What foods should you eat when you’re pregnant and what to avoid ― we set the record straight for you!
Pregnancy is the best time to pay attention to what you’re eating. This is because an expectant mum’s nutrition requires special attention because of her high nutrient needs and the critical role it plays in the growth of the foetus, explains nutritionist P Afrose of Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy.
That said, you’re likely to come across lots of (possibly uninvited) nutritional advice from well-meaning friends and relatives. Here are several you should probably take with a pinch of salt.
MYTH #1: Have three proper meals a day
You might have grown up knowing this as a rule of thumb. However, as a mum-to-be, eating six or seven smaller meals a day, instead of three big ones, will not only provide the added nutrition to grow your baby, it can help prevent heartburn and morning sickness.
MYTH #2: I need to eat for two
Pregnant women who literally “eat for two” are likely to end up gaining an excessive amount of weight. In actual fact, your body becomes more efficient during pregnancy, so it’s able to absorb more of the nutrients you eat. You’ll only need about 300 calories more per day from the second trimester ― this is the equivalent of one slice of wholemeal bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter.
You’ll only need about 300 calories more per day from the second trimester.
MYTH #3: I can’t take coffee
You may have been warned to give up caffeine because it might cause a miscarriage, preterm birth, or give birth to a low birthweight baby. But you can drink coffee, just in moderation. The recommended limit is 200mg a day ― about the equivalent of two cups of instant coffee.
MYTH #4: Salt will make me swell
Salt can exacerbate bloatedness and swelling, but if you’ve got water retention in your ankles, it’s probably not due to the salt. Rather, the swelling (also known as oedema) is a normal part of pregnancy that is caused by the additional blood and fluids in an expectant mum’s body. In addition, salt is an essential nutrient that should not be removed from your diet, even when you’re pregnant. So, feel free to season your food with salt ― just don’t go overboard.
MYTH #5: Don’t eat salmon
If someone advises you against eating salmon, she’s probably talking about raw salmon. Salmon contains lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which help with your baby’s brain development and vision. Avoid raw fish as you can’t be sure how fresh it is ― there’s a risk that it has been contaminated with a bacteria that can cause listeria. You could also pick fish options that are low in saturated fat and high in protein and vitamin D – such as mackerel and cod. Avoid tuna, shark, swordfish and sea bass as these are high in mercury.
MYTH #6: Eat light-coloured foods for a fair-skinned baby
No, your baby will not be fairer if you eat tofu every day, nor will he be darker if coffee is your morning beverage of choice is. Your baby’s skin colour has nothing to do with what you eat, but everything to do with his genetic make-up.
MYTH #7: I should go for low-fat foods to avoid gaining too much weight
It’s scary to see your waistline exploding, but pregnancy isn’t the time to go low-fat. In fact, many so-called “fatty” foods including eggs, milk and cheese actually contain vital nutrients. Your fat intake should be 30 per cent of your daily caloric intake.
Pregnancy diet essentials
Nutritionist P Afrose of Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy shares the top five nutrients that expectant mums need during pregnancy.
1. Folate or folic acid
This water-soluble vitamin is one of the B vitamins that play a critical role in cell division and development. A lack of folate in the diet is associated with neural tube defects, miscarriage and premature delivery. To reduce the risk of neural tube defects, folate should be consumed prior to conception, till the end of first trimester.
Get it from: Besides supplements, foods rich in folate include dark leafy greens and citrus fruits.
Iron is essential for the production of blood and cell growth. Since the amount of blood a pregnant woman needs increases, more iron is needed to produce haemoglobin. A lack of iron in her diet can lead to anaemia, which may increase the risks of a premature birth and a low birthweight baby.
Get it from: Get your iron fix from red meats, beans and iron-fortifed cereals, breads and pastas.
To reduce the risk of neural tube defects, folate should be consumed prior to conception.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps you to absorb calcium, which in turn helps to build healthy bones and teeth for both babies and pregnant women. It is vital that expectant mothers get sufficient vitamin D, so that her baby will have an adequate store in the first few months.
Get it from: Vitamin D is found in fatty fish like salmon, as well as egg yolks.
Both the expectant mother and the foetus need this mineral to build strong bones and teeth.
Get it from: Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are excellent sources of calcium.
You’ll need DHA throughout your pregnancy as it is an omega-3 fatty acid that is vital to the development of the foetus’ brain and eyes.
Get it from: You can take a supplement, or get it from fatty fish like salmon and cod, or omega-3 eggs.
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