel satisfied for longer.

For example, compared to a bag of chips, an apple is a healthier snack, and if you add in some peanut butter it’s a nutritious and filling snack. It has protein, fats, and fiber. Healthy snacks for pregnancy must be nutrient-dense (meaning it provides you with “good nutrients” not just empty calories).  

It’s crucial to select nutritious healthy snacks for pregnancy that are high in quality ingredients. For healthy growth and the formation of it’s immune system, your baby requires a lot of vitamins and minerals. As much as you can, pay attention to the caliber of the foods you choose. Another important aspect of a snack to be healthy is that it should be low in processed sugar. Oh, sugar, how we both adore and detest you. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that sugar is delicious, but it is something we need to keep are eyes on in our diets.

10 of the Best Healthy Snacks for Pregnancy

You might be wondering what are some of the best snacks to always have in the pantry for yourself whilst you are pregnant. Cravings during pregnancy can be ferocious and it is never easy to satisfy them so you must have some go-to snacks that you can munch anytime during the day to keep your energy levels high. Always keep food on hand during pregnancy to keep yourself full when you are out and about. These nutritious healthy snacks for pregnancy will keep you and your baby well-fed because they are filling and nutrient-dense.

  1. Yogurt with Nuts and Fruits
  2. Smoothies (choose vegetable rather than too many fruit options)
  3. Hummus with Pita Bread
  4. Granola Bars (read the label so they are not too high in calories)
  5. Popcorn
  6. Whole Grain Toast with Nut Butter
  7. Avocado Toast
  8. Chia Pudding with Nuts
  9. Fruit Salad
  10. Banana Bread

Can I Eat Junk Food in Pregnancy?

Your body goes through a great deal of continuous change from the time your pregnancy test indicates a positive result until you hold your newborn in your arms. Every bite of food you consume while pregnant has a significant impact on how the baby grows inside of you. Sometimes pregnant women can have some fairly bizarre food desires during pregnancy, especially for unhealthy foods. These cravings can range from oily fried dishes to ice cream at midnight.

The women and the unborn child can be adversely affected by consuming too much “junk food”. Junk food tends to be high in calories and is low in its “nutrient density” – meaning it doesn’t have a lot of good nutrition in it. The placenta absorbs the excess fat, sugar, calories and salt from the pregnant woman’s diet and consequently, this can interfere with optimal growth leading to a baby that can be large for its age and one that may suffer future health problems. It can also make health implications for the mother. A good rule of thumb is “junk food” maybe 1-2 per week at the most.

Best Foods for Morning Sickness

Snacks that are effective against morning sickness are listed below:

  • Cold meals like yogurt and smoothies
  • Liquids that are cold and frothy, like fruit-flavored carbonated water
  • Foods that are simple to digest, such as crackers, bread, and rice
  • Fruits like applesauce and bananas
  • Ginger tea with freshly grated ginger, ginger sweets, or ginger ale with actual ginger

High-Calorie Snacks For Pregnancy

best foods for morning sickness

Pregnant ladies that have struggled in gaining weight must consume high-caloric snacks to have a healthy weight. A healthy weight is necessary for the health of the baby. Being underweight can lead to many complications during pregnancy. Here are some high-calorie snacks to try, although it is important to note that these snacks are healthy options but if you are trying to gain weight you may need a bigger serving or to have them more often.

  • Oats porridge
  • Tortilla wrap with hummus
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Toasted muesli with an apple
  • Grilled chicken with salad or steamed vegetables
  • Bean salad
  • Vegetable soup
  • Handful of nuts and seeds

Low-Carb Snacks for Pregnancy

  • Homemade trail mix
  • Cheddar cheese crisps
  • Boiled eggs
  • Tuna salad lettuce wrap
  • Berries with whipped cream
  • Stuffed avocado
  • Kale chips
  • Carrot sticks with peanut butter
  • Cinnamon-toasted pumpkin seeds
  • Steamed edamame
  • Caprese salad

Healthy Sweet Snacks for Pregnancy

Sometimes we are after a little sweetness … try these options

  • Medjool dates with almond butter
  • Whole grain pretzels
  • Fresh fruits with nut butter 
  • Frozen banana ice cream with chopped nuts
  • Whole grain toast with nut butter and chocolate chips
  • Fruit pops
  • Yogurt parfaits
  • Fruit cake

High Protein Snacks for Pregnancy

Sometimes we require a little more protein to make healthy snacks for pregnancy. Protein fill us up and is a wonderful macronutrient. See here for more protein information in pregnancy.

  • Peanut butter
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Cottage cheese
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Edamame
  • Chickpea hummus
  • Cashew coconut snack bars
  • Tuna salad
  • Chocolate chips protein muffins
  • Avocado toast with hemp hearts
  • Meatballs with zucchini noodles
  • Greek yogurt with fruits

Eating a well-balanced diet that includes items from all food categories is vital to ensure that both you and your developing baby have the best possible nutritional status. During pregnancy, it’s crucial to put nutrition first and be kind to yourself. Generally speaking, it’s okay to periodically indulge in the foods you want and desire but for the basis of your diet to be non-processed healthy food. Healthy snacks for pregnancy are helpful in this regard. Throughout your pregnancy, your healthcare provider will carefully examine the health of both you and your unborn child, so be sure to follow up with them regularly. Hopefully, this article has helped for you to indulge in some mouthwatering healthy snacks for pregnancy.

Sources:

Taggart, N. (1961). Food habits in pregnancy. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 20(1), 35-40.

Most, J., Dervis, S., Haman, F., Adamo, K. B., & Redman, L. M. (2019). Energy intake requirements in pregnancy. Nutrients, 11(8), 1812.

Alavi, N., Haley, S., Chow, K., & McDonald, S. D. (2013). Comparison of national gestational weight gain guidelines and energy intake recommendations. Obesity Reviews, 14(1), 68-85.

Wen, L. M., Simpson, J. M., Rissel, C., & Baur, L. A. (2013). Maternal “junk food” diet during pregnancy as a predictor of high birthweight: findings from the healthy beginnings trial. Birth, 40(1), 46-51.

Harvard Th Chan – The Art of Snacking

Benefits of Protein in Pregnancy

highest protein foods

Our bodies require an adequate amount of protein to fulfill basic functions like muscle growth, wound healing, and cell signaling — protein is essential when you’re expecting. Protein in pregnancy is crucial, for you and your baby. Eating enough protein during pregnancy supports your baby’s development and is required for normal cell growth and function. You need good sources of protein in pregnancy, such as lean meat, lentils, seafood, and eggs to meet your daily protein intake.

Let’s discuss in detail protein and the benefits of protein in pregnancy.

What is Protein?

Proteins are an essential macronutrient of the body. They are vital in our body structures, like skin and hair, and are crucial in other substances and processes in our body like enzymes, cytokines, and antibodies – just to name a few.

Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids, and each one is either essential, optional, or conditional. Amino acids are used to break down foods, grow and repair body tissue and perform other body functions. They can also be used as a source of energy for our bodies. The value of a protein can be measured by how many essential amino acids it contains.

  • Non-Essential Amino Acids: These amino acids are optional for our body to produce and they don’t have to be included in our diet
  • Essential Amino Acids: Amino acids that are essential are those that our body cannot produce on its own and must therefore be in our diet. 
  • Conditional Amino Acids: Conditions such as disease and stress are thought to necessitate conditional amino acids, so by having a certain disease you may need a certain amino acid to help, making it conditional and necessary for you. 

Why Do We Need Protein-rich Foods?

Mother and baby health can be defined by the nutritional status and lifestyle of the women during the preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum stages. Adequate protein in pregnancy at each stage is essential. Protein is essential in the preconception stage to provide the strength and health for your body to carry a baby, during pregnancy protein is needed for the obvious growth and development of your baby and to maintain your health, and then in the postpartum journey it is essential for recovery and intake is essential if you’re breastfeeding; you’ll need protein to keep your body in good shape to sustain your milk supply during lactation.

We need protein in food for

  • Building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin
  • Repair and build cells
  • Help supply our body with a compound that helps to carry oxygen around our body 
  • To make new enzymes that our body needs, new cells and body chemicals
  • Amino acids can also be used as a source of energy for our bodies
  • Hormone regulation – especially during growth time (hello pregnancy)
protein in pregnancy

Why Do We Need Protein in Pregnancy?

Protein in pregnancy simply provides the building blocks for your baby’s cells and development. This macronutrient aids in the maintenance of muscle and body tissue, and it is also essential for a baby’s growth — particularly during the second and third trimesters. Protein helps grow breast and uterine tissue during pregnancy and aids in the development of the baby’s tissue and the brain and helps your baby develop skin, hair fingernails, and muscles.

Consuming between 60-100g of protein during the third trimester is recommended depending on activity and weight. There is quite a bit of literature currently showing that we may need to research our protein in pregnancy more and maybe our needs are higher than what we have been historically recommending – so it is essential to be at least eating the recommended amount of protein.

Protein-rich Foods in Pregnancy- How Much Do We Need?

You must include foods that contain protein in pregnancy to fulfil the daily requirements. During preconception, women require around 12 to 20% protein of their daily calories, which accounts for almost 40 – 60 grams of protein a day. 

During pregnancy, women require almost 20 to 25% protein of their daily calories, and it accounts for almost 63 – 100g grams of protein a day. Healthy lactating women should consume almost 1.5 grams of protein per kg per day of the body weight.

Highest Protein Foods in Pregnancy

Protein in pregnancy is easy to add to your meals. You can add a variety of healthy sources of protein to your meal. Here are some of the highest protein sources to add to your meal. 

Animal protein sources are beef, chicken, tuna, poultry, pork, and fish, and dairy foods are high in protein. Animal products generally have all of the essential amino acids and are often labeled as “complete proteins”.

On the other hand, primary plant sources of protein include nuts and seeds, vegetables like peas, spinach, potatoes, whole grains, and legumes, amaranth, and soy products often only contain one essential amino acid (except soy, amaranth, and quinoa which contains all essential amino acids) and are often labeled as incomplete proteins.

Protein-rich Foods for Vegetarians 

protein rich foods for vegetarians

If you are a person who eats a vegetarian diet you need to choose a variety of protein sources from a mix of plant foods (ie have a varied diet) to make sure you get a mix of amino acids. You can add a variety of protein-rich foods for vegetarians to fulfill your daily intake of proteins. Pea and hemp protein are comparable grams of protein to a whey or casein protein-based powder for example. 

