Healthy Eating During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when women find their inner desire and motivation to be fit and healthy, in order to give their growing baby the best possible start in life. A healthier body begins with what we eat! There is very little difference between a normal healthy diet and one specifically for pregnancy.  The rules for good nutrition are very simple:

  1. Eat a wide variety of fresh foods.  If you eat different foods throughout each day and on subsequent days, then you have less chance of missing out on something specific.
  2. Have everything in moderation: if you love chocolate you don’t have to avoid it altogether, have it occasionally as a treat rather than a part of every day eating (remember organic/fair trade chocolate is a great way to go!)
  3. Eat raw food every day – the ideal amount is 30% to 40% of your total diet. Raw foods include; fruits, vegetables, salad, nuts, seeds, raw muesli, and yoghurt.  It is not very difficult to include this level of raw food each day.
  4. Eat unprocessed food: generally a food is good for you if it looks, on your plate, how it grows in nature.  This effectively eliminates all fast food, as well as anything that has been refined or altered in its production. Eat as nature intended: whole foods from the earth!
  5. A healthy diet is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables of different types and colours; whole grains such as wholemeal breads, pastas, brown rice, oats, barley and quinoa; and good quality protein such as eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes and beans, tofu and tempeh and organic (free range) lean meat and ethical fish sources (if non vegetarian); calcium rich foods such as organic milk, cheese and yogurt (cow and goat) and calcium enriched non-dairy sources (almonds and broccoli are also high in calcium). Make sure you have a healthy balance of each food group throughout the day.
  6. Try to buy organic foods which are free from pesticides and preservatives. These foods will have a higher nutritional content. If conventional fruit and vegetables remember to peel scrub or wash in white wine vinegar.
  7. Drink plenty of filtered water and herbal teas throughout the day (A water filter is a great buy!)
  8. Avoid, caffeine, alcohol, junk food, soft drink and sugar substitutes (and highly processed and sugary foods).

An average day might consist of:

Breakfast – raw muesli with yoghurt or milk and berries (sprinkle on some seeds or almonds); whole grain toast with cheese, baked beans, avocado or egg and tomato; a banana or fruit smoothie with added yogurt and ground linseed and almonds.

Midmorning – almonds; fruit and yoghurt (sprinkled with seeds); rice cakes and humus; fresh fruit.

Lunch –avocado, hard cheese  or hard boiled egg and salad (lots of fresh chopped vegetables) sprinkled with seeds and nuts; freshly made wrap with falafel or free range chicken (if not vegetarian) and salad; lentil and vegetable soup with organic sourdough bread and humus.

Midafternoon – rice cakes and avocado; vegetable sticks; fruit platter; seeds and nuts.

Dinner – stir fry with vegetables (include tofu or tempeh) and brown rice; lentil and vegetable lasagne (home-made); meat or fish and steamed vegetables and brown rice (if non vegetarian).

Supper – (one to two hours after eating) – freshly made fruit salad; vegetable sticks; seeds and a few nuts.

Foods to avoid whilst pregnant

The government body – Food Standards Australia New Zealand (www.foodstandards.gov.au) – has several recommendations about consuming fish during pregnancy. Mercury accumulates in large fish that are long lived such as; swordfish, shark/flake and orange roughy.  These fish are best kept to a minimum of once a fortnight, with no other fish during that time.  Other fish such as, mackerel, atlantic salmon, canned salmon or tuna, herrings, sardines, hake and many other types of small fish can be consumed in servings of 150g up to 3 times a week (if non-vegetarian). Remember to look for ethical fish sources on the web site www.amcs.com.au (Their guide is $10). We are over fishing our seas!

A second consideration for pregnant women is exposure to various kinds of bacteria.  Some specific bacteria can have a serious impact on a growing baby. Listeria is a very rare contaminant of food but is destroyed by high temperatures and pasteurisation.  Foods that are at risk of listeria infection include: raw meats and left-over meat more than a day old; ready to eat or raw seafood, such as in sushi or smoked salmon or oysters; pre-prepared or stored salads such as coleslaw or fruit salad; pre-cooked meats such as deli meats, pate and salami; soft cheeses such as brie and camembert, unless it is cooked and served hot; soft serve ice cream. Remember good hygiene practices, in your kitchen and fridge. Eat fresh, home-made, food hot; do not reheat old food. Wash you hands and do not touch cat litter trays!

Cravings

Whilst pregnant you may have cravings. I have heard of a few vegetarians who craved a steak whilst pregnant (including me!) Cravings can indicate what nutrients are needed. Please listen to your body and its cravings and – especially if a vegetarian – check your iron and B12 levels in early pregnancy and beyond. Supplement if required, and make sure you have quality non-meat protein sources with each meal and at snack time. Nuts, seeds, eggs and cheese are primary proteins. The secondary proteins; beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh, remember to combine with a healthy grain or a primary protein.

Supplements

You can supplement with a good quality adult multi- vitamin tablet and two fish oils a day. There are some supplements formulated especially for pregnancy. Anne(Naturopath) recommends taking a normal adult multi-vitamin tablet, which includes at least 400mcg of folic acid/folate (take as instructed on the bottle). Folate has been found to significantly decrease the occurrence of children born with spina bifida when the mother has had a regular folic acid intake prior to conception. Anne also recommends purchasing a good quality fish oil liquid or tablets for your pre-conception care time (For omega 3 and 6, if strict vegetarian, find a flaxseed oil alternative). Read the label to check that it states that the product has been screened for toxins, accumulations of mercury and other toxins. Don’t be tempted to buy a cheap fish oil, without this label.

Whilst pregnant, Anne a naturopath adds, Co–enzyme-Q10 capsules from a health food store. Anne states that the capsules need to be 100mg. These capsules are good for the immune system and cellular memory. Remember supplements are not an excuse for an unhealthy way of life. Healthy eating and regular exercise are the most important factors. The supplement is the cherry on the cake!

Zinc tally tests can be found in most chemists and health food stores. Test, using the instructions, if you experience a nasty taste you have enough zinc, if not you can look to supplement and test again later (tests are for both the man and woman before conception).  Zinc is an important mineral for man’s sperm development. You can also have a blood test for your iron and vitamin B levels.

Naturopaths can give you a high quality vitamin and mineral supplement and fish oils that are practitioner prescribed only (the best ones). If your zinc, iron or vitamin B levels are low they can help. The website www.naturaltherapypages.com.au is a great site to find practitioners near to you. If living in Melbourne, you can contact Anne Digby on (03) 9852 7880 for your pre-conception, pregnancy, and familty care.