Eating well is one of the most important aspects of “growing” a baby, and you can reduce the likelihood of future complications by being mindful of what you eat, how you eat, and by choosing a well-balanced diet.
You are creating a human being, so you want to use the best “materials” possible. Pregnancy can be stressful and unless you have the skills to manage the roller-coaster of emotions you are more likely to eat mindlessly, which means you may choose less healthy foods or overeat.
Eating mindfully means that you won’t rush your food, but instead will taste the food properly, taking time to enjoy your food when you are hungry. It can help you become more aware of when you are actually hungry (rather than bored or stressed, for example) and when you are full. You will start to understand how emotions impact hunger, and learn to savor your food.
Stress is a trigger for overeating as your body produces more stress hormones signaling your brain to drive you to consume more high-calorie foods. Eating mindfully and thinking about how your baby benefits from your diet can help you to make healthy nutritional choices—so, rather than reaching for a quick-fix biscuit, have a handful of walnuts, which are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Or try snacking on sunflower seeds, which are rich in vitamin B.
Benefits for Your Baby
For most expectant moms nothing is more important than having a healthy baby, and we know without a doubt that how you nourish your body in pregnancy can reduce your likelihood of experiencing complications and can set your baby’s trajectory for a lifetime of optimal health and well-being. Your daily food choices will influence your pregnancy, your birth, and your newborn’s long-term health.
You Are What You Eat
You may believe that you have a reasonably healthy diet, but research suggests that a large percentage of expectant mothers are deficient in key nutrients. Make sure you enjoy a good selection of colorful fruit and vegetables, such as broccoli, sweet potatoes, and berries, pulses and lentils, as well as eggs, lean meat and white fish.
For a healthy, balanced diet in pregnancy you need good sources of protein, “good fats,” fibre and carbohydrates. Try to eat unprocessed complex carbohydrates as they give you energy for longer. For example, choose wholegrain bread or brown rice rather than refined white bread or white rice.
You also need a number of important minerals and vitamins including calcium, Vitamin D, B vitamins, iodine and choline, folate, and zinc, a mineral that helps with many functions including fetal cell division and growth. In addition, drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may need to take extra care with balancing your diet to gain all the nutrients your baby needs, so talk to your health-care provider about ways to ensure you have the optimal diet.
Eating for Two?
There is still a strong belief that when you are pregnant you can eat for two. However, scientists now suggest you should “eat for 1.1,” choosing healthy fresh foods and cutting out processed foods whenever possible.
Pregnant women only need 200–300 additional calories in pregnancy starting in the second trimester. The trick is to make your calories count instead of counting the calories. Finding foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals that will nourish both of you and your baby.
Eating a balanced diet may help you to avoid problems during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, premature birth, and anemia. If you have a high body mass index (BMI), then this is not the time to diet, but take steps to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. No matter what your body type is, or how fit you are, try to appreciate how healthy nutrition during pregnancy can benefit you.
Foods to Avoid
The National Health Service (NHS) recommends that pregnant women do not eat pâté, liver, raw or under-cooked meats, raw shellfish, shark, swordfish, or marlin, and more than two portions a week of oily fish. It’s also advised not to eat uncooked mould-ripened soft cheeses, such as brie or Camembert, or soft blue-veined cheeses, such as Gorgonzola or Roquefort, unless cooked thoroughly. Eggs should be thoroughly cooked to prevent the risk of salmonella.
Check with your health-care provider for a full list of what is safe to eat or what to avoid while pregnant.