It is recommended to add a variety of plant sources when possible or use different supplements and fortified foods to maximise the benefits. You can add various vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes that contain almost four to five grams of protein in a cup, these are easy to add to any meal.

You can add a variety of fruits to your healthy snacks, such as guava which contains 4 grams of protein, and avocado containing 4.5 grams of protein. It is possible to have adequate protein in pregnancy, even a vegetarian pregnancy.

Protein Deficiency in Pregnancy

Protein in pregnancy is important and protein deficiency can lead to embryonic losses, intra-uterine growth restriction, and reduced postnatal growth due to the lack of specific amino acids important for cell metabolism and function. If you feel weakness, muscle fatigue, or rapid weight loss, these may be the signs of protein deficiency, and you need to consult your doctor immediately. 

Increasing Protein Dense Foods 

Protein in pregnancy plays an important role in the baby’s growth throughout the pregnancy. Here is the list of food that contains a high amount of proteins; you can add a variety of them to different meals of the day. 

  • Eggs:
  •  One medium-sized boiled egg contains around 6 grams of protein.
  • Poultry:
  • One boneless grilled chicken contains 26 grams of protein. 
  • Fish: 
  • Dairy Products:
  • One cup of skim milk contains around 8 grams of protein. You can also add a variety of cheese to your breakfast, and adding one cup of cottage cheese contains 28 grams of protein.
  • Lentils:
  • One cup of lentils contains 18 grams of protein. The addition of lentils to snacks during lunch can aid in having an adequate amount of proteins. 
  • Lean Beef:
  • The 93% lean ground beef has 22 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving. In addition to providing your body with high-quality protein, beef also fuels it with essential elements like iron and zinc, which are important for immunity (which shuttles oxygen through your body).
  • Salmon:
  • A 3-ounce serving of salmon has 19 grams of protein. It is known commonly due to its healthy fat content that supports and improves heart health. This food has a high amount of protein too.

You can increase the intake of proteins by starting your day with protein intake. 

  • Tip: take a protein-rich breakfast – replace cereals with eggs or have cereal and legumes such as baked beans on toast
  • and add almonds and cheese to your snack items.
  • Choose leaner, slightly larger cuts of meat for your dinner. 
  • Adding a portion of high-protein food to every meal is recommended.

Is it Safe to Drink Protein Shakes during Pregnancy?

Protein shakes are considered a good source of protein to fulfill the daily requirement of proteins. But it is not recommended to have protein shakes during pregnancy as they can contain a large amount of caffeine and added sugar. Some protein shakes contain added minerals and vitamins that may already be present in your prenatal vitamin, so you’ll get more than you need.

The FDA does not approve protein shakes during pregnancy. It’s challenging to know exactly what’s in that protein powder, and even the ingredients listed on the label might not be completely safe during pregnancy. The best way is to add a variety of protein-rich foods to your diet.

Protein plays a vital role in the structure and function of the body. Please do not stress though – the basic principles of healthy eating remain the same during pregnancy: eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, and remember that protein requirement increases throughout the pregnancy, especially during the third trimester.

Sources:

Kramer, Michael S., and Ritsuko Kakuma. “Energy and protein intake in pregnancy.” Cochrane Database of systematic reviews 4 (2003).

Seegers, Walter H. “The effect of protein deficiency on the course of pregnancy.” American Journal of Physiology-Legacy Content 119.3 (1937): 474-479.

US Department of Agriculture

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov./

How To Avoid Constipation in Pregnancy?

Best foods for constipation

During pregnancy, a woman can sometimes face a common physical symptom known as constipation. Constipation in pregnancy is mainly caused by the increased level of the pregnancy hormone progesterone, but many other factors can cause constipation in pregnancy.

Other reasons for constipation in pregnancy can be the intake of supplements and medicines and the lack of fiber and water in your diet. Let’s discuss in detail the main symptoms and treatments for constipation in pregnancy. 

What Is Constipation?

Constipation is referred to as a condition in which a person feels uncomfortable while passing a stool. Basically, the leftover of your food hardens in the lower bowel instead of moving out of your body. The stool becomes dry, lumpy, and hard. In pregnancy, constipation is very common due to the hormonal changes that are happening.

Everybody’s bowel motion “timetable” is different, for some people “normal” can be considered 1-2 stools per day, while for others it may be normal to pass a stool every second day. Generally speaking however in pregnancy there is usually some altercation to your “normal” bowel motions, but constipation is usually defined as having less than 3 bowel motions per week. 

Symptoms of Constipation

You can feel physical symptoms of constipation in pregnancy. Some of the symptoms are;

  • You are not able to pass a bowel motion three times a week. 
  • Your stool is lumpy or hard and it’s painful to pass.
  • You have a sensation that the entire stool is not passed out. 
  • The stool is so dry that passing them is so painful.
  • Having abdominal pain.
  • Straining to have bowel movements and your belly feels swollen and gassy.

What Causes Constipation in Pregnancy?

  1. Hormones – your body produces more progesterone when pregnant. Progesterone works to relax your intestines and therefore they do not work as hard to eliminate your waste. 
  2. Change in daily habits – being pregnant can often result in less activity and if you have suffered nausea or morning sickness and your intake has changed this can result in less fibre being consumed which can in turn impact your bowels.
  3. Your baby – you are carrying extra weight in your uterus and this can put more pressure on your bowel and it all becomes a bit squashed, so it’s harder for waste to move through your system. Constipation can often get worse in the 2 and 3rd trimesters.
  4. Supplements – in particular, iron in supplement form can increase constipation.
  5. Not drinking enough water
foods for constipation

How To Treat Constipation?

Constipation is very common during pregnancy. However, you can just practice simple things to treat constipation in pregnancy.

  • Physical Activity

It is advised to keep yourself physically active and fit during pregnancy. It is recommended for pregnant ladies to exercise three times per week for twenty minutes. The actual physical act of being physical can help move your bowel motions through your gastrointestinal tract. Consult your doctor about what exercises are helpful and safe for you and your baby. 

  • More Fibre Intake

Fibre is a superfood, it has so many, many advantages and one of the big advantages is that it aids in digestion. So, it is recommended to add high-fibre foods to the diet. You can add various types of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.

Fibre foods will additionally provide you with vitamins and antioxidants. See here for more information about fibre-containing foods. Fibre is the structural part of plant foods–such as fruits, vegetables, and grains that our bodies cannot digest or break down. There are two kinds of fibre: soluble and insoluble.

  • Small Portions Size

It is recommended to have five to six smaller meals in a day instead of having large meals. This will help to digest the food without overloading your stomach and allow it to pass through the gastrointestinal system smoothly.

  • Stay Hydrated 

It is recommended to double the amount of water intake during pregnancy. Drinking ten to twelve glasses of water a day will keep your bowel movement soft and comfortable throughout the digestive tract.

  • Avoid High intake of Iron in some Supplements

Though iron supplements are very important during pregnancy it may be recommended to take a stool softener with iron supplements as iron can also be a culprit behind constipation during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you have questions regarding your supplements and you are suffering constipation.

  • High Fibre Supplements

Sometimes fibre supplements can be very helpful, particularly if you can’t eat enough fibre-containing foods. Check with your doctor before starting any kind of fibre supplement and read the labels carefully. Make sure you are drinking lots of water. Some common fibre supplements are benefibre and metamucil, for example.

Best Foods for Constipation in Pregnancy

Every pregnant woman should take between 25 to 30 grams of fibre each day for healthy gut functioning. You can easily maintain your fibre content by adopting a well-rounded diet and avoiding processed carbohydrates. Just start a proper intake of fibre. You can measure the amount of fibre that is in foods by reading labels or using food monitoring apps. It is important when increasing your fibre however that you do it slowly over time and consume adequate water. Adding a small portion of fruits, vegetables, lentils, and whole wheat grains to your daily dietary intake will be very advantageous.

Here are some of the best foods for constipation you might love to know;

  • Bran cereals: A half cup of cereal almost contains 8.6 grams of fibre. Cereals are also considered good sources of iron, proteins, and potassium. 
  • Quinoa: These naturally gluten-free whole grains are a great source of fibre. Half a cup of Quinoa contains almost 5 grams of fibre. 
  • Oatmeal: You can add oatmeal to your diet either as a breakfast cereal, granola bar, or, bread. A half cup of oatmeal contains almost 4 grams of fibre.
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Avocado: Have a medium avocado and you will provide 17 grams of mixed digestible and indigestible fibres, fats, potassium, and vitamin C. 
  • Pears: Pears are a great source of fibre, potassium, and, antioxidants. Have a medium size pear and you will get 5 grams of fibre.
  • Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are loved by everyone. Not only the sweet potato but its skin is also considered very healthy. A medium size sweet potato gives you 4.8 grams of fibre together with the carbs, vitamins A, B, C, and potassium.
  • Raspberries: Half a cup of little fresh raspberries gives you 4 grams of fibre. They are also a great source of vitamin C and manganese. 
  • Spinach: You can have spinach either raw, cooked, or make a fresh smoothie and it will provide you with fibres in all forms. Half a cup of spinach gives you around 4 grams of fibre.
  • Kidney Beans: Kidney beans are considered ideal for pregnant ladies as they contain both folate and fibre. Half a cup of kidney beans gives you around 8 grams of fibre. 
  • Black Beans: Black beans are the other favorite beans to be consumed during pregnancy. Half a cup of black beans contains around 8 grams of fibre. It also contains folate, thiamine, protein, magnesium, omega 3, and 6 fatty acids.

Foods That Cause Constipation in Pregnancy

Constipation in Pregnancy

In many cases, food is not the main source of constipation, but an imbalanced diet is a major cause of constipation. Pregnant women should avoid frequent use of the foods listed below that may be a source of constipation in pregnancy.

Refined grains: It is recommended to avoid using highly processed foods such as white pasta, rice, etc. They all are low-fibre foods and may lead to constipation during pregnancy. 

Bananas: It is advised to avoid eating unripe bananas during pregnancy. As unripe bananas contain a lot of starch that is difficult to digest. So, it is recommended to eat fully ripe bananas.

Fast food: During your pregnancy, you may crave fast food. But it is recommended to eat it in small portions and less often. Fast food is generally fried and contains alot of fat and a small amount of fibre. So, avoid eating fast food or fried food frequently.

Alcohol: Apart from alcohol toxicity, it is a major cause of dehydration in pregnant ladies. Alcohol can irritate the bowel and slow down digestion which can worsen constipation in pregnancy. So, it is just another reason why alcohol is not recommended during pregnancy.

