Baby Hints & Tips

General Nutritional requirements and guidelines in pre-conception and pregnancy

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Pregnant woman in kitchen making a salad and smilingThis article is part of our Healthy Body Healthy Mind series and is part 2 in our series on Achieving Optimal Nutrition and Health in Pre-Conception and Pregnancy

Expert tips by Amy Pearman BHSc (Nut Med) ANTA and owner of High on Natural Health

Consuming a wholefood diet

Wholefoods are foods that are as close to their natural form as possible without processing, additives, flavour enhancers, colourings or preservatives. These foods are nutrient-rich plant foods; high in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants and should be the major component of your diet, providing you with an array of nutrients needed for healthy preconception care and throughout pregnancy and helping to achieve the increased need for nearly all nutrients during these stages.

WholegrainsWholewheat, Spelt, Quinoa, Barley, rye, oats, brown rice, black rice.
VegetablesSelect a variety of different coloured vegetables, consuming a minimum of 5 servings/day and increasing intake to a minimum of 7 servings/day during pregnancy.Choose Seasonal and Organic produce, where possible,
FruitsConsume 2 -3 servings of fresh fruit daily.Choose seasonal and Organic produce, where possible.
LegumesChickpeas, split peas, lentils, beans; kidney, cannellini, borlotti, lima beans, black beans.
Nuts and seedsAlmonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, pepitas/pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds

 

*White breads, cakes, pastries, biscuits and other processed products have been refined and much of the nutrition has been lost also.

Protein

Protein is required by every cell in the body and is vital for the growth and development of all body tissues, especially the rapid growth of the foetus and female reproductive tissues such as the uterus, placenta and mammary glands. Obtaining the recommended amount of protein during pre-conception is important to optimise protein status before pregnancy occurs so your body has stores to draw on for the growth and development that occurs in the very early stages also, before you find out you are pregnant.

Pre-conception protein requirement = 1gm protein/kg body weight.Pregnancy protein requirement- As your weight increases, so should your protein intake based on the 1gm/kg body weight recommendation. Therefore based on a healthy weight gain during pregnancy of 15kgs, up to an extra 15gms protein would need to be included in your diet daily as the baby develops and your weight increases.

 

Protein should be included at every meal from quality and varied sources, including animal and plant sources. An increase, purely in animal proteins (red meats, chicken) does not influence pregnancy and fertility as positively or as as significantly as increasing protein from plant sources also.

Protein-rich foods are also generally good sources of other beneficial nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium and B vitamins.

Animal protein sourcesPlant protein sources
Red meat- Lamb, beef, kangaroo
Chicken
Turkey
Pork
Eggs
Dairy
Legumes
Wholegrains
TofuNuts
Seeds

 

Fats

Fats are important during pre-conception care and pregnancy, for both mother and baby, however the type of fats comprising this intake is specifically important.

Fats are vital for tissue growth and development of both the mother and baby and to promote optimal functioning of the reproductive system.  As the mother’s tissues are expanding it is important that the right types of fats are being consumed and incorporated into these tissues.  Additionally, the development of the baby’s nervous system; the cell membranes in nerve and brain tissue and maintenance of the mother’s nervous system and function relies on fats.

The type of fats that should be consumed are essential fats, omega-6 and omega-3; omega-3 being particularly important in these stages and discussed in greater detail in the following section.

Sources of other beneficial fats known as monounsaturated fats are: avocado, olives, extra virgin olive oil

Fats that need to be avoided during pre-conception and pregnancy are those known as trans-fats; found naturally in some animal products but more commonly produced during food processing practises and found in margarines, poor quality vegetable oils, pre-made salad dressings, some sauces and many processed and pre-packaged foods and take away.

Saturated fats found in animal products and dairy should not be consumed in excess.

A diet high in Trans –fats and saturated fats with a reduced intake of essential fats has been associated with ovulatory dys-regulation and anovulation (no ovulation) and should be avoided.

NEXT: Specific nutrient recommendations in preconception and pregnancy >>

Amy Pearman BHSc (Nut Med) ANTA is a registered nutritionist practising out of her newly opened natural health clinic on the Mornington Peninsula – High On Natural Health, where she provides private consultations in clinical nutrition for people of all ages with a holistic focus. You can email her here. To see all her articles, click here.

The information in this article is intended as a guide only for women who are planning to conceive or are pregnant and are in general good health. Women with poor nutrition and/or underlying health conditions, especially those directly linked to subfertility, such as Polycystic Ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and obesity, may require additional nutrition, dietary recommendations and advice from a health professional when planning to conceive.

 

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