Eating for a healthy pregnancy

Maternity Matters column

By Kyra Warren


It’s not easy to know how to eat “healthy” in this day and age of social media and fad diets, and now that you are pregnant it can be even more confusing. Here are a few tips to help you get started, feel free to talk to your maternity care provider for more specific advice if needed.

Quick facts

When you are pregnant your caloric needs grow as your baby grows. This means you don’t need to suddenly “eat for two” but rather listen to your hunger cues throughout your pregnancy.

Healthy weight gain through pregnancy varies considerably based on pre-pregnant weight and many other factors. An underweight pregnant women is recommended to gain the most, whereas an overweight woman is recommended to gain the least.

What to eat

A varied diet with a combination of carbohydrates (veggies, bread, rice, pasta), protein (chicken, fish, legumes) and healthy fats (olive oil, avocados) is recommended. When we mix up the different veggies (especially the different colours of veggies) and protein sources in our diet, we have a better chance of getting all the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) needed to grow our baby and nurture our body.

An easy way to ensure you are getting the appropriate number of servings of each food group is to visualize every plate composed of half veggies, a quarter protein and a quarter complex carbohydrates (like rice, potatoes, sweet pototes).

Morning sickness: Eat small meals frequently (roughly every 2 hours) and ensure each snack has a protein component. This can help symptoms of morning sickness as it helps regulate your blood sugar levels (when I was pregnant I loved apples with peanut butter). Having said that, if you can only eat dry toast in the first trimester, just do that. You need to eat something, don’t get too worried if it’s not the perfect food. Your body is amazing and will grow your baby.

Drink lots of water (try to cut out fizzy drinks)- like 8 glasses or 2 litres a day.

Caffeine: A small amount of caffeine is safe in pregnancy – about 200mg per day; that’s 1-2 cups of coffee a day. Watch out for sneaky sources of caffeine that can add up like chocolate, energy drinks and tea.

What not to eat

Raw fish, egg or meat (sushi), unpasteurized dairy, processed foods – these foods are often high in sugar and fat but low in nutrients giving you empty calories (calories that don’t have the building blocks for health (vitamins and minerals, iron, etc.). Make sure all left overs are heated well. Be careful of lunch meats and preprepared salads from the deli (we just don’t always know how old or fresh that food is).

Some take home points

• Eat plenty of colourful vegetables and a variety of protein,

• Drink enough water,

• Be kind and gentle to yourself and do your best.

Maternity Matters is a semi-regular column promoting maternity services in the Valley.

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