What Is Safe to Take for Constipation in Pregnancy?

The first-line therapy for constipation is to increase the amount of fibre, and fluids in your diet. But if it isn’t working you can switch to laxatives with consultation with your doctor. There are a variety of laxatives such as stool softener, lubricant laxative, stimulant laxative, bulk-forming agents, and many more depending upon your condition, but you must speak with your doctor prior to commencing these supplements.

Their minimal systemic absorption has recognised them as safe to treat constipation but it is recommended to take osmotic and stimulant laxatives for a short duration of time. They may lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance in pregnant ladies.

Pregnancy Constipation – when to worry?

You will need to reach out to your medical professional if your constipation in pregnancy has lasted longer than a few weeks. Make sure you tell your doctor what medication you may be on and what supplements you have been taking.

Constipation in pregnancy can be a common physical symptom of pregnancy, but it is very manageable and treatable. Constipation in pregnancy is mainly due to hormonal imbalances, generally a lack of fiber and inadequate fluid. Just balance your diet and add more healthy and fiber-rich options to your daily dietary intake, consume more water, exercise, and enjoy!

References:

Bradley, Catherine S., et al. “Constipation in pregnancy: prevalence, symptoms, and risk factors.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 110.6 (2007): 1351-1357.

Jewell, David, and Gavin Young. “Interventions for treating constipation in pregnancy.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2 (2001).

Trottier, Magan, Aida Erebara, and Pina Bozzo. “Treating constipation during pregnancy.” Canadian Family Physician 58.8 (2012): 836-838.

https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4284/2

American Pregnancy Association

Best Calcium in Pregnancy

calcium and pregnancy

Calcium in pregnancy is a topic that needs to be addressed early in your pregnancy. Calcium requirements in pregnancy change according to each trimester. In this article, you will chat about the role of calcium and pregnancy. Calcium is a mineral known to be essential to life. Calcium aids in bone development and maintenance, as well as blood clotting, and muscular contraction, and helps regulate our heartbeat. Our bones and teeth contain 99% of the calcium in our body. Calcium is necessary to develop the bones of your baby during pregnancy. 

Our bodies cannot manufacture calcium on their own. Through our skin, nails, hair, perspiration, urine, and faeces, we lose calcium every day. Therefore, it’s critical to consume adequate calcium-rich foods to replace this lost calcium. If we do not eat enough calcium, or take a supplement, our bones become weak and brittle.

What is the Role of Calcium in Pregnancy?

Calcium in pregnancy supports your baby’s quickly growing bones and teeth as well as the development of their muscles, hearts, and nerves. Additionally, it’s still crucial for your bones and teeth. Your body will extract the calcium from your bones that your baby requires even if you don’t consume enough of it. How incredible! This is especially true during the third trimester when bone development reaches its peak at a daily transfer of 250 to 350 milligrammes from you to your unborn child.

In the second and third trimesters, there is a marked rise in the amount of calcium absorbed by mothers. If you don’t receive enough calcium in pregnancy, you’re more likely to develop the bone-thinning disorder known as osteoporosis. Although it’s common for women to regain lost bone mass after giving birth and breastfeeding, it’s still a good idea to remain on top of things and eat plenty of calcium while expecting.

signs of lack of calcium

Throughout the course of pregnancy, a remarkable series of physiological changes take place in an effort to maintain maternal homeostasis (biological stability) while also promoting the growth and development of your baby. Falling albumin (protein) levels, increased fluid volume, improved renal function, and placental calcium transfer are among the modifications that directly affect calcium metabolism.

Prenatal calcium supplementation has the potential to reduce negative pregnancy outcomes, particularly by lowering the risk of developing high blood pressure. These disorders are linked to a significant number of maternal deaths and a significant risk of preterm birth. It is the main cause of early neonatal and infant mortality. Calcium is super important in your pregnancy diet.

Calcium Requirements in Pregnancy

Women who are pregnant need 1,300 mg of calcium daily, whereas women under the age of 18 only need about 1,000mg per day. Roughly this equals about four servings of calcium-rich foods each day – easy to do.

If you are taking a supplement consider the calcium that is already in your prenatal supplement when evaluating your calcium intake during pregnancy. Just a tip-keep in mind that many over-the-counter heartburn medications contain calcium; therefore, if you use them to treat pregnancy heartburn, be sure to read the label.

Lack of Calcium Symptoms?

There are many visible signs of a lack of calcium in your body. Low calcium levels can cause;

  • uncomfortable muscle cramps and spasms
  • jerking of the muscles
  • tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
  • tingling or numbness around the mouth
  • Anxiety and depression which are two more serious symptoms that can develop from insufficient calcium if left untreated.
  • fatigue
  • dry, itchy skin
  • alterations in the finger and toenails

Calcium Foods for Pregnancy

The very best way to eat the recommended calcium intake is to eat a diet rich in calcium in pregnancy. The calcium content in food varies, so try and pick the most calcium-containing foods possible.

Calcium Dairy Sources

Plain low-fat yogurt8 ounces/1 cup415 mg
Plain whole-milk yogurt8 ounces/1 cup275 mg
Calcium-fortified orange juice1 cup349 mg
Part-skim mozzarella1 ounce /28g222 mg
Whole-milk mozzarella1 ounce /28g143 mg
Canned sardines with bones3 ounce/85g325 mg
Cheddar cheese1 ½ ounce / 42g307 mg
Skim milk8 ounce/1 cup299 mg
2 per cent milk8 ounces/1 cup293 mg
Whole milk8 ounces/1 cup276 mg
Calcium-fortified soy milk8 ounces/1 cup299 mg
Low-fat buttermilk8 ounces/1 cup284 mg
Collard greens1 cup266 mg
Cottage cheese1 cup187 mg
calcium intake during pregnancy

What if I Don’t Eat Dairy?

It is not a problem to get enough calcium in pregnancy if you do not eat dairy. f you need, or wish, to avoid dairy then the majority of dairy-free milk substitutes are calcium-fortified and therefore are a great alternative. It’s important to always read the label to find out if these foods are calcium-fortified. There are numerous other high-calcium meals and beverages that you can consume throughout the day in addition to the non-dairy sources, see below:

Non-dairy Sources of Calcium

Tofu12 cup253 mg
Chia seeds1 ounce/28g179 mg
Salmon in cans3 ounces/85g181 mg
Green turnip1 cup148 mg
Kale1 cup55 mg
Bok choy raw1 cup40 mg
Black-eyed peas1 cup46 mg
Broccoli cooked1 cup180 mg

Can I Get Enough Calcium From Diet Alone in Pregnancy?

It is definitely possible to consume enough calcium-containing foods to provide adequate calcium consumption for your health and your baby’s health, as seen in the tables above.

You can help ensure that you are getting enough calcium in pregnancy by eating and drinking two to four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods each day.

Do I Need Supplements?

Calcium supplements are safe in pregnancy. There are different types of calcium supplements and your physician will be able to provide the best option for you depending on your medical conditions, medications and individual preferences.

Read below a list of tips concerning calcium supplements;

  • When taken with food, calcium carbonate is less expensive and more effective
  • Calcium citrate functions equally well whether taken with or without food
  • A lot of calcium pills also include vitamin D, which improves calcium absorption in the body.
  • It is best to not take more than 500 mg of calcium at a time to ensure that your body absorbs the maximum amount of calcium. This might entail taking a supplement containing 500 mg with breakfast and another one with dinner if directed
  • Taking calcium supplements in excess might have unfavourable side effects, such as gas, bloating, flatulence or constipation.
  • Typically, a calcium-rich prenatal vitamin supplement will provide enough calcium to support both you and your unborn child during pregnancy, add this to having enough calcium-rich food sources throughout the day will hold you and your baby in good stead
  • Kidney stones can develop when calcium intake is too high.

Practical Ideas to Increase your Calcium in Pregnancy 

calcium and pregnancy
  • Try and consume your calcium requirement from food sources as much as possible. This is very doable for the majority of people.
  • When you consume calcium as part of your diet, do it in small doses and spread it out throughout the day, this helps with the nutrient’s absorption.
  • You can help ensure that you are getting enough calcium in pregnancy in your daily diet by eating and drinking two to four servings of dairy products and calcium-rich foods each day.
  • Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and calcium-fortified drinks like almond and soy milk, are the finest sources of calcium.
  • One 8-ounce/1 glass of milk, the most popular calcium source, provides about a third of your daily requirements.
  • If plant milks are calcium-fortified, they can also be excellent choices.
  • If the idea of consuming milk straight up makes you uncomfortable, mix it up in smoothies and soups or experiment with different dairy products, such as yoghurt or use as a fruit topping.
  • Another excellent source of calcium in pregnancy is cheese. Eat a slice of mozzarella with whole grain crackers, top your spaghetti with Parmesan cheese or grab some grapes or carrot sticks and some cheddar cheese for a quick snack.
  • Dark-green leafy vegetables, dried peas and beans, fish with bones, and cereals and drinks that have been fortified with calcium also contain calcium.
  • Your body will be able to utilise calcium in pregnancy with the aid of vitamin D. You may get some of the vitamin D you need each day by going outside frequently. This will help in the maximum absorption of calcium in the body.
  • Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Try and emphasise weight-bearing activity (which is just exercise on your feet where your bones are literally supporting your weight)
  • Always practise excellent food hygiene standards
  • If you are still worried about getting enough calcium in pregnancy check with your doctor to determine if you actually need supplements before you start taking any.
  • Andrea N Hacker, Ellen B Fung, Janet C King, Role of calcium during pregnancy: maternal and fetal needs, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 70, Issue 7, 1 July 2012, Pages 397–409, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00491.x
  • Hofmeyr GJ, Lawrie TA, Atallah ÁN, Torloni MR. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders and related problems. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Oct 1;10(10):CD001059. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001059.pub5. PMID: 30277579; PMCID: PMC6517256.
  • https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/blood-calcium/low-calcium-levels
  • Li K, Wang XF, Li DY, Chen YC, Zhao LJ, Liu XG, Guo YF, Shen J, Lin X, Deng J, Zhou R, Deng HW. The good, the bad, and the ugly of calcium supplementation: a review of calcium intake on human health. Clin Interv Aging. 2018 Nov 28;13:2443-2452. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S157523. PMID: 30568435; PMCID: PMC6276611.

Getting Enough Iron in Pregnancy

iron in pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman needs many vitamins and minerals for the health of the baby and her own health. One of the most important minerals is iron in pregnancy, both for the mother and the baby. Consuming the right amount of iron in pregnancy is crucial, read on to discover more about iron.

