Deirdre Swede is a registered Nutritional Therapist. Deirdre Swede Nutrition was founded to provide a focus on female hormonal health. Her mission is to help women live healthy, balanced lives, particularly during their life transitions.
Nutrition for a Healthy Pregnancy
A baby’s life development begins at conception. Scientific research demonstrates that the health of the egg and sperm affects the health of the baby, so what we eat has an impact on our children before they’ve even been born! A healthy diet is always an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but is especially vital if you are planning a baby or are pregnant. A diet high in refined carbohydrates can negatively impact fertility.
Pregnancy can be a difficult and demanding time for your body, and nourishing it properly is very important during these nine months. In an ideal world, if you are eating a balanced diet, this should be enough to ensure optimum health. However, in today’s busy world when women do not have the time to focus on their diet, they may be depleted of key nutrients, particularly in the first trimester.
Top tips for eating well in pregnancy:
- Ensure you are eating adequate amounts of protein. Try to eat organic meat and fish, where possible. Limit fish to twice a week and meat to three times, and avoid processed meats. Aim for 55g of protein daily.
- Try to include eggs in your diet. They’re a great source of protein and vitamin D.
- Aim for 5–10 portions of vegetables daily, especially dark green leafy veg for folate (the natural form of folic acid). Eat a rainbow!
- Include organic fruit in your daily diet, but limit intake to 2–3 pieces daily as fruit is high in sugar.
- Snack on nuts and seeds for added protein (unless there is a family history of nut allergies).
- Eating healthy fats is important for your intake of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Cook with coconut oil, butter or olive oil and try to eat oily fish two times a week as a source of Omega-3 fatty acid, which is vital for the development of the baby’s brain. Scientific evidence demonstrates that essential fatty acids can also help to prevent post-natal depression.
- Keep hydrated. Aim for 6–8 glasses of water daily.
- Eat slowly to aid digestion.
Foods to limit or avoid:
- Caffeine is sometimes linked to miscarriage. Limit your intake to no more than 2 cups of coffee daily. I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t bear even the smell of coffee when I was pregnant!
- Avoid alcohol completely.
- Limit your sugar intake. Too much sugar has been shown to be detrimental to egg health, and can contribute to gestational diabetes.
- Limit refined carbohydrates (white rice, pasta, potatoes, bread etc), as the starch in them converts to sugar in the bloodstream. Switch to wholegrain varieties, such as brown rice and pasta, sweet potatoes, wholegrain bread etc.
- Avoid unpasteurised dairy products, and raw fish and meats.
- Remove or reduce processed foods. They can be full of food additives and preservatives, sugar, saturated fat and salt.
- Avoid liver as it is high in vitamin A, which in excess has been linked to birth defects.
If you wish to take a dietary supplement, please make sure you take one that is specially formulated to pregnancy, or check with your health professional. The following supplements can be useful in pregnancy:
- A multivitamin supplement for pregnant women can be a supportive measure if you feel your diet may not be supporting your nutrient status. B vitamins are particularly important for your baby’s brain development.
- Folic acid; this will be prescribed by your doctor to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, but folate, the natural form of folic acid crosses the placenta better and can be found in dark green leafy vegetables and avocado.
- Omega-3; fatty acids are vital for the development of normal brain and eye function, particularly in the last trimester.
- Vitamin D; The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is vital for cell replication and division, and low levels of this vitamin have been associated with miscarriage.
- Iron; iron deficiency is common in pregnancy and plays a role in the early development of the baby’s central nervous system.
- Ubiquinol, the reduced form of coQ10, which is a powerful antioxidant, is responsible for creating cellular energy, and can be useful when your energy is depleted during pregnancy.
- Probiotics; taking a probiotic during pregnancy can boost both your and your baby’s immune system, reducing the risk of allergies and infection.
If you are thinking of having a baby, are pregnant or are a new mum and would like advice on how to optimise your nutrition, please call me on 07909 916156 or email: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for lots of hints and tips on staying healthy.
Deirdre Swede Nutrition.