Check Up: What to eat when you're pregnant

November 29, 2017

Dear Readers,

Marlene is pregnant and this is her first pregnancy at age 31. She writes that she has been experiencing early-morning nausea and sometimes vomiting, which sometimes lasts most of the day.

She is concerned about nourishing her baby when she is not eating well herself and she asks Check Up for suggestions for a good diet during pregnancy.

It is very important for the baby to grow and develop well in the uterus. To do this, the pregnant mother usually needs to consume 200 to 300 calories more than usual.

The pregnant woman should eat a variety of foods to obtain all the nutrients needed, including:

• 6 to 11 servings of breads and/or grains.

• 2 to 4 servings of fruits.

• 4 or more servings of vegetables.

• 4 servings of dairy products.

• 3 servings of protein sources (fish, chicken, meat, egg, nuts).

It is also good to take supplementary prenatal vitamins and minerals, and ensure that the diet and supplements include extra calcium, iron, vitamin C and folic acid.

This would include cheeses (especially cottage cheese), and sea foods such as codfish, salmon and shrimp.

Vitamin C can be obtained from oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, papaya, cauliflower and broccoli, while folate/folic acid is found in dark green leafy vegetables and legumes.

This acid helps prevent defects to the spinal cord. Iron is obtained from fortified breakfast cereals, grain products, lean meat, poultry, fish and green leafy vegetables.

Sources of Vitamin A are also important for fetal health and can be obtained from carrots, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.

Things to avoid when pregnant (they are linked with birth defects, premature deliveries, low birth weights and intellectual disabilities):

• Alcohol

• Limit caffeine to no more than a cup a day.

• Limit artificial sweeteners.

• Don't eat big sea fish such as mackerel or swordfish as they may contain mercury.

• Avoid raw fish and unpasteurised cheeses which may contain infection.

Try eating crackers, cereal or pretzels before getting out of bed to deal with morning sickness.

Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Avoid fatty, spicy, fried or greasy foods. Avoid foods which have an odour, as smells also frequently cause stomach upsets during this time.

To avoid constipation, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, drink more fluids, and use fibre supplements approved for pregnancy.

To avoid heartburn, eat smaller meal portions more frequently. Limit intake of acidic and citric drinks, and avoid coffee contained in foods and drinks, and limit spicy foods.

Food cravings are normal in pregnancy and most pregnant women will experience them! Go ahead and indulge for a while, but ensure that the dietary intake retains some balance.

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