Iron Requirements in Pregnancy

Iron is one of the most important minerals for everybody, it is a mineral that everyone needs for growth and development. During pregnancy, however, iron is crucial, not only for the mother but also for your baby. Haemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells that transports oxygen from your lungs to every part of your body, is made by your body using the iron. Iron in pregnancy is also necessary for myoglobin, a protein that provides oxygen to all your muscles.

Additionally, your body needs iron in pregnancy to produce several hormones (e.g., hepcidin). Whilst pregnant a mother’s body uses iron to increase blood production and provide oxygen to her baby as well. Your body will need around half of the iron in pregnancy you consume to just support your placenta and your growing baby. Iron in pregnancy is so incredibly important for you and your baby.

How Much Iron Do You Need?

USA Recommended dietary allowance suggests a person needs the following amount of iron each day (read table). Click here to jump to food sources of iron if you are in a hurry.

  • Males over 18 8mg daily
  • Females ages 19 to 50 18mg daily 
  • Women over 50 8mg daily 
  • A pregnant woman requires 27 milligrams of iron each day while pregnant and not more the 45 mg per day.

Low Iron Pregnancy Symptoms

Low iron levels in the body during pregnancy lead to anaemia. Anaemia,  which is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen around your body,  has the following signs and symptoms:

symptoms of anaemia in pregnancy
  • Fatigue \Weakness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath (breathing difficulty)
  • cold hands and feet

Severe anaemia symptoms might include:

  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty in paying attention (concentration)

Low Iron Effects on a Baby

A pregnant woman with severe anaemia is more likely to give birth to a premature baby (when delivery occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Moreover, iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy can also cause low birth weight and there has also been an association between low iron and postpartum depression in mothers. Various studies suggest an increased risk of neonatal death before or immediately after birth.  TIP: It is very important to have your Doctor monitor your iron levels throughout your pregnancy.

Tips to Avoid Low Iron Level in Pregnancy

As we have discussed, iron is necessary to form red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. During pregnancy, your blood volume rises by roughly 50%. A deficiency of iron can result in anaemia, which stops the red blood cells from delivering enough oxygen throughout the body. If you are expecting twins or more children, you are more likely to be iron deficient.

Tips to manage iron in pregnancy;

  • Prenatal vitamins frequently include iron. Taking an iron-containing prenatal vitamin helps both prevent and cure pregnancy iron deficiency anaemia.
  • Your doctor might occasionally advise taking an additional iron supplement.
  • Iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy can also be avoided by eating a healthy diet rich in iron (read on to discover more).

Iron Tablets During Pregnancy

Supplements can have iron present, in both supplements with only iron, and those with vitamins-minerals supplements.  The most typical types of iron found in dietary supplements are ferrous sulphate, ferrous gluconate, ferric citrate, or ferric sulphate. You should only take iron supplements when a blood test confirms that your levels are low. As you can see it is crucial to discuss which iron supplement is best for you with your doctor.

The most common side effect faced by iron supplements for mothers is constipation (hard dry stools with less than three bowel movements in a week). If you wish to avoid constipation try the following tips:

  • Increase your intake of whole, unprocessed plant foods including fruits and vegetables with skins, whole grains, and legumes
  • Drink more water
  • Move and exercise and be physically active
  • Take your iron supplement every other day (or as directed by your physician)

When Should a Pregnant Woman Start Taking Iron?

According to research, around the 12th week of pregnancy (the beginning of the second trimester), when iron requirements for pregnancy start to increase, is a suitable time to begin iron supplementation at a dose of 30 mg/day. Some doctors start iron supplements early in pregnancy as a preventative measure.

iron tablets during pregnancy

Which Trimester is Iron Most Important?

It is especially important that you must get enough iron during the final 10 weeks (3rd trimester) of pregnancy when your baby is starting to develop its iron reserves in preparation for the first six months of life. The iron stocks are used after birth by your baby up until 6 months of age, after which your baby starts consuming solid foods. How amazing.

Do I Need More Iron if I am Breastfeeding?

Once again iron is crucial for breastfeeding mothers as well. If you are younger than 18, you must consume 10 milligrams of iron daily. The daily allowance for anyone over 19 years old is 9 milligrams per day.

Food Rich in Iron in Pregnancy

Found just naturally in many foods iron can also be found in foods that have been fortified with iron. You can get recommended amounts of iron by eating a variety of foods, including the following:

  • Meat, seafood and poultry
  • Some breakfast cereals and breads that have been fortified with iron (check the labels)
  • Beans and lentils
  • Nuts and some dried fruits

Two forms of iron that may be found in food and they are:

  • Haem iron – from animal foods
  • Non-haem iron- which is present in plant foods and iron-fortified products

Haem iron-containing foods are in a format that our body can actually absorb around 10 times faster than non-haem iron foods.

Handy Tips for Iron in Pregnancy

  1. Foods containing iron eaten together can improve how your body absorbs iron. So try eating plant and meat iron sources together if you are able
  2. Consume some vitamin C-containing foods with your meal to help absorb the iron from your foods. Some vitamin C-containing foods are citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, sweet peppers, and broccoli.
  3. The redder the meat – the more iron it contains!

Foods that Block Iron in Pregnancy

  • Tea, coffee, bran and some medications can block plant iron (non-haem iron) from being absorbed by your body.
    Drinks rich in calcium such as milk can block the absorption of iron in the gut.
  • Have your calcium and iron supplements at different times of the day and check with your doctor.

Iron Containing Foods

FOODSSERVING SIZEIRON (mg)
Beef, liver (cooked)3 ounces / 85g8
Oysters (cooked)3 ounces / 85g8
Turkey (cooked)3 ounces / 85g1
Spinach (cooked)1/2  cup3
Tofu1/2 cup2.4
Peaches½ cup3.2
Lentils (cooked)½  cup3.3
Peaches½ cup1.3
Fortified cereals (ready-to-eat)1 ounce / 28g1.8-19.2
Oatmeal1 cup3.6
Prune juice¾ cup2.3
Egg (hard boiled)11
Whole Wheat Bread2 slices1.4
Figs (dried)½ cup2.2
Tomato paste¼ cup2,.0
Raisins¼ cup0.8-1
Dates½ cup1.0
Cashew nuts1 ounce (18 nuts)2
Kidney Beans (cooked)1/2cup2
Soy Beans (cooked)½ cup2.4
Chickpeas (cooked)½  cup2.4
Potato1 (medium)1.9
Almonds½ cup2.6
Apricots½ cup3.0

Sample Meal Plan for Iron in Pregnancy

BREAKFASTwhole-grain or iron-fortified cereal with milk prunes or raisins
SNACKFruit or fruit juice (pomegranate, apple, peaches, plums etc.)/ wholegrain cracker with cheese and or tinned salmon
LUNCHRed meat cooked with iron-rich vegetables (spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes etc.) yogurt/Can of baked beans with toast
SNACKCashews 7-8/ 2 Eggs (boiled)/ yoghurt with muesli
DINNERLegumes like beans with brown rice Chicken steak or fried or baked fish 
BED TIMEMilk with 1 cookie / dried apricots

Sources:

  • Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Micronutrients. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 9, Iron. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK222309/
  • USA Department of Health and Human Services,NIH,ODS, Iron factsheets for consumers
  • Heathdirect.gov.au
  • Health Queensland Government

Gestational Diabetes and Good Diet

pregnancy diabetes

What is Gestational Diabetes or Pregnancy Diabetes?

A pregnancy condition; gestational diabetes (GDM), also sometimes called Pregnancy Diabetes, occurs when pregnant women who have never been diagnosed with diabetes experience chronic hyperglycaemia. Hyperglycaemia is the technical term for high blood glucose and Chronic means persisting over a period of time. High blood glucose occurs when the body has too little insulin (a hormone used to control blood sugar) or when the body can’t use insulin properly.

Gestational diabetes is diagnosed during pregnancy when your body cannot cope with the extra demand for insulin production resulting in high blood glucose levels. GDM generally happens between the 24th and 32nd week of pregnancy, and mainly goes away after the birth of the baby. However, having GDM in your pregnancy raises your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life and may have an impact on your baby’s health. Managing your blood glucose levels will reduce the risk of complications in your pregnancy and in your birth. Around 7-10 % of the pregnancies worldwide are affected by gestational diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) Causes

When your body can’t create enough insulin while you’re pregnant, you can be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Insulin- a hormone produced by the pancreas- functions as a key to allow blood sugar to enter your body’s cells for use as fuel. Your body produces more hormones during pregnancy, and combines with other changes like weight gain can lead to GDM.

Moreover, insulin resistance can often be an issue. Insulin resistance is a condition where your body’s cells use insulin less efficiently, and coupled with the fact that in pregnancy the body requires more insulin it can be a very difficult time for your body to try and regulate your blood glucose levels. In late pregnancy, insulin resistance is a common occurrence in pregnant women. Some females already have insulin resistance prior to conception and they require more insulin at the beginning of pregnancy and are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.

Signs of Gestational Diabetes

The signs of gestational diabetes in women are typically nonexistent or can be mistaken for those of normal pregnancy. Most people learn they have GDM when they have a standard examination. Some common gestational diabetes symptoms are;

Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Polydipsia – You have more thirst than normal.
  • Polyphagia – You eat more than normal
  • Polyuria – You urinate more than usual.
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent bladder infections

Risk Factors of Gestational Diabetes

Some clinical risk factors for gestational diabetes have been documented. Look out for these factors;

  • Body mass index greater than 25 kg/m2 before pregnancy
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Close relative suffering from diabetes
  • Prior history of gestational diabetes
  • Macrosomia in a newborn (weighing more than 9 lb)
  • Metabolic co-morbidities, such hypertension
  • Women over the age of 25
  • Lower levels of HDL (Good Cholesterol)
  • Women suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Haemoglobin A1C test- values greater than 5.7%
  • Abnormal fasting blood glucose and oral glucose tolerance test (GTT)

Gestational Diabetes Treatment

Your body’s reaction to a metered dose of sugar is measured by the glucose tolerance test (GTT), often known as the oral glucose tolerance test. At your first antenatal checkup, which usually occurs between weeks 8 and 12 of pregnancy, your doctor will note any risk factors of developing gestational diabetes and recommend the glucose tolerance test.

Your blood glucose levels will determine how you are treated for gestational diabetes. If the condition is not controllable through dietary measures and exercise, you might occasionally need to take an oral drug or an injection of insulin to reduce your blood glucose levels within the normal range.

