What to Eat When Pregnant
A well-balanced diet is essential throughout your entire pregnancy, but certain nutrients play more of a feature role in each trimester. Here’s a quick and easy guide that covers what to eat when you’re pregnant.
First Trimester Nutrients
B vitamins are increasingly important in the first trimester with the most well-known being folate, which helps protect your baby from neural tube defects. Most supplements contain folic acid, which is the synthetic form of B9, but folate is the natural form and its much better utilized by the body. Food sources of folate include dark leafy greens, legumes, asparagus, beetroot, and citrus. Vitamin B6 can also been shown to help reduce morning sickness1 which is commonly experienced in the first trimester. When supplementing, look for natural sources such as Purefood B.
Second Trimester Nutrients
In the second trimester, iron becomes a key nutrient because blood volume increases by almost 50%2 . Iron is used to transport oxygen to all parts of your body and to your baby and feelings of fatigue can increase greatly if iron stores are low. Some plant-based sources of iron are lentils, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and chickpeas. It’s common for some iron supplements to cause stomach upset and constipation, so always look for easily digestible sources of iron, such as Purefood Iron.
Third Trimester Nutrients
It’s easy to see why calcium plays a big role in the third trimester. You’ll feel baby’s fluttery movements turn into much stronger kicks as your baby’s bones become more dense and developed. Food sources of calcium include broccoli, almonds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, and greens such as spinach, turnip greens, kale, beet greens, and collard greens.
Another nutrient that is very important for the third trimester is the essential fatty acid, DHA. Healthy fats help add protective padding to your baby and contribute to maternal stores in preparation for breastfeeding. The omega 3, DHA, is especially imperative to the development for your baby’s brain. When supplementing look for DHA sourced from marine algae.
Throughout your entire pregnancy
Something that should be considered throughout your entire pregnancy is a high-quality multivitamin. This can be used not only to support your nutritional needs during pregnancy, but also to replenish your stores after having your baby.
As convenient as one-a-day or ‘gummy’ multivitamins may seem, they are not going to cut it during pregnancy.
Some concerns include:
- Daily nutrients required to maintain optimal levels do not fit into just one pill.
- ‘One-a-day’ pills are often pressed and packed more firmly, making them harder to digest and assimilate.
- Poor-quality, synthetic nutrients are almost always chosen for their cost.
Ideally your multivitamin would:
- Be 100% sourced from organic, whole foods with different vegetables, and fruits.
- Contain no unnecessary fillers or artificial colouring.
- Bonus: Come in a dark glass jar to preserve freshness and prevent leaching from plastic.
It’s never more important to consider optimal nutrition than during pregnancy. A nutrient dense diet and high-quality supplementation can help ensure that you and your baby are getting the nutrients that you need. Women’s Purefood A to Z is a fantastic way to help you nourish each trimester and beyond.
Foods to be cautious of during pregnancy
There are undoubtedly some very sound, evidence-based recommendations when it comes to some of the conventional guidelines around what to avoid in pregnancy. Other foods and substances that are generally considered a risk may actually be able to be consumed with mindfulness and caution. We still have so much to learn before we’re able to fully understand the way a woman’s immune system adapts to both accommodate and protect the fetus. However, we do know that certain hormonal changes and immune adaptations in pregnancy increase the susceptibility to certain types of infections, including food-borne illnesses.3
Some foods that are known to be higher risk are:
- High mercury fish
- Raw shellfish
- Some soft cheeses, especially when improperly stored
- Runny eggs from conventional hens
- Alcohol, and a high quantities of caffeine
Surprisingly though, more food-borne illnesses have been attributed to leafy vegetables than to any other commodity4. You don’t hear pregnant women being warned to avoid eating vegetables, quite the opposite, yet produce accounts for 46% of food poisoning.5
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid leafy greens in pregnancy, though! It just exemplifies that no food can be guaranteed as safe to consume and that risk and reward must be taken into consideration when making choices. Some tips are to avoid pre-cut fruits and veggies if you plan to eat them raw, always wash produce thoroughly before consuming, and follow your intuition when it comes to what you eat during pregnancy.
About the Author
Carley Mendes is a Vancouver-based Registered Holistic Nutritionist specializing in naturally nourishing mama & baby through fertility, pregnancy, & postpartum. Read more from Carley on her website, Oh Baby Nutrition.