Congratulations, you’re pregnant!! Learning that you’re pregnant often comes with a lot of mixed feelings – excitement and joy, but also an enormous pressure to do everything right for the baby, including eating well. I’m breaking it down trimester-by-trimester to give you the essentials of nutrition during pregnancy – starting with the first trimester! Not only is this important info for all pregnant women, but also for those considering pregnancy.
- Folic acid is a critical nutrient in the first trimester of pregnancy. It helps our body make new cells and reduces the risk of neural tube defects.
- Choose a prenatal multivitamin that contains at least 400mcg (0.4mg) of folic acid.
- Try incorporating foods rich in folic acid: beans, lentils, sunflower seeds, enriched grains, green veggies – broccoli, asparagus, and spinach.
- The neural tube closes during the 3rd-4th week of pregnancy (usually before you even know you’re pregnant!), so if you are considering getting pregnant, start taking a supplement with folic acid 3 months before you plan to conceive.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the development and growth of your baby’s brain and eyes, which begins in the first trimester and continues through pregnancy until birth.
- There are 3 types of omega-3 fats: ALA (from vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds), EPA, and DHA (only in animal fats, such as fatty fish and eggs). ALA is considered an ‘essential’ fat that we must get from our diet. Though our bodies can make EPA and DHA from ALA, it’s not a very efficient process, so it’s still important to get enough from the foods you eat and the supplements you take.
- It is recommend that you eat 2 x 2.5 oz (75g) servings of cooked fish per week to meet all your omega-3 needs during pregnancy. Tip: A 2.5 oz serving of fish is about the size of a deck of cards.
- If you’re not getting enough omega-3 fats from foods, look for a supplement with a natural product number (NPN) on the label, which means it’s been government approved for safety and quality. For now, there is insufficient data to recommended a specific amount to supplement during pregnancy, so talk to your Doctor or Dietitian to discuss your individual nutrition needs.
- Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen, which is extra important during pregnancy when you have increased blood volume. The iron you consume during pregnancy also provides your baby with it’s iron stores needed during the first 6 months until iron-rich solid foods are introduced (more on that in another blog post!).
- Choose a prenatal multivitamin that contains 16-20mg of iron.
- Try incorporating iron-rich foods: cooked mussels, clams, oysters, beef, lamb, chicken, fish, pumpkin seeds, beans, lentils, fortified cereals, spinach.
- Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common nutrient deficiency during pregnancy, often seen in the third trimester. By incorporating iron rich foods and a supplement with sufficient iron from the first trimester onwards, you can help prevent iron-deficiency from occurring in both you and your baby!
You’re at greater risk of getting a food-borne illness while pregnant. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with the guidelines for food safety during pregnancy. Here are a few of the basics that can help keep you and your baby healthy:
- Fully cook all meats, fish, shellfish, poultry and eggs.
- Practice safe storage and handling of foods and leftovers.
- Choose pasteurized dairy products and juices.
- Avoid foods at high risk of Listeria contamination unless cooked to steaming hot. These include soft cheese, deli meat, pate, sprouts, and pre-packaged or prepared fruits or veggies.
As much as 85% of women experience some nausea in the first trimester due to all the hormonal changes happening in your body. Your doctor is going to be your best resource for information about morning sickness particular to you and your pregnancy. But to help get you started, here are a few suggestions that can help with nausea:
- Eat small amounts frequently through the day. Small meals or snacks every couple of hours can help tame nausea and heartburn symptoms.
- Include some protein with each meal and snack. Ideas include: nuts or seeds, nut butters, milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, beans or lentils, eggs, meat, poultry, fish or shellfish.
- Choose bland or dry high-carbohydrate foods to help relieve your nausea. Sometimes salty foods, or foods low in fat can also help. Ideas include: crackers, bread, cereal, baked potatoes, oatmeal, and rice.
- Try not to mix food and drinks. Drink liquids 20-30 minutes before or after you eat.
- Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking enough fluid as recommended by your doctor.
- Finally, it’s important to stay active throughout your pregnancy – be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any new activities to make sure that you and your baby are safe.
- Fit 4 Two is a great company that specializes in pre & postnatal fitness. They offer a variety of prenatal fitness classes including aquafit, barre, core, fitness, and yoga in locations throughout the Lower Mainland!