Treatment for Gestational Diabetes

  • Diet Modifications: Guidelines for Gestational Diabetes diet provided by American Dietary Associations (ADA) suggests that a registered dietitian must provide dietary advice and create a customised plan depending on the patient’s BMI. The three main nutritional concepts; calorie distribution, carbohydrate intake and essential nutrients intake, must all be taken into consideration when making recommendations.
  • Physical Activity: Being physically active can help you control your blood sugar. Maintaining a healthy weight is also beneficial for posture and can help with everyday issues like fatigue and backaches. See your medical professional or exercise specialist to discuss this further.
  • Pharmacological Treatment: It is advised to start pharmacologic treatment if the patient’s glycemic control is insufficient despite their best efforts to adhere to a healthy diet and exercise routine. There are medications that are safe to be used by pregnant women with gestational diabetes.
  • Insulin: When optimal glucose levels cannot be achieved with food and exercise, insulin therapy has been regarded as the gold standard for managing gestational diabetes. Around 10-20 % of women need insulin.

What is the Glycemic Index?

Glycemic index (GI) is used to calculate how much a particular food will raise blood sugar levels. The GI of a food determines how much of an impact it may have on your blood sugar levels. Foods are graded from 0 to 100 and are categorised as low, medium, or high glycemic foods. When compared to diets high in protein, fat, or fiber, foods high in refined carbohydrates frequently have a high GI. Meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and oils are examples of foods that have a low GI since they don’t contain any carbohydrates.

What Foods To Avoid in GDM

gestational diabetes

Pregnancy is indeed a crucial time, and with the raging cravings, the condition of Pregnancy diabetes can be problematic. Nevertheless, there are many delicious substitutes for some of your favourite dishes. Avoid items that have been heavily processed, such as white bread, and anything that contains a lot of sugar in general and look for Low GI foods. Avoid these foods:

  • Meals that are particularly large serves of starchy, such white pasta and rice etc.
  • Sugary granola bars, sweetened oatmeal, and sweetened cereals
  • Fast food and fried foods
  • Sweetened beverages, including soda, juice, and other sugary liquids
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Cakes, muffins, and other baked foods

Pregnancy Diabetes Diet Plan

Generalised Meal Plan for GDM – Please seek your Registered Dietitian for a personalized Meal Plan.

Breakfast 

  • ½ cup of low GI cereal (Porridge, Oats etc.) with 1 cup milk (normal/reduced fat or skim), Soy milk OR Low GIYoghurt
  • 1 egg boiled 

Morning Snack: 

  • 2 Fresh fruits (Apple, pear, peach, apricot, papaya etc.) 

Lunch

  • 1 sandwich or bread roll (multigrain) – filled with egg/chicken/fish.
  • 1 bowl of salad (Freshly prepared lettuce, tomato, cucumber, low fat cheese, onion etc)

Snack: 

  • 1cup Greek yogurt topped with figs and nuts (Almonds/cashew nuts etc.) 

Dinner: 

  • 1/2 -1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup of Steamed vegetables (non-starchy vegetables)
  • 1 piece chicken cutlet/chicken piece/fish filet

*Before sleeping: 1 cup of milk (normal/reduced fat or skim) with 1 teaspoon of chia seeds.

Snacks for Gestational Diabetes

signs of gestational diabetes

Snacks are an excellent way to satisfy an evening snack attack and you can still maintain stable blood sugar levels. If you have gestational diabetes, these healthier options for meals and snacks are shown below.

  • Vegetables (Fresh or frozen) can be eaten grilled, cooked, or raw. Pair raw vegetables with a protein source, such as hummus or cheese, for a filling snack. 
  • While egg whites largely contain protein, whole eggs are a great source of several nutrients.
  • Fresh fruits are a great source of natural sugars that are not at all harmful for the patient with Gestational Diabetes, but you do need to be careful of the portion size. Fruit combined with some nuts or nut butter is a great combination to snack on.
  • Greek yogurt without added sugar garnished with diced apple, cinnamon, and sunflower seeds.
  • Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats.
  • Baked Chicken or Fish. 

Top Tips for Healthy Eating with Gestational Diabetes

  • Consume a balanced, low-sugar gestational diabetes diet. To be sure you’re getting the nourishment you need, consult your dietitian.
  • Swap out ice cream, cookies, and other sugary treats with foods that naturally contain sugar, such as fruits, carrots, and raisins.
  • Watch your portion amounts and include vegetables and healthful grains.
  • Eat three small meals and 2-3 snacks throughout the day at around the same times.
  • Get 40% of your daily calories from carbs and 20% from protein. Most of the carbs should be complex, high-fiber carbs, with fat being between 25% and 40% (healthy fats)
  • Have a small serves of carbohydrate in each meal
  • Consume low GI foods
  • Consume 20-35 grams of fiber a day. Foods like whole-grain breads, cereals, and pasta; brown or wild rice; oatmeal; and vegetables and fruits will help achieve the target.
  • Avoid skipping meals. Aim to have a nutritious snack or meal approximately every three hours to control your blood sugar levels. Regularly consuming nutrient-dense foods will help you stay satisfied and maintain stable blood sugar levels.
  • If your doctor advises taking probiotics along with your prenatal vitamins, do so.
  • To stay hydrated, keep a water bottle with you and sip from it frequently throughout the day.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/gestational.html#:~:text=What%20Causes%20Gestational%20Diabetes%3F,body%20for%20use%20as%20energy.

https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/gestational-diabetes-food-list#Food-Fix:-What-to-Eat-When-Pregnant

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4515446/

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/127547-overview

https://journals.lww.com/jaapa/fulltext/2019/09000/managing_gestational_diabetes.4.aspx

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/gestational-diabetes

Do You Need Folate in Pregnancy?

folate in pregnancy

Everyone dreams of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. One of the most important things you can do if you wish to become pregnant, or are in early pregnancy, is to have enough folate in your diet. Folate in pregnancy is of utmost importance.

In this article I will discuss why we need folate in pregnancy, how we get it and what to do if we are unable to consume enough in our diets. Read on to discover if you have this area in your diet covered.

We know that during pregnancy a woman needs more vitamins and minerals than before pregnancy. Consumption of folate in pregnancy in the appropriate amounts is known to help to prevent major birth defects. It is recommended to have folate during the starting months of pregnancy. It is even advised to start taking folate if one is planning to have a child – one month before you conceive.

What are Folic Acid and Folate?

Folate is a water-soluble vitamin B9 that is naturally present in fruits, vegetables, and nuts. A much-needed nutrient for healthy growth and development. Folic acid is a derivative of folate.  Folic acid is added to fortified foods and is also sold as a supplement. According to the experts, this form of folate is better absorbed as compared to a natural food source.

Folic Acids Benefits For Women

Everyone needs folic acid to make new red blood cells in the body but it’s mandatory for women. Some of the benefits of folic acid for pregnant women are listed below;

taking folic acid
  • Consumption of folic acid during pregnancy helps to prevent birth defects called neural tube defects in babies. 
  • Folic acid might also prevent other types of birth defects and early pregnancy loss (miscarriage)
  • It will help to prevent and treat anemia and folate deficiency. 
  • Taking the recommended amount of folic acid will help to prevent stroke and heart diseases. 
  • It helps to keep the blood healthy by helping red blood cells form and grow.
  • It prevents any mutation in DNA and hence, prevents cancer.

Why Do I Need Folate in Pregnancy?

It is definitely important to have folate in pregnancy. The majority of women certainly have folic acid prescribed for them in pregnancy. A central feature of embryonic and fetal development is cell division. Folate in pregnancy plays an important role as it helps in nucleic acid synthesis. Recent studies have shown adverse pregnancy outcomes in women who consume diets that contain a lesser amount of vitamins and minerals, including folate.

So, a low concentration of folic acid and folate can lead to an increased risk of early delivery, underweight infant birth, and fetal growth retardation. If you have plans to conceive. Don’t worry! Just make sure you have an optimum level of folate required for developing a fetus. 


When Should I Start Taking Folic Acid?

Ideally, it is recommended to start taking folic acid one month before conception and during the first three months of the pregnancy. Hence, whenever you are trying to conceive, just start taking the recommended dose of folate. During the preconception phase use of folic acid reduces the recurrent neural tube defects in the offspring of women.

How Much Folate Do I Need?

All women need about 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Women who may get pregnant should try and aim for 400-800 micrograms per day from a vitamin supplement +/or food that has been fortified with added folic acid like the breads and cereals mentioned. This is in addition to the normal folate you will get form consuming healthy folate rich foods (see list below).

Folate-rich foods

You can get folic acid in two ways;

  1. Through the foods you choose to eat. The best way to have this Vitamin B9 is to eat folate-rich foods. Folate-rich foods include asparagus, raw beets, lentils, black kidney beans, broccoli, edamame, brussel sprouts, and many more. These are not only a good source of folate but also provide many other health-promoting nutrients and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Foilc acid is also found in “fortified” food (called enriched foods) such as some breads, pasta and cereals. The Food and Drug Administration USA has encouraged the food manufacturers to fortify cereal foods, for example, with folic acid. This will help to maintain the body’s daily folate intake and lowers the chances of folate deficiency.
  2. As a vitamin. Most multivitamins sold contain around 400 micrograms or 100% of the daily need of folic acid. Always check the label of your supplement

Natural Sources of Folic Acid

Folate is naturally present in a wide variety of foods. So, you don’t need to hustle to get the daily dose of folate. Just add a few varieties to your diet and fulfil the folate in pregnancy you need.

Let’s jump right into the list of foods containing folate in pregnancy.

folate food sources
Leafy Green Vegetables

Vegetables are a good source of vitamins and minerals. Just a cup of boiled spinach or kale can fulfill 15% daily value of folate. As folate is water soluble the best way to have the maximum amount of folate from the vegetables is either in the raw form or the boiled form. The green leafy vegetables include turnip greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and asparagus.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are known as rich sources of protein and fiber. You will be amazed to know that just having an ounce of almonds can fulfill 7% daily value of the folate. Sunflower seeds and peanuts have the highest amount of folate as compared to other nuts and seeds.

Eggs

Eggs are not only a great source of protein but a medium size egg can provide a 6% daily value of folate.

Fruits

You will be happier than ever to know that these fresh and delicious fruits can provide you with so many health benefits.  Experts usually recommend adding fruits such as papaya, avocado, and banana to your diet during pregnancy. Just a cup of citrus fruit juice provides you 14% daily value of the folate you need.

