We all want to give our babies the best start in life and eating well during pregnancy will do just that. The old myth of eating for two applies more to nutrients not quantity. The trick is to know what you need, why you need it and how to make each mouthful that you do eat really count.
Water, make sure during all of the different stages listed below that you are keeping yourself hydrated with drinking enough water Aim for up to 4 pints per day of mineral water where possible. This will help you keep your skin glowing and elastic, energy levels up and all the important bowels moving!
Nutrition for PreConception
If you are trying to become pregnant there is never a better time to eat well. Imagine planting a seed, you would want it to have the best soil ever and you are the soil for your baby! If you can provide the best home for your new baby then the chances of conception will improve no end. The most important nutrient during this time is folic acid; this is needed for the correct cell division and to prevent spina bifida. Along with that you need good supplies of Vitamin C, E, Zinc, Magnesium, Vitamin B3 and B6, and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
First Trimester Tips
This stage is crucial to your baby's development and really the most important nutritionally. During the first trimester your baby would have developed all its major organs as well as finger nails, eyebrows and of course it's little beating heart. All of that is made from what you have eaten! Important nutrients are folic acids, B vitamins as well as essential omega oils and zinc. Your body will also need plenty of iron as blood volume increases and the placenta is made.
If you feel sick during this stage make sure you are taking enough vitamin B6, this can really help to relieve sickness. Drinking enough water, taking regular exercise and eating small frequent meals will help too!
Second Trimester Tips
Your baby has already been formed and what it needs now is to grow! This trimester is when the organs start to mature and the bones and teeth start to harden needing calcium, magnesium and vitamin D. Along with these Vitamin A, C, E, Zinc and essential omega oils will continue to nourish the skin (stretch marks), baby and body.
Third Trimester Tips
This is the time that the baby begins to lay down fat stores. Vitamin C is needed for gums, teeth, bones and blood vessels and of course calcium remains necessary for bones too. Can you believe that your baby can hear you now! Baby's brain is growing faster and faster so essential omega oils remain crucial (in fact they always are!).
Eating small regular meals during this time last trimester. You really won't fancy large meals as there isn't room, but regular highly nutritional meals will help you feel energised, healthy and no heavier than you already feel!
Taking some Magnesium Citrate is good for the muscles to contract during labour and it is worth keeping zinc high to help with all the healing that is needed after the birth. Vitamin K is good for blood clotting, and to prevent haemorrhaging.
Post Natal Tips
Repair, need of energy and of course breastfeeding are all important reasons to keep eating well. If you are breastfeeding you still need nutrients for two and lots and lots of water. Vitamin A, C and E and Zinc are particularly important to repair the damaged tissue as is an amino acid called glutamine. Calcium, magnesium, iron and B vitamins will all have been depleted during the birth so getting these replenished and balanced again is very important and will help you to feel better.
Small frequent meals are often the way to go during this stage too as time is of the essence when there is a new baby in the house! Ask visitors to bring a nutritious meal with them when they visit and ask them to wash up and hoover maybe as well!
Zinc is an essential trace element and is very important during pregnancy and the post natal period. Unfortunately a lot of zinc is lost during the refining of foods so a supplement more than likely going to be needed.
Zinc is needed for the breakdown of carbohydrates. It is also involved in every area of reproduction and has been known as the most important trace element for any pregnant woman!
Zinc is required for fertility in both the male and female. It is also necessary for the proper formation of elastin chains in connective tissue so vital for the growth of both belly and boobs! It helps the uterus to contract efficiently and the perineum to stretch.
Adequate zinc levels are required for foetal growth and zinc can help prevent premature births, toxaemia and post natal depression. It's worth noting here that positive maternal instinct can depend to some extent on good nutrition. If your body is out of sorts then so will your mind and instinct be.
If you are deficient when breastfeeding then so will your baby be! Babies with low zinc levels are more likely to be restless and cry which won't help your mood if you are struggling! That in itself makes a zinc supplement worthwhile.
Drink water! You will be losing around a pint a day of fluid so you need to replace this! 2 litres per day minimum is needed! Trust me, when you start feeding you'll be grabbing water to drink. Always try and have glasses or bottles dotted around the house at your feeding points so you can drink all the time. It's vital to form milk and of course to give you energy. Keep some good books around the house too at feeding points as you'll be feeding for a while at the beginning!
As well as water and zinc make sure you are getting enough essential oils in your diet. These are still needed for brain development and of course for luscious skin.
Avoid empty calories and remember that whatever you eat so does your baby! Avoid caffeine, alcohol, curries and highly gaseous foods such as garlic, onions and cabbage. Lots of brown rice and vegetables, oily fish (avoid shellfish) and whole foods are a fabulous way to give your baby all it needs.
Is a Vegetarian Diet ok?
No worries here to still get all you need!
Iron stores can stay up with lots of green vegetables, sunflower seeds, peanuts and dried fruits. Molasses, almonds and parsley are also fabulous ways!
As for Vitamin D... walk outside daily!
If you are vegan you may have to get B12 from a supplement; fortified soya milk or yeast extracts.
Nuts and seeds carry essential fats that you both need.
GOOD NATURAL FOOD SOURCES
Carbohydrates whole grains, e.g. rice! Potatoes, beans, pulses, cereals, oats, pasta, dark leafy vegetables, root vegetables, fresh fruit
Protein eggs, tofu, quinoa, tahini, bean sprouts, organic meat, cheese
Essential fats Flax oil (linseed), hemp seed, avocado, green leafy vegetables, soybeans, walnuts, sunflowers seeds, sesame seeds (tahini), almonds, oily fish
Vitamin A carrots, sweet potato, squash, watercress, mango, melon, cabbage, dried apricots
B Vitamins green leafy vegetables, banana, avocado, nuts, watercress, squash, courgette, cabbage, broccoli, fish (sardines, mackerel), mushrooms
Folic Acid spinach, broccoli, peanuts, sprouts, asparagus, sesame seeds, wheat germ
Vitamin C broccoli, green peppers, parsley, oranges, watercress, kiwi, lemon
Vitamin E olive oil, pepper, tahini, nuts & seeds, avocado, sunflower seeds
Vitamin K Brussel sprouts, seaweeds, blackstrap molasses, lentils, peas, cauliflower, beans, peas
Choline lecithin, sardines, anchovies, eggs, soya, peanuts
Chromium brewers yeast, wholemeal bread, rye bread
Iron tofu, beans & pulses, cabbage, watercress, prunes & dates, dried apricots, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, parsley, almonds
Magnesium green leafy vegetables, soya beans, cashew nuts, almonds, banana, prunes, broccoli, Wheatgerm, brewers yeast, buckwheat flour, brazils
Selenium Molasses, herrings
Zinc wholegrain rice, lentils, pumpkin seeds, almonds, tofu, ginger root, pecans, and split peas
Most importantly, be happy!