The miraculous process of creating another human life is probably the most natural thing a woman can do. However, it can also benefit from some careful planning and discipline, to make it a smooth journey from pre-conception to birth. It is essential for both the mother and the baby to optimally cover nutritional needs and avoid potentially harmful foods for a healthy and low risk pregnancy.
The basis of a pregnant woman’s diet is very similar to an adult woman’s recommendations, with a few changes in terms of caloric intake, supplementary vitamins and minerals, and precautions regarding food preparation. In addition to a well-balanced diet, certain vitamins and trace elements via supplements are highly recommended. The energy requirements for a pregnant woman are greater than those of a non-pregnant woman, and these can be covered with an extra 340 calories per day during the second trimester, and an extra 450 calories during the third trimester. These calories should be included in nutrient dense foods like whole grains and cereals, legumes, fruits, dark green vegetables, low fat milk and milk products, lean meats, fish, poultry and eggs. Try not to be tempted into adding them by way of foods such as sweets, pastries, soft drinks, and fried salty foods, as these lack adequate nutritional quality.
When we’re pregnant, the consequences of bacteria in our food are more serious than at other times. Therefore, when you’re handling or preparing food, make sure you follow strict food hygiene rules such as washing your hands, keeping utensils and surfaces clean, using separate utensils for raw meat from those being used for ready-to-eat food, and following cooking and storage instructions carefully. Certain precautions should be taken to avoid food poisoning such as Salmonella, Toxoplasmosis and Listeria. These two food-borne illnesses can be prevented in the following ways;
- Not eating raw meat or fish, (sushi, sashimi etc)
- Thoroughly cooking pork, beef, poultry and lamb
- Avoiding raw milk and cheeses made from raw milk
- Avoiding soft and semi-soft cheeses unless they are fully cooked and served hot. This includes ricotta, feta, Camembert, Brie and blue cheeses
- Avoiding soft serve ice-cream and check to make sure that homemade ice-cream has not been made with raw eggs
- Not eating pâtés and rillettes
- Cooking eggs until the yolk and white are not runny any more. Be careful about eating products such as chocolate mousse and fresh mayonnaise in delis, restaurants or in someone’s home which may contain raw egg. All salad dressings that you buy in supermarkets, such as mayonnaise, will have been made using pasteurised egg and are, therefore, quite safe.
- Avoiding all kinds of bean sprouts including snow pea sprouts, mung beans, alfalfa sprouts and sunflower sprouts unless well cooked.
While being proactive in making healthy and safe dietary choices is important, as long as you follow recommended guidelines, you can still enjoy a varied, rich and delicious diet. All the best for your exciting, challenging and rewarding journey towards motherhood!
Article by Renée Leonard-Stainton, Naturopath & Nutritionist
Renée Naturally – www.reneenaturally.com