What to eat when you’re pregnant
Confused about nutrition during pregnancy? Start by making sure to eat enough of these seven nutrients
What should you eat?
Everything that you eat is passed to the fetus, so you should eat a wide range of healthy foods to ensure that your baby has the best start. And choose fresh rather than processed foods whenever possible: the fewer additives you consume, the safer your baby will be.
Click through to learn about the key nutrients you and your baby need.
How much protein?
A little extra protein is recommended during pregnancy, but most women eat more than enough. A small portion of lean meat, fish, eggs, legumes or nuts twice a day is sufficient. If you are vegetarian, your protein and iron intake may be lower. You should always eat beans or legumes in combination with cereal foods such as pasta, couscous and rice, and you may consider taking an iron supplement. After the first three months of your pregnancy, you will need a folic acid supplement. But you should continue eating high-folate foods.
Your body absorbs calcium more efficiently when you are pregnant, and you need to consume at least 700 milligrams daily. You can easily achieve this by having milk, cheese or yogurt twice a day-a 225 ml (8 fl oz) glass of milk contains 297 milligrams of calcium. If you prefer not to eat too many dairy products, choose soya drinks and yogurts (check the nutrition info for calcium amounts).
Most of your body’s store of vitamin D is made from the action of sunlight on your skin. You need more vitamin D when you are pregnant, but if you spend a few hours outdoors every day, you will usually make enough, provided your skin is exposed. In winter, however, the sun in Canada is too weak for vitamin D production, so get your D through food or supplements.
During the last three months of your pregnancy you can consume a little more vitamin A. But proceed with caution. Eat plenty of orange and red fruit and vegetables such as apricots, peppers and carrots. These are all high in beta carotene, which is converted into vitamin A by your body as and when you and your baby require it. But don’t forget that liver and liver products such as pâté should be avoided throughout your pregnancy as they contain very high levels of vitamin A.
Your doctor can check if you have adequate iron levels at the beginning of your pregnancy. If these are satisfactory, you will not need to take a supplement. Iron absorption is enhanced during pregnancy, so eat foods rich in iron such as red meat, dark poultry meat, eggs, pulses and nuts. Also, tea interferes with your body’s ability to take up iron, so it is better to drink it between meals rather than with food.
Vitamins C and E
New research shows that high levels of vitamins C and E can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia. This rare but serious complication in pregnancy causes a severe rise in blood pressure. The richest sources of vitamin C are citrus fruit, peppers, strawberries, kiwi fruit, pineapple and tomatoes. To obtain plenty of vitamin E, eat avocados, safflower and sunflower oils, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, butter and margarine.
Women’s Health Encyclopedia
Written by women physicians especially for women. Yes! We do respond differently to symptoms and treatments than men do. Get the all-in-one book you can turn to, with the answers you need and the advice you can count on. Reduce your risk for breast cancer, diabetes and depression, while you cultivate a healthy spirit and mind.