Fortified Foods

Many fortified foods are available in the market these days that provide enough folate to complete your daily requirement. Folate fortified cereals, wheat flour and biscuits are also available to help you receive folate in pregnancy.

Can You Take Too Much Folic Acid?

You can actually consume too much folic acid from vitamins and fortified foods but not from natural folate containing foods. Your body does not store folic acid. So, leftover folic acid passes out of the body through the urine. The daily intake of folic acid in pregnant women is 400 micrograms. So, make sure not to exceed more than 1000 micrograms per day as it can cause side effects (unless this is prescribed by your medical professional for other medical conditions)

folate in pregnancy

Best Folic Acid For Pregnancy?

Folic acid tablets are used as a vital source of folate. FullWell Prenatal Multivitamin and Ritual Essential Prenatal are declared as the best folic acid tablet for pregnant ladies. They have all the essential nutrients such as iron, folate, vitamin D, and choline all in a slow-release capsule.

No doubt, parenteral vitamins can not replace a well-balanced diet. But it can help in boosting your and your baby’s vitamins and mineral consumption. It is recommended to take medicine and supplements according to your doctor’s prescription. 

What is Folate Deficiency Anaemia?

Undoubtedly, a deficiency of folate can lead to anemia. It is a condition that usually occurs in pregnant ladies consuming an insufficient amount of folate. Other factors that lead to folate deficiency anemia include alcoholism, genetic variants, digestive disorders, or arthritis.

If you observe any of the following symptoms of folate-deficiency anaemia such as weakness, headache, difficulty in breathing, pale skin, hair loss, or sore mouth and tongue – don’t worry. Just consult your doctor, take folic acid supplements and add more folate-rich food to your diet.

Folate in Pregnancy

In a nutshell, every woman of reproductive age should take folic acid in their diet. Folic acid will help to make new red blood cells in the body, amongst other things. Folate in pregnancy will help you to conceive a healthy baby. Folate is essential for the healthy growth of the fetus as it prevents neural tube defects and many more complications as stated above. 

Consult your doctor and start taking folate-rich foods and supplements and enjoy your beautiful journey of becoming a mother.

Happy pregnancy!

  1. Argyridis, Savvas. ‘”folic acid in pregnancy.” Obstetrics, gynaecology & reproductive medicine 29.4 (2019): 118-120.
  2. Scholl, Theresa O., and William G. Johnson. “Folic acid: influence on the outcome of pregnancy.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 71.5 (2000): 1295S-1303S.
  3. Rothman, Doreen. “folic acid in pregnancyAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynaecology 108.1 (1970): 149-175.
  4. Cuskelly, Geraldine J., Helene McNulty, and John M. Scott. Effect of increasing dietary folate on red-cell folate: implications for prevention of neural tube defects” The Lancet 347.9002 (1996): 657-659.

Pregnancy Diet – A Quick Guide

pregnancy diet

When it comes to your pregnancy diet, there’s absolutely no magic formula, as everybody is different. For a healthy pregnancy, the right amount of healthy foods from the five food groups should provide the vitamins and minerals for your body and your developing baby’s need. Some women will also need some dietary supplementation or pregnancy vitamins (particularly vitamin D and folate).

What is a Healthy Pregnancy Diet?

To enumerate, your pregnancy diet will have a direct impact on a growing fetus, but evidence demonstrates that a healthy diet for your baby now, will also have a profound long-term effect on your child’s health later in their adult life. So, getting this right now is so important.

“No – you do not need to eat for two when you are pregnant”Catherine

Typically, many countries have Dietary Guidelines for pregnancy which discuss the serving sizes of certain foods to consume for a healthy pregnancy. Examples of these include the Australian Dietary Guidelines or the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  I have done the hard work for you and generalised what healthcare experts recommend that a healthy pregnancy diet should aim to prioritise.  

  • Vegetables and legumes

Aiming for different types of vegetables and different vegetable colours will help to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Vegetables can be frozen, fresh or canned (with no added salt). A quick tip when serving food is to fill up half of your plate with vegetables before you plate the rest of your food and enjoy. With vegetables the more the merrier, just add them everywhere, every meal. They can make a delicious snack as well.

Pregnancy diet
  • Fruits

Fruit is a wonderful source of energy and nutrients. Generally speaking, 2 serves of fruit per day is enough for most adults. You can meet these targets by eating a variety of frozen, canned or fresh produce. However, you should try to avoid fruit canned in sweetened juices – these can be full of excess calories/kilojoules due to their high sugar content.

  • Grains and Cereals

Grains and cereals are wonderful. They are filling and are a good source of energy and fibre, which is important for a healthy pregnancy. We all know how important it is to choose healthy wholegrain carbohydrate options (like brown rice, bread and legumes) instead of refined carbohydrates (such as white rice, bread and pasta). It is also important to not overeat this group, this can be easily done. Most female adults do not need more than 4-6 serves per day.

  • Meats, poultry and legumes nuts/seeds

As we know, massive growth and development take place during pregnancy – you are making a human! As such, it is important that you consume the optimal amount of protein that you can. During pregnancy aim for around 60 grams per day (roughly 20% of your total calories). To ensure a healthy pregnancy, you should incorporate lean protein-rich foods into your diet each day. Try and choose high iron-containing foods (such as lean red meat or tofu).

Good sources of plant-based protein include beans, nuts, legumes, lentils, nut butter, seeds, soy products, tofu and plant-based protein powders (e.g, pea protein powder). Animal-based protein, such as beef, fish, chicken, or eggs can also enrich a pregnancy diet, as they are loaded with essential amino acids.

  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives

Calcium, protein, iodine and vitamin A and D are just some of the nutrients that this food group can provide. Milk, hard cheese and yoghurt are great dairy options or look for some calcium-enriched non-dairy alternatives. Unpasteurized milk and some soft cheeses that are made from unpasteurized milk should be avoided in pregnancy.

Do I Need to Take Vitamins in my Pregnancy Diet?

prenatal supplementation

Interestingly, pregnancy vitamins and multivitamins are often taken during pregnancy and they are especially important for teenage pregnancies, vegan/vegetarians, and people who misuse substances. There is more information elsewhere on this website in regard to supplements, but suffice to say that the majority of women will require some supplementation in their pregnancy diet.  It is also great to talk to your healthcare professional about the best pregnancy vitamins that you may require.

How Much Water do I Need to Drink During Pregnancy?

Water is incredibly important for pregnant women to drink – take a bottle with you and slowly consume sips throughout the day. Aim to increase your fluid content to at least 8  glasses a day. Try and spend this time increasing your water consumption, so that when your baby arrives you can continue this healthy habit.

Foods to Reduce During Pregnancy

The majority of foods listed here are high in calories/kilojoules and poor in nutrients and they inevitable can take the place of more nutritious foods in our diet. Following are some tips on what foods to reduce in pregnancy, as a little guide.

  • Aim to reduce packaged foods as these foods can be often high in salt/sodium, calories/kilojoules and fat or sugar
  • Discretionary foods (you know the ones we mean) – chips, chocolates and cakes.
  • Soda/soft drinks, sports drinks, flavoured milks and high calorie drinks.
  • Try to consume good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and decrease your intake of saturated and trans fats. These add calories and may lead to increased weight and increased blood cholesterol levels. Plant-based foods are great here too.
  • If you are hungry try not to eat snacks that are high in fat or sugar such as candy/lollies, cookies/biscuits or chocolate. Try and reach for a healthy snack.
  • Foods that contain added salt. Try not to add salt in cooking or at the table

Last Word on Pregnancy Diet

Above all pregnancy is physically demanding – you are growing a small human- which is an amazing effort. You can tailor your diet to meet these demands, and also support the development of your baby. A healthy pregnancy diet includes adequate foods from a varied diet. Remember putting your health and the health of your baby first will actually improve both your adult life and your baby’s life – both as an infant and as an adult in later life. If you would like to read more about diet in pregnancy click here and here if you would like to know more about food hygiene in pregnancy.

All information found on simple nutritional advice is given as general advice only. Please consult your healthcare provider for individual advice.

Weight Gain in Pregnancy

weight gain in pregnancy

How important is weight gain in pregnancy and how much weight should I gain in pregnancy? These are two very typical questions that many women ask. Weight gain in pregnancy is welcome, and indeed a necessary aspect of being pregnant – you are actually growing another human being.

The baby, the placenta, the bigger bust size, everything will be added to your body, and of course, this all weighs something.

In this article, the following information will be discussed; Click on a title if you need the information fast!

For some women it can be so exciting to feel and see that little bump growing, and for people to recognise and acknowledge your happy state. For some women, pregnancy weight gain can actually be triggering to them. There can be a fear of weight gain during pregnancy for many reasons. Just look at the society we live in. This itself can be a trigger. At times, some people can make unhelpful comments remarking that you have gained too much or too little weight. However, every pregnancy is different and your weight gain through your pregnancy is likely to be different compared to another pregnant mother.

Please remember, there is no judgement on this page and the reason this page exists is to help you create lovely healthy babies, whilst maintaining your own excellent health.

birth weight

The importance of learning to listen to your body at this time of pregnancy is integral. We talked about mindful eating in the breastfeeding article – “How much do I need to eat ” and it is paramount that you learn to listen to your own body’s hunger signals and energy levels and try to stay in tune with your body and what it is feeling and needing. Eating mindfully will generally provide pregnant women with a normal and average weight gain during pregnancy.

Let us take the time to acknowledge, however, that there are some general guidelines around weight gain during pregnancy that we will discuss.

Below is a weight gain in pregnancy calculator which provides some interesting insights into weekly weight change.  If you are carrying too much weight into your pregnancy then it would be wise for you to make some extra healthy food choices – (which will be discussed below). It is also beneficial to look at a pregnancy weight gain calculator, or at least know what pregnancy weight gain week by week is expected, so you can ascertain if you are putting on too much weight or not enough weight. Low pregnancy weight gain will need to be checked out by your medical practitioner. Remember weight gain in pregnancy is desired.

Let’s weigh into this discussion …….

Why is Weight in Pregnancy Important?

  • Too much weight gain in pregnancy obviously has an effect on your health during the pregnancy and for delivery, and your future health
  • Excessive weight gain in pregnancy can lead to problems with your baby’s health and also your baby’s long-term health (Yes – as an adult!)
  • Not enough weight gain in pregnancy – always er on the side of caution and be monitored by your medical professional

Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain – How Much is Baby?

