You need your vits!
Your pregnancy nutrition will be critical to the health of your baby for many years to come - growing a new person requires plenty of vitamins and minerals.
If you're planning a pregnancy it's worth getting prepared in advance - the right body weight and good nutrition before it happens will set you on track for the next nine months.
What vitamins and minerals do I need, why and where will I find them?
This is the vitamin that keeps your bones and teeth healthy - and the one that helps your baby to develop strong bones too. Our bodies make Vitamin D naturally from sunlight and it's only found in a few foods, including fortified margarines and breakfast cereal. Exercise outside for half an hour and let the sun do its work!
Expectant mums need plenty! It helps your body absorb iron, fight infection and promotes healthy bones, joints and skin. And it encourages a healthy immune system too. Good sources include citrus fruits, blackcurrants, strawberries and kiwi fruits as well as green leafy veggies, tomatoes and peppers. Aim for at least five portions of fruit and veg a day.
You need it for making new cells (especially blood cells) and building the nervous system. You'll find it in meat, fish, eggs, milk, soya and in some fortified breakfast cereals but it's not abundant in fruit and veg. Vegetarians and vegans might need a supplement.
If you don't eat enough calcium your baby will help herself to stores from your bones - which could put you at risk of osteoporosis later. Babies need calcium to grow healthy bones and teeth and for their heart, nerve and muscle development Although your body will adapt to absorb more calcium from the food you eat it's worth making sure you include plenty of milk and dairy products, bread, green veggies, dried fruits and almonds.
Iron is essential to help your red blood cells transport oxygen around your body and deliver it to your baby. It's also needed for bones and connective tissues, cartilage and ligaments. The iron found in meats, eggs, poultry and fish is easily absorbed and there's iron present in leafy green veg, dried fruits and nuts it's harder for your body to absorb it from these sources.
Iron absorption can be improved by including a source of vitamin C with your meal - whilst the tannins found in tea reduce your ability to absorb iron. Go for a glass orange juice instead of a cup of tea with your meal!
You might want to take this in tablet form when you're trying to conceive and during the first trimester - about 400 micrograms a day is generally recommended to help prevent neural defects such as spina bifida. Folic acid can be found in green leafy vegetables, pulses, fortified breakfast cereals and wholemeal and wholegrain breads but a supplement will make sure you have sufficient.
What else do you need?
Good nutrition for pregnancy should include a full range of food types to meet your needs and help to develop a strong, healthy baby.
If you're exercising, carbohydrates act as fuel for your body - if you reduce your carbs you'll tire faster and recover from workouts more slowly -especially when you're pregnant. But make sure you go for the complex, unrefined carbs which are richer in nutrients and provide a sustained source of energy to keep your blood-sugar levels stable. Wholemeal bread and pasta, jacket potatoes, rice (brown is better), sweet potatoes, pulses are all good sources.
You can't do without it - it's essential for your baby's growth. Fish, eggs, lean meat, poultry and dairy products are all primary sources whilst pulses, quinoa, beans and seeds are all good vegetarian options. It's a good idea to mix and match different sources of protein and aim for two to three servings every day.
Keep everything moving through your system and avoid constipation and piles if you can! Lots of fruit and veg, wholemeal bread, brown rice and pasta - but don't neglect to drink more as too much fibre and not enough fluids can exacerbate constipation.
You need the good fats - avoid the bad fats. Fats are required for the development of your baby's brain and nervous system but which are which? The good ones are monounsaturated fats (found in olive oil, nuts and avocados) which also help lower cholesterol; polyunsaturated fats (which are found in salmon and other oily fish, soya beans, nuts and seeds) and Omega oils or essential fatty acids which are crucial for your baby's brain development.
The bad fats are 'trans fats' which were basically created when scientist succeeded in hydrogenating liquid oils to make them more stable and provide a better shelf life. You'll find them in commercially produced foods such as cakes and biscuits, packaged snacks and margarines - avoid anything with the word 'hydrogenated' on the label.
Saturated fats are mainly found in meat, dairy products, eggs, seafood and palm oil - and should be eaten in moderation.
Make sure you drink plenty, especially when you're exercising and ideally plenty of water. Whilst sports drinks can give you an instant lift after your pregnancy workout they tend to be high in calories and can contribute to weight gain. Tests have shown that milk will give you more benefit than a manufactured sparkling drink.
Avoid alcohol - it's not a healthy option. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggests that a one or two units once a week won't harm your baby - but giving up altogether is better for both of you. Behaviour problems, learning disabilities and hyperactivity have all been linked to drinking in pregnancy - as well as low birth weight and foetal alcohol syndrome.
Alexandra McCabe is a founder of https://www.fittamamma.com, the healthy pregnancy experts. FittaMamma is a free resource to help women enjoy an active pregnancy with workout videos, recipes and step by step yoga guides. Read here for tips on what to eat when you're pregnant and how to enjoy a healthy prenatal diet http://bit.ly/Z33wWf
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