Food & Nutrition
by Allison Martineau
Trying to figure out what you should – or shouldn’t – eat during pregnancy can feel like trying to navigate a maze that keeps on changing. With the jungle of conflicting advice out there, wading through it (during a 3 a.m. bout of insomnia, perhaps?) is overwhelming more often than not. In this and future posts on food and nutrition Bloom’s go-to nutrition pro, Allison Martineau, will help you sort through it all, build confidence in your food choices, and learn how to fuel yourself best for a healthy pregnancy and postpartum period.
Top 6 foods for a healthy pregnancy
These six foods are not only nourishing and important in helping grow healthy babies, but have the added bonus of making you feel good and can help alleviate many pregnancy related issues.
Can’t I just take a prenatal multi-vitamin and call it a day?
Not necessarily. While multi vitamins can be helpful for those with a clear nutrient deficiency, recent research suggests prenatal vitamins may not be necessary for everyone. New recommendations only highlight folic acid, Vitamin D and iron supplementation.
One reason not to give a blanket recommendation for prenatal vitamins to everyone is the varying quality of vitamin and supplement brands. There can also be a false sense of assurance that a prenatal vitamin will cancel out a poor diet: it won’t. We can’t get all our nourishment from supplements; we need food.
You may have heard health experts emphasize the nutrients you need during pregnancy, such as more iron, calcium or DHA. But what use is knowing the nutrients if you don’t know what FOODS will give you these nutrients?
So, without further ado, here are some of my top 6 foods for a healthy pregnancy:
Eggs (and more protein in general)
Eggs are a good source of protein, which is essential in pregnancy not just because every cell of your baby is made of protein but also because eating more protein can help alleviate morning sickness and nausea. Eggs are also filled with disease fighting nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, as well as vitamins and minerals including folic acid, vitamin B12, selenium and choline, which helps develop your baby’s brain and spinal cord properly. Some vegetarian sources of protein include legumes (see number 4 on this list), quinoa, dairy for non-vegans, and hemp seeds.
Fermented foods – like yogurt, sauerkraut, and pickled vegetables – can help strengthen the immune systems of both the mother and baby. These probiotic rich foods also promote a healthy digestive system, which can help combat heartburn and other gastro-intestinal complaints. Fermented foods are also helpful in reducing nausea and their sour taste is often more palatable to those experiencing nausea, particularly in the first trimester.
If you eat fish while pregnant, you’re giving your growing fetus a multitude of important nutrients. Fish contains high quality protein as well as other vitamins and minerals important for both your and your baby’s health. Fish also contain omega 3 fats, specifically EPA and DHA, which are hard to get from other sources and are very important in helping your baby’s brain development.
Health Canada recommends that women eat at least five ounces of cooked fish a week during pregnancy. Choose types of fish that generally have low levels of mercury contamination, such as salmon, trout, herring, haddock or canned light tuna.
If you’re a vegetarian, you can include a high quality algae-based supplement and increase your consumption of seeds with favourable omega 3 to omega 6 ratios, such as flax, chia and hemp.
Legumes, such as lentils or beans, are a good source of protein, fibre and iron. Getting enough fibre during pregnancy is important in maintaining a healthy digestive tract and can help prevent discomforts like constipation or hemorrhoids. Make sure to increase your water consumption as you up your fibre intake to help keep things moving along (ahem) smoothly. Another tip: try adding vitamin C rich foods (such as tomatoes, bell peppers or greens) with your beans or lentils. Vitamin C helps aid the absorption of iron found in these legumes.
Berries and fruit
Not only do most women enjoy eating fruit during pregnancy, but it packs a nutritional punch as well. Berries in particular are rich in fibre, vitamin C and are chock full of antioxidants claiming countless gains for both mom and baby. Include an assortment of berries in your diet to get the best variety of benefits.
Greens (such as spinach, kale and swiss chard) are more than just an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamins K, C and A; they are also a good source of iron and are rich in the mineral magnesium, which can help with three of the more common pregnancy complaints: sleeplessness, nausea, and leg cramps.
Allison Martineau holds a Masters degree in Nutrition and Public Health. She has worked as a nutrition educator specializing in pediatric nutrition and obesity prevention and treatment. She is also a labour and postpartum doula, working with women and their families during pregnancy, birth and beyond. She lives in Toronto with her partner and two young children.
Website coming soon! In the meantime, you can reach her at AllisonMartineauNutrition@gmail.com.