Grow WebMD states that the extra weight in pregnancy is divided up between;

Your Pregnant BodyWeight
Placenta2-3 pounds (1-1.3kg)
Baby8 pounds ( 3.6 kg)
Amniotic Fluid2-3 pounds (1-1.3kg)
Breast Tissue2-3 pounds (1-1.3kg)
Blood Supply4 pounds (1.8 kg)
Stored Fat
for delivery and breastfeeding
5-9 pounds (2.2-4kg)
Larger Uterus2-5 pounds (1-2.2 kg)

How Much Weight Do You Gain in Pregnancy?

The average recommended healthy weight gain in pregnancy for a pregnant woman does depend on which country you reside in, so make sure you check for your country. On average for USA (link WEbdm) and Australian women, an average weight gain can be anywhere between 25 to 35 pounds or 11.5-16 kg

If your pre-pregnancy weight is underweight, then as a pregnant woman a rough estimate of weight gain would be between 28 to 40 pounds or 12.5-18 kg. For pre-pregnant overweight women, a weight gain recommendation is to only gain between 15 to 25 pounds or 7-11 kg.

 Remember these are a guide and sometimes you may need to speak to your Dietitian, Doctor or Midwife to provide another weight goal for you.  

Following is a table that depicts this, for you to look at, from the good calculator site.

BMI Before PregnancyCategoryRecommended Weight Gain Range
Pregnancy with Single Child
Recommended Weight Gain Range
Pregnancy with Twins
<18.5 kg/m2Under Weight28 – 40 lbs
13 – 19 kg
18.5 – 24.9 kg/m2Normal Weight25 – 35 lbs
11 – 16 kg
37 – 54 lbs
17 – 25 kg
    
25 – 29.9 kg/m2Over Weight15 – 25 lbs
7 – 11 kg
31 – 50 lbs
14 – 23 kg
>30 kg/m2Obese11 – 20 lbs
5 to 9 kg
25 – 42 lbs
11 to 19 kg

Pregnancy Weight Gain Calculator

Why is using a pregnancy weight gain calculator beneficial?

Using a calculator is an easy way to keep an eye on your pregnancy weight gain and to set goals for yourself if you are struggling to hit your weight gain goals. It also provides a “pregnancy weight gain chart by week” guide, which shows your approximate weight gain which is both reassuring and helpful for forwarding planning.

lose weight in pregnancy

It is an easy tool to use. You populate the boxes with your relevant information and measurements (such as height and weight) and it provides information on your BMI (body mass index), your target pregnancy weight gain as a whole and your recommended weight range for the week of pregnancy that you are actually in.

This tool also shows you week by week, the average target for weight gain. This is very useful to use as a guide.

Good calculators have a calculator for monitoring pregnancy weight gain. The site explains in more detail how to use the tool.

Have a go here at a pregnancy weight calculator from goodcalculators.com:  https://goodcalculators.com/pregnancy-weight-gain-calculator/

Why Is It Important To Have a Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain?

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that it is important to gain the recommended weight gain in pregnancy.

If Pregnancy Weight Gain is Less than Recommended

  • If you gain less than the recommended amount of weight, this could be related to delivering a baby that may have a smaller birth weight.
  • Some babies with a small birthweight could have difficulty commencing breastfeeding and they may also be at risk of some illnesses or may have difficulty reaching their milestones as they grow.

If Pregnancy Weight Gain is More Than is Recommended

  • If you gain more than the recommended amount of weight, then this could be related to delivering a baby with a large birth weight.
  • Some mothers with a large predicted birthweight baby, may have delivery complications and are more likely to have caesarean deliveries
  • Babies born with high birth weights may be more susceptible to obesity in childhood.
  • Gaining extra weight than what is recommended whilst pregnant also increases the likelihood of you increasing the amount of weight you hold onto after pregnancy, which of course can lead to struggles with obesity.

How To Meet the Average Weight Gain During Pregnancy Recommendations

To have weight gain goals that are determined at the beginning of your pregnancy and regularly checked throughout your pregnancy is important. You can work with your health care specialist to make this happen.

If You Need To Increase Your Weight Gain:

  1. Enjoy a balanced diet, high in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and lean protein. 
  2. Eat for pregnancy
  3. Aim for small meals often
  4. Have high protein, high caloric snacks that are easy for you to nibble on throughout the day
  5. At every meal consider how you could add calories to that particular meal ie a teaspoon of peanut butter on your toast, maybe an extra piece of toast at morning tea, a smoothie with added protein
  6. Supplement drinks that have extra protein and calories added

If You Need To Slow Down Your Weight Gain:

  1. Limit added sugars and high-fat ultra-processed foods
  2. Exercise as you can each day – chat with your health professional like a registered physiotherapist if needed
  3. Choose healthy options when out and about
  4. Look at the way food is made when you are out, ie; choose non-fried foods options if available
  5. Use healthy cooking methods at home
  6. Decrease take out foods
  7. Limit high sugar drinks
  8. Stop high caloric snacks, ie; potato chips, pastries, cakes etc
  9. Increase your intake of vegetables
  10. Choose fruit as your snack and add some dairy if you are hungry
  11. Monitor your use of fat such as oils and butter
  12. Eat as healthy as you are able – small healthy choices make a big difference to your baby
how much weight should I gain in pregnancy

Babies make it all worthwhile…..

As you can see, It is important to have healthy pregnancy weight gain for our bodies to nurture the growing babies. Understanding how much weight you should gain in pregnancy will be beneficial as you navigate your pregnancy journey, and will enable you to make any necessary adjustments. Remember pregnancy weight gain is a normal and welcome part of pregnancy – Enjoy!

  • The Women’s – The Royal Women Hospital weight and pregnancy – Victoria
  • Webmd – healthy weight gain in pregnancy
  • Centres for disease control and Prevention – reproductive health
  • Midwifery – Preparation for Practice – Pairman, Pincombe, Thorogood, Tracy 2015
  • Goodcalculators.com– free online calculators

Foods To Avoid When Pregnant

foods to avoid when pregnant
What Food is Safe to Eat When Pregnant?

While you are pregnant/breastfeeding you and your baby require an excellent diet and good nutrition. You can achieve this by eating in a healthy manner. It is, however, a normal question to ask if there are foods to avoid when pregnant, but let’s first start talking about food that is great for a pregnant woman to eat. Pregnancy diet in Simple Nutritional Advice describes a great diet for pregnancy, however, generally speaking, you need to be consuming foods from a variety of the major food groups.

The major food groups are;

  1. Bread and cereals/rice/pasta/noodles and other grains
  2. Vegetables and legumes
  3. Fruit
  4. Meat, fish, poultry eggs and nuts and seeds and tofu
  5. Dairy products –  milk, yoghurt, cheese and or dairy alternatives with added calcium

We know it can be a hard time to eat foods from the various food groups depending on if you have any symptoms/food aversion or hyperemesis/morning sickness that you may be suffering. What to eat if you have morning sickness explains more about what to eat if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.  

What is the big deal about Sood Safety and Pregnancy?

Whilst you are pregnant your hormones are so busy in your body that your body’s immunity can sometimes be lower. This can make it a little trickier for pregnant women to deal with illnesses or infections. Foodborne illness or food poisoning is an area we can control to try to protect ourselves from food risks. This is very important in pregnancy, and it is something you can proactively make happen.

Foods to Avoid When Pregnant

Read the summary below or follow this link to the Australian NSW food authority foods to avoid when pregnant for a great table of foods to avoid if pregnant.

Meat and meat foods to avoid
  • Processed meats
  • Raw meat/seafood and pate
  • Ready to eat chilled prawns
  • Sandwich shop meat
  • Hot takeaway/takeout chicken – (unless freshly hot and eaten straight away)
  • Poultry stuffing
  • Sushi (unless homemade by you without meat or seafood and eaten straight away)
Dairy and Eggs foods to avoid
  • Soft/semi soft cheeses
  • Processed cheese products (be aware of product shelf life and discard quickly after opening)
  • Fried and Soft serve and ice cream
  • Unpasteurised dairy
  • Raw, dirty or cracked eggs
  • Watch out for hidden raw eggs in food (ie desserts or mayonnaise, aioli, cake batter etc)
Vegetables & Fruit foods to avoid
  • Pre-prepared or pre-packaged salads and fruit salads
  • Rockmelon
  • Uncooked frozen vegetables
  • Bean Sprouts – Alfalfa sprouts, broccoli sprouts, onion sprouts, sunflower sprouts, clover sprouts, radish sprouts, snowpea sprouts, mung beans and soybean sprouts

Three Major Tips for Healthy Food Safety while Pregnant

Keep it Cold
healthy eating for pregnancy
healthy nutrition and pregnancy, pregnant woman eating vegetable salad
  • Your fridge should be below 4 degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Don’t eat food that has been left out on the bench (either at home or at a function)
  • Defrost and marinate meat in the fridge, not the bench or outside
  • When you shop always use a cooler bag or ice block to keep things cold whilst travelling back from the shops
  • If you are out try to only consume food that you know has been freshly cooked and stored correctly – this can be very difficult
  • Get into the habit of checking the used by or before dates of your products at home, particularly of dairy products
  • Store food right away after cooking it – don’t leave it on the bench
  • Leftovers – if you really have to keep for only 1 day and cook them to an appropriate temperature again and eat them straight away
  • Canned foods- store unused portions in the fridge in clean, sealed containers and use within a day
  • Make sure you check the food expiration or use by dates, maybe the day you do the food shopping check everything in the fridge
Keep it Hot
  • Make hot food hot, hot, hot
  • When you cook, cook things really hot too as high a temperature as possible
  • If you need to reheat any food make sure the food is hot and steamy
  • Cooking meat/fish/chicken yourself is fine, ensure it is cooked thoroughly to an adequate temperature (purchase a meat thermometer) and eat it hot straight away
  • Store meat leftovers in the fridge to reheat to at least 60 degrees Celsius/140 degrees Fahrenheit and use within a day of cooking
Keep it Clean
  • Keep your kitchen and fridge clean – clean them out weekly and throw out leftovers or old food containers regularly
  • As always, wash hands before and during food preparation
  • Separate raw and cooked foods in the fridge (place cooked food higher than raw foods in the refrigerator)
  • Don’t let raw food juices drip onto any other foods in the refrigerator
  • Have different chopping boards for raw food and cooked foods
  • Chopping boards need to be washed in a hot temperature
  • If someone is sick around you do not eat any food that they have prepared
  • Wash salad ingredients well just before making and eating salads, store any leftover salads in the fridge and use within a day of preparation
  • All fruit/vegetables and herbs should be washed well before eating
Can I eat Fish?

