Good nutrition during pregnancy will help your baby develop and keep you healthy. The Victorian Government recommends that mums-to-be increase their intake of certain nutrients that are important for the baby’s health, especially folate, iron, iodine and calcium.
A high protein diet is essential for pregnant mums. Protein stabilises your blood sugar and keeps you fuller for longer, as well as being necessary to create all of your baby’s cells. Lean red meat is also high in iron, which will help your baby develop a healthy red blood cell supply, and keep your iron levels up too. Blood volume can increase up to 50% in some pregnant women, no wonder anaemia during pregnancy is common!
One of the most important nutrients for pregnancy is folate. Your baby needs it to form their brain and nervous system, and lack of folate can lead to a range of complications and problems after birth. Lentils are high in folate, as well as vitamin B6, iron and protein. The best way to get the most out of their nutritional value is to soak dry lentils overnight and then cook them into soups, stews and salads. Lentils readily absorb other flavours and make for an excellent base for a lot of dishes.
Dark leafy greens such as spinach are vital for good pregnancy nutrition. Spinach has lots of folate, iron, vitamin A and calcium. It’s good for getting more fibre into your diet too, which can help prevent constipation. Spinach is versatile and can be used raw in salads, cooked as a side with fish or chicken, or added to lasagne or soup.
Avocadoes are high in good fats which is great for heart health. They also have folate, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B6, which is important for your baby’s tissue and brain growth. A bonus is that vitamin B6 can help ease morning sickness!
Get your mineral fix with nuts. They are full of copper, manganese, magnesium, selenium, zinc, potassium, calcium and vitamin E. They’re easy to carry around so that you can have an easy, healthy snack on the go. They’re high in good fat, so eat in moderation.
Make sure you buy authentic Greek yoghurt. This yoghurt is high in protein and high in calcium. The live bacteria cultures in traditionally prepared yoghurts are essential for digestive health and can help prevent yeast infections which are more common in pregnancy.
Oats are full of fibre, B vitamins, iron and lots of other good things. Oats have protein and so will keep you fuller for much longer than other packaged supermarket cereals. They can also be added to pancakes, muffins, cakes and cookies.
High in vitamin C, which helps fight off infections and promote growth and antioxidants. Capsicum also has lots of beta-carotene, which is critical for the development of your baby’s eyes, skin, bones and organs. Other foods high in beta-carotene and vitamin C are carrots and mangoes. Any brightly coloured fruits will up the number of antioxidants and vitamins going into your body and helping your baby grow. Eat the rainbow!
Cold water fish such as salmon is high in omega-3 essential oils. These healthy fats are crucial because the body can’t make them on its own, they help metabolise vitamins such as vitamin A and E, they may help reduce prenatal depression, and they are needed for the development of your baby’s eyes and brain. Pregnant women should eat two or three servings of fish per week. Choose fish such as wild salmon, sardines, herring and farmed oysters which are all safe for pregnant women and high in omega-3. If you are unsure which seafood is not safe for pregnant women, consult the Victorian Government’s guide on the topic.
Edamame are cooked soybeans in green pods. The high protein content makes them filling, and they are packed with calcium, folate, vitamins A and B. Try them with noodles, stir fry or casserole. They’re delicious on their own, lightly salted.
This list covers some of the super foods that will help your baby grow, but there are plenty of yummy and healthy foods out there! Mix up your diet to get a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein every day. Keeping hydrated is also extremely important for yours and your baby’s health, it helps to flush out toxins, build new cells and deliver nutrients. Remember to drink plenty of water!
If you would like to know more about food safety and the foods you shouldn’t eat while pregnant, the Food Authority of NSW has put together a handy guide.