If you are currently pregnant and reading this, I would like to say a massive congratulations and I hope you are feeling well. If on the other hand you are trying to conceive, I would say read my previous blog post on nutrition and lifestyle strategies for improving conception and also don’t give up.

Being pregnant at the minute, I have to say that it’s such a wonderful period with lots of things to celebrate and learn. However, for me, planning my diet and being aware of what my body needs has definitely been a contributing factor to a feel-good pregnancy thus far. Considering your dietary needs throughout pregnancy is vital to ensure you’re well-nourished and able to support you and the growth of your baby.

Below I have outlined the main dietary considerations for you to think about whilst pregnant.

Dietary Considerations

  1. Consume a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet – what does this mean? Consume lots of vegetables and fruits, whole grains (gluten free if required), raw nuts and seeds, healthy fats and proteins like meat, oily fish, avocado’s and organic poultry for example.
  2. Avoid all processed sugars and refined carbohydrates like cakes, sweets, biscuits, crisps, trans fats and artificial food additives.
  3. Protein intake should increase from around 0.8g/kg of body weight (pre-pregnancy) to around 1.1g/kg of body weight and should come from a variety of sources both animal and plant.
  4. Omega 3 essential fats, which are crucial for brain development, are found in a variety of foods like milled flaxseeds, chia seeds, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring), organic eggs, etc. Supplementation is also a great option for omega 3’s so as to avoid exposure to mercury from larger fish species like tuna, swordfish and king mackerel.
  5. Pre and probiotic-rich foods to ensure a healthy gut microflora for you and baby during birth and lactation.
    • Prebiotics are the fiber-rich foods that probiotics feed and grow on and food sources include: asparagus, bananas, dandelion greens, garlic, honey, leeks, legumes, onions and peas, among others.
    • Probiotics are the ‘good bugs’ or beneficial bacteria that provide health benefits when consumed. Food sources of probiotics include: buttermilk, cottage cheese, fermented vegetables, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, live yoghurt, among others.
  6. Avoid alcohol throughout pregnancy as it is linked with neuro-development disorders and fetal alcohol syndrome, among others.
  7. High levels of caffeine throughout pregnancy have been linked to low birth weight and may also increase the chance of miscarriage. Aim to limit caffeine consumption to approx.. 200mg / day.
    • 1 mug tea = 75mg of caffeine
    • 1 mug instant coffee = 100mg of caffeine
    • 1 mug filter coffee = 140mg
    • 1 can coke = 40mg
    • 1 energy drink = 60mg
    • 1 x 50g bar of plain chocolate = 50mg
    • 1 green tea = 25-45mg of caffeine
  8. Keep hydrated by drinking approx. 2 liters of pure water / day. You can also consume caffeine free herbal teas to increase hydration. Water has many benefits but during pregnancy in particular, it aids in digestion and helps form the amniotic fluid around the fetus as well as nutrient transport and waste elimination.

In light of this, if you are struggling with morning sickness or general nausea throughout the day it’s helpful to consider the following;

  • Eating small meals regularly throughout the day can help to stabilise blood sugars, maintain energy levels and thus keep nausea at bay.
  • Consuming adequate protein levels but also at night before bed can reduce morning sickness.
  • Consuming ginger has been shown to be effective in treating nausea and vomiting in pregnancy but according to Firouzbakht et al. 2014, further studies are needed to determine the proper dosage.

As Catherine Jones and Rose Hudson (authors of Eating for Pregnancy: The Essential Nutrition Guide and Cookbook for Today’s Mothers-to-Be) state, it’s about being able to “strike a balance between healthy weight gain and nutritional intake. Trying to keep in mind that you are not eating for two, you are eating carefully for one.”

If you’re pregnant, have you struggled with morning sickness or have you been craving anything weird or wonderful? Get in touch. Email Orla at orla@healthbyorla.ie