Just a note about fish. Fish are great for us, they have minerals and protein and are low in fat. Fish also contain omega 3 fatty acids which are wonderful for our skin, eyes and our cardiovascular system. As a pregnant woman, omega 3 fatty acids also help your baby to develop its central nervous system – very important.

Some fish contain too much mercury, however, and we don’t want to have too much mercury in our bodies. You should limit your intake of high mercury foods if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant – speak to your dietitian or GP in particular for you.

Lower mercury fish are Atlantic and canned salmon, canned mackerel and canned tuna (in oil), herrings and sardines, snapper, trevally, trout, bream, garfish, whiting, and mullet. Prawns and octopus and squid are also low mercury seafood. Remember you can always ask your fish merchant or the restaurant or shop about the type of fish you are buying if you are unsure.

Food Poisoning

As we mentioned earlier, pregnancy makes our bodies more sensitive to food poisoning. Listed below are some of the bacteria types which may cause food poisoning and ways to avoid contamination whilst pregnant and foods to avoid.

Salmonella

Salmonella infection (salmonellosis) is a common bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. Salmonella can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, fever and headaches. Tips;

  • Aim to avoid foods that contain raw eggs (ie desserts) and
  • Always cook meat thoroughly
  • It is also recommended to not eat any type of “sprouts” think alfalfa sprouts broccoli sprouts, snow pea sprouts and bean sprouts

Listeria

Listeria is also a bacteria and can cause “listeriosis” – a flu-like illness. Listeria can be transmitted to an unborn baby so it is particularly important to stick to the following guidelines. Listeria can be a bit tricky and even if you have stored your food correctly it can still be present in the food – so it is best to simply avoid the following foods which may contain listeria. Tips;

  • Try to eat freshly cooked foods that have been well washed and freshly prepared.
  • One day leftovers can be eaten as long as they have been refrigerated very quickly after cooking.
  • Pre-packaged salads and pre-made sandwiches/wraps should be avoided as also rockmelon (some reports of listeriosis in rockmelon)

Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. If a woman is infected with toxoplasmosis whilst pregnant it may be transmitted to the baby. People can be infected with toxoplasma by touching cat faeces (cleaning out cat litter or playing in infected soil) or if you eat undercooked meats or unwashed vegetables and fruits (particularly if they are from gardens with household cats). Tips;

  • Remember to wash your fruit and vegetables 
  • Cook your meat well (maybe use a meat thermometer)
  • Don’t eat raw oysters, clams or mussels
  • Wear gardening gloves, when gardening
  • Wash your hands after touching any animals
  • Try not to swallow the water if swimming in a lake
  • Best not to drink unpasteurised goats milk
  • Don’t drink tap water if overseas

Pregnancy is a time where we need to pay a little more attention to our overall health and safety

  • Gilbert E: Manual of High Risk Pregnancy & Delivery, 2011
  • Pairman et al; Midwifery Preparation for Practice, 2015
  • NSW Australia Food Authority

What To Eat If You Have Morning Sickness

Morning Sickness in pregnancy

Sometimes the first inkling that you may be pregnant comes from an overwhelming feeling of nausea and an overt need to vomit – thus providing the perfect combination of what is commonly labelled morning sickness. What to eat if you have morning sickness, and are feeling so sick that food is the last thing on your mind, is what we are discussing in this article.

Conservatively, about 70% of women suffer morning sickness in their pregnancies and they can have varying levels of nausea. The following information can help manage even the smallest amount of morning sickness symptoms. Morning sickness usually occurs in the first trimester and hopefully starts to ease by the second trimester. Sometimes it can unfortunately also be all-day sickness for some women.

A really low percentage of women will develop a more severe condition (hyperemesis gravidarum) and require hospital admission. Hyperemesis gravidarum generally appears as severe nausea and vomiting with weight loss and dehydration. Medical attention is required.

Some Reasons Why Morning Sickness May Occur
  • Because you are pregnant and you have different hormones running around in your body
  • Family History
  • High levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body
  • Increased demands on the woman’s body (you are growing a little human)
  • Extra stress in your life

What To Eat if You Have Morning Sickness?

Increase the Potassium in your Diet

Increasing dietary intake of potassium can help some women feel less nauseous. Foods rich in potassium are bananas, avocadoes, dates, cantaloupes/rockmelon, figs, watermelon and vegetables such as broccoli, potatoes, spinach, and dark yellow squash.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin b6 can help relieve some symptoms of morning sickness for some women. Sometimes a supplement is needed but if you are able to eat then food sources include;

  • Poultry and fish
  • Potatoes and other starchy vegetables
  • Fruit (other than citrus)
Increase the Magnesium in your Diet

Sometimes increasing dietary intake of magnesium can help some women feel less nauseous. Foods rich in magnesium are avocadoes, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, beans, whole wheat bread, wheat germ, and whole-wheat cereals.

Ginger

Ginger tea, ginger ale or raw ginger and ginger tablets etc can help some women to decrease nausea symptoms. Make sure they are made from real and pure ginger.

Mint

Mint can sometimes help women feel less nauseous – peppermint tea for example or sucking on a mint, or fresh mint in your tea. These are small things that are worth a try to see if they are helpful.

Have Small Meals Often

Not skipping meals is very important. If you do skip meals in the day it is likely to make the nausea worse. Every 2 -3 hours try to nibble on some food source – you may even have to set an alarm to remind you to try and eat. Eating often will help to maintain blood sugar levels as well. If you do find something that you can eat easily- avoid overeating as it can cause an upset stomach.

Small Amount of Bland Carbohydrate Foods

Small amounts always appear easier for our minds to digest- we do first eat with our eyes.  Try and have a few bites of a plain carbohydrate food like plain biscuits, or bread or pasta.

what to eat if you have morning sickness
Ask Yourself

Sometimes asking yourself “Do I feel like sweet or salty” can help. It can help you decide on what to try. Often the thought of having to eat something can just seem to big so to simply ask “Do I feel like salty or sweet” and then act on your answer can take out the overwhelming feeling of it all being too hard.

Small Drinks Between Meals

Definitely try not to drink whilst you are eating. You really want your food and drink separately. This way you can aim for some nutrition from your food and hydration from your fluid. Sipping small drinks can be beneficial, even trying to drink with a straw can slow the process down. Maybe put your drink in a lovely wine glass with some ice to make it feel more special.

Eat Protein Foods

Try to increase your intake of protein foods. For example, if you are having a dry cracker maybe you could try a little cheese on it to increase your protein intake

Reduce Fatty and Spicy Foods

Heavily spiced or fatty foods can increase feelings of nausea, so be careful what you may order if it’s takeaway or if someone is cooking for you – maybe ask for bland and low fat option. Fatty foods can take longer to digest and spicy foods can actually make acid reflux worse – best to stay away from them.

Food Aversions

Pregnancy certainly can be a strange time – your body is functioning very differently from previously. Obviously, if a food makes you feel overly nauseous then avoid it. It may be important, depending on what that food is, to keep trying it over the length of your pregnancy. The general principle at this time is to try and eat what you feel like eating.

After Vomiting

If you do experience vomiting it is often beneficial to have an ice block to help to hydrate yourself afterwards. It may be the last thing you feel like doing – but it may help your recovery. Remember a really low percentage of women will develop a more severe condition (hyperemesis gravidarum) and require hospital admission. Hyperemesis gravidarum generally appears as severe nausea and vomiting with weight loss and dehydration. Medical attention is required.

Before You Go To Bed

Sometimes women can have some success to reduce their morning sickness if they have a snack just before they go to bed. Just remember to choose plain, carbohydrate food.

Before You Get Out of Bed

Before you jump out of bed have a dry biscuit (maybe put it by your bedside the night before) and maybe a cup of tea to eat/drink. Sit up slowly in bed, nibble away at the biscuit and slowly arise to your day.

A Note About Nutrition

Being pregnant and having morning sickness is a difficult time. To try and balance what you may know you need to eat in pregnancy and what you are physically able to eat is a balancing act. If you are worried about your nutrition your country may have a list of registered or accredited dietitians for example or your midwife or your GP.

A Word About Fluids

Fluids are really important so if you are vomiting it is extra important that you try to stay hydrated. If you cannot keep fluids down and you are dizzy and weak you need to seek medical attention right away.

TIPS to increase fluids

  • Small drinks/sips often
  • Sip through a straw and have it in a nice glass – makes it more enjoyable
  • Most women find cold drinks are more palatable
  • Try a variety of fluids – lemonade, clear soups, crushed ice, slushes, ice blocks etc
  • Sometimes it is worth measuring how much fluid you have actually consumed in a day (this can help if you need to report to medical personnel)
  • You may need some oral rehydration solution – talk to your GP and your pharmacist

Non-food Tips to Help Morning Sickness

Rest

It is hard to juggle life, work, maybe other babies, family, taking the dog for a walk, shopping etc the list is endless but to prioritise your rest, when you can, is encouraged. Accepting help or asking for help so you can rest is a wonderful art to start practicing now before your little one actually arrives.

Relaxation

Try and find the routines or activities that actually help to relax you – and do more of them! Pamper sessions, skincare routine, bath time, reading, sitting in the shade outside, movies etc. Bliss!

Sometimes Keeping Busy

This is personal and will work for a small group of women. Some women find that having a list of things (not too big) “to do” that requires leaving the house or meeting with people actually helps to take some focus off their morning sickness symptoms.

Light Exercise

Sometimes light exercise can help to reduce nauseous symptoms. Fresh air, focussing on something else and moving your body can be very beneficial. There are also exercise physiologist and physiotherapists that can direct you in this area as well – talk to your midwife and GP.

Remove Yourself from Smells

If possible, remove yourself from the cooking smell of food and food preparation. Food smells, especially heating of the food, can make nausea worse. Can you ask someone else to prepare meals, or cook the BBQ outside for example?   

Avoid Brushing Your Teeth After Eating

Some people find cleaning their teeth nauseating on a full stomach – if this is you then let your dinner settle well before cleaning your teeth. Pregnancy is an important time to look after your dental health so do not stop cleaning your teeth.

Talk to your midwife or Doctor if your morning sickness is worrying you – they are there to help you.

  • Gilbert E: Manual of High Risk Pregnancy & Delivery, 2011
  • Pairman et al; Midwifery Preparation for Practice, 2015
  • Davey L, Houghton D; The Midwife’s Pocket Formulary, 2013
  • Raynor M, Catling C; Survival Guide to Midwifery, 2017