Staying Healthy During Pregnancy
Taking measures to stay healthy is important at any stage in your life, however, when you are pregnant it's even more important to lead a healthy lifestyle; as the old adage goes, you're eating for two now. But it's not just about getting an increased number of calories into your body, it's about getting the right nutrition, to ensure that the baby develops and grows as it should.
What should you eat during pregnancy?
Any healthy diet should be based around chicken, some types fish (see below), eggs, vegetables, fruit, beans & pulses, wholemeal cereals & wholegrains, unsaturated healthy fats, dairy free alternatives and/or organic dairy products.
Vegetables & fruit or other plant based foods: Eat plenty of fresh plant based foods, fresh vegetables and fruit, beans and pulses, wholemeal cereals and grains. If you eat a good mix of different coloured fresh, vegetables and fruit you can be sure that you will be getting all of the vitamins and minerals that you need. Raw fruit and vegetable is best eaten raw as cooking can destroy a lot of the nutrients. It is, however, important to wash them thoroughly, have a read of this article "Is it Safe to Eat Raw Vegetables During Pregnancy?" for more information.
Protein: Protein is needed for building muscles and body tissue, therefore it's important that you make sure that you are eating enough.
Meat eaters should eat poultry, red meat, fresh fish and eggs, organic or grass fed if you can afford it.
Vegetarians include eggs and organic dairy products along with the plant based proteins specified for vegans.
Vegans should eat tofu, tempeh, seitan, quinoa, buckwheat, soy, rice, beans and peas are all good sources of protein. For vegans I would also recommend supplementing with a balanced amino acid supplement or rice and pea protein supplement.
It is recommended that you eat approx 3 or 4 portions of protein per day. One portion can be a piece of poultry/red meat/fish, 2 eggs, or a handful of cooked brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat etc.
Healthy fats: Include unsaturated fats in your diet such as avocados, oily fish, seeds, nuts, vegetable oils. Amongst other things these are needed for hormone production.
Dairy alternatives: Drink almond, oat, coconut rice milk instead of dairy milk. Check the ingredients however as unfortunately some manufacturers add water, sugar and thickeners to some dairy free milks. Rude Health is a really good brand.
Dairy products: Eat yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, soured cream. All of these food products are great for your good gut bacteria. If you do eat/drink dairy milk or cheese then I would strongly recommend eating organic to avoid taking in any added hormones.
Eat iron rich foods:
Iron deficiency can occur during pregnancy, therefore it is important to include iron rich foods regularly in your diet. Foods that contain good amounts of iron include leafy green vegetables, prunes, raisins, red meat, liver (only eat once a week) and wholegrain bread & pasta.
Eat foods rich in folic acid, Vitamin B12, zinc and other B complex vitamins
These vitamins and minerals are important to include in the diet to ensure the healthy development of the baby. These can be obtained from the following foods:
Folic acid = Leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines, lemons etc.), beans, wholemeal bread, wholegrain cereals (brown rice, oats, wholemeal pasta etc.)
Vitamin B12 = fish, eggs Important: If you are vegan you will need to take a Vitamin B12 supplement.
Zinc = wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, nuts, dark chocolate, beans, and mushrooms
Vitamin B complex = avocados, bananas, berries, broccoli, citrus fruit, cottage cheese, dark green vegetables, eggs, fish, fortified breakfast cereal, green beans, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, potato, shellfish, soy products, spinach, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, tofu, tomato juice, wholegrains.
Organic: Eat organic when you can to reduce the intake of artificial pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. If you live in Manchester, Unicorn in Chorlton sell a great range of wholesome and organic fruit & vegetables.
Water: Drink lots of filtered water or herbal teas, at least 6 - 8 8oz glasses per day.
Smoothies: Include smoothies in your diet. Base them around green vegetables and spirulina as the chlorophyll is good for the detoxification process that goes in your body. Remember your body is now having to clean up for 2 instead of 1.
Homemade food is best: Eat fresh, homemade cooked foods so you can be sure of what you are putting in your body.
What shouldn't you eat?
There are plenty of fresh wholesome foods that you can eat whilst you are pregnant but it's just as important to avoid others, as follows:
If you must eat ready-made meals keep them to a minimum and check the ingredients, if the meal contains ingredients that look like they belong in a chemistry set then put it back on the shelf and let it live its prolonged shelf life where it belongs – on the shelf!
Avoid fish that contains high levels of mercury, these include shark, tuna, swordfish and king mackerel.
Avoid or reduce your intake of saturated fats, salt, sugar and processed meats/foods e.g. dairy products, pies, cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, deli meats, chocolate, sweets, crisps, sausages, bacon, and cheese and cream.
Avoid or reduce your intake of caffeinated drinks e.g. coffee, tea, fizzy drinks. Caffeine is a stimulant and can have a similar effects as stress on the body.
Avoid rare or under-cooked meat, poultry, fish, raw eggs, unpasteurised cheese milk and fruit juices.
Raw sprouted beans, pulses and seeds.
Avoid artificial sweeteners, colourings, additives and preservatives.
Do not grill meat, it has been shown to produce carcinogens.
Avoid the intake of alcohol.
Do not smoking.
Have a read of this article "11 foods to avoid during pregnancy" for more information.
Supplements should never be an excuse for a poor diet, however, there are occasions where they may be necessary, and pregnancy is one of those.
As mentioned above the diet needs to contain folic acid, vitamin B12, zinc and other B Complex vitamins. Pregnacare Plus appears to contain everything that you need if you choose to take it in supplement form.
If your doctor suggests that you need iron supplements then take these with Vitamin C to aid absorption.
Take a good quality probiotic to replenish the good bacteria in the gut. This will aid digestion and absorption of food and improve the immune system. Kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, kombucha and fermented pickles are all great sources of probiotics too.
Prebiotics encourage the growth of the good gut bacteria. Foods that are great prebiotics include acacia gum (or gum arabic), raw chicory root, raw jerusalem artichoke, raw dandelion greens, raw garlic, raw leeks, raw or cooked onions. Make sure you chew them well to release the enzymes needed by the gut bacteria.
Do not take supplements containing the amino acid phenylalanine as this may alter brain growth in the baby.
It’s important to find a form of exercise that you feel comfortable with and to do it regularly, at least 3 times a week. Walking, pregnancy yoga and swimming are all great forms. Janine Hurley based in North Manchester is an expert on yoga for pregnancy and hypno-yoga birthing, you can find her details here.
Generally speaking people often forget about the importance of finding time to relax. Whenever I ask people how they relax and they normally say things like watching tv, reading a book or having a long bath. Of course this is true that these things can relax you, however, would relaxing in this way help you next time you have a bit of a crisis on your hands? Of course not. Relaxation in the true sense of the word is about learning to relax and quieten your mind so that you are able to deal with a crisis in a calm way. Such methods include meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, hypnotherapy. There are plenty of resources on Youtube that you may find helpful. Get in to the habit of doing something everyday.
Here's to the arrival of your beautiful, healthy, bouncing baby!
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and you should always consult your doctor before embarking on any health regime.