How to eat twice as well, not twice as much, when you’re pregnant.
So you think being pregnant means eating whatever you want whenever you feel like it? Think again. Your body becomes more efficient at absorbing nutrients when you’re pregnant so you don’t really need as many extra calories as you think.
The calorie reality
In your first trimester, you only need an extra 100 calories a day, which you can get by adding a glass of milk to your diet. In the second and third trimester, your extra calorie count goes up to 300 a day, which is a glass of milk, half a bowl of rice and an apple. Notice there’s no chocolate cake on the list?
Getting the right nutrition
You want to eat a variety of foods so you can meet your daily needs for protein, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins. If you’re already eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, you shouldn’t need to change too much. An extra serving of milk or dairy for calcium, an extra serving of protein and making sure to include Vitamin C should do the trick.
Your iron needs double as your blood volume increases over the course of your pregnancy so include more foods that are high in iron, like lean meat, fish, beancurd and spinach.
Don’t forget to drink at least 8 glasses of fluid a day. Dehydration can bring on premature labour and fluids can help to reduce muscle cramps, swelling and urinary tract infections.
Maximise your calories
Choose meals or snacks that pack the most nutrition per calorie, such as yoghurt, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Eat fewer foods that have many calories but few nutrients, like fried foods, sugary drinks, desserts, kueh and chocolate. You can still have these as a treat once in a while but only after you’ve met your nutritional requirements for the day. That means you can’t have a triple fudge ice-cream sundae for lunch but you can have a scoop of chocolate ice-cream for dessert.
Take a prenatal supplement
In an ideal world, a well-balanced diet should be all you need but in the real world, a prenatal supplement can help to ensure you’re getting enough of the right nutrients. Choose a supplement with folic acid, calcium, iron and Vitamin D. You might also want to speak to your doctor about your specific nutrition needs.
Gain weight gradually
You should gain between 7–16kg during your pregnancy, if you start out with a healthy weight. Your weight gain might be more or less if you’re underweight or overweight. You shouldn’t gain a lot of weight in the first trimester, between 0.5–2kg is normal. After that, your weight should increase steadily at slightly less than 0.5kg a week.
Both too little and too much weight gain can cause complications. The best way to keep your weight gain on track is to eat well and keep up with moderate exercise.
Eat smaller, more frequent meals
If you experience nausea or morning sickness in the first trimester and have indigestion or heartburn later in your pregnancy, eating three square meals a day can be a challenge. Instead of trying to eat large meals, snacking throughout the day or splitting your meals into smaller portions can help you get the nutrients you need. Choose healthy snacks like yoghurt for calcium and protein or an orange for Vitamin C and folic acid and make each snack count.
Foods to avoid
Avoid raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs and seafood, so no rare steaks, sushi or soft boiled eggs. You also want to stay away from unpasteurised juice and milk and soft cheeses like, brie, camembert and feta. These foods contain bacteria that can be harmful to you and your baby.
Limit your caffeine intake to less than 200mg a day, which is about 2 cups of coffee. Don’t forget that there’s caffeine in tea, cola and chocolate too.
Check with your doctor before you eat any Chinese herbs as some herbs can affect your baby if they’re taken in concentrated amounts.
Your baby’s health and growth is directly related to what you eat during your pregnancy and it’s never too early to instil healthy eating habits, so focus on eating quality, not quantity.