The more I work with pregnant mama’s, the more I understand that no pregnancy is the same. It’s an amazing and complicated set of biochemical miracles that allow a lazy sperm (yes I said it) and a fantastic egg to bind and grow into a fully functioning human being. I love that often I’m the first to find out about pregnancies with my clients!
I’m also very passionate about teaching people that they do not have to allow stranger #8 to touch their stomach, that stranger #16 has no clue about the sex of their baby simply by the way they’re carrying, and that stranger #93’s horrendous birth stories are absolutely in no way appropriate to share with expectant mothers, nor a premonition of what they may go through. I welcome any pregnant mama and the people around them to tell stranger #321 to piss off when they ask “are you sure you’re not having twins as you’re very big?”
When it comes to food and nutrition through pregnancy, the guidelines can be confusing at best.
Without going into extensive detail in this article, we know now that your diet during pregnancy can set up your child’s health risks or benefits for the rest of their life – no pressure! We are also seeing evidence of poor diets contributing to mental health issues in children in their teenage years. Often things like soy, margarine, low fat dairy and breads fortified with folic acid are offered as healthy options and for many of you reading this article, those things wouldn’t touch your mouth, plate or shopping trolley and for good reason. If this is the case for you then those guidelines become redundant and useless, so apart from taking a quality supplement suitable for your growing bub, what else is important and where can you get it from?
Here is a list of common micronutrients that are crucial during pregnancy.
Definitely need to supplement this in the first month prior to conception and first trimester but food sources are just as important for the DNA, cell, spinal cord and brain development of baby. Get from cooked eggs, green leafy veg, broccoli, berries, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds.
Again, worth supplementing throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding as our NZ soils contain none, therefore our food contains none. Crucial for brain and cell development of your bub, and for keeping your brain and thyroid functioning also. You can get dietary sources from iodised salt, kelp, seaweed, and cooked fish and seafood.
You can’t grow a new human safely without a lot of blood to fill that human up and if you don’t have enough iron to do so, your energy levels and immunity will suffer. Cooked red meat, eggs, legumes that have been well prepared, and green leafy veg are all great options. It’s about small portions more regularly for absorption, rather than eating one iron rich meal once per day. Adding vitamin C rich foods like red capsicum and citrus will also help absorption.
The more we research this, the more we understand this to be just as crucial as folate for spinal cord building and brain function. Found in egg yolks especially and some meat, fish and wholegrains. Make sure your pregnancy supplement contains choline and start taking it before conception.
Required for growing a healthy bub and bone structure, but did you know it’s far more crucial to ensure you’re getting extra so that your own bones aren’t broken down to fuel bub’s growth. We often don’t think about osteoporosis but trust me, it’s something you want to prevent. Great sources are fish bones from small fish, green leafy veg, almonds, sesame seeds, amaranth and of course, quality full fat dairy.
I often have to supplement this, especially in winter pregnancy months or with a baby who will be breast fed and born in the middle of winter. This hormone-like vitamin is so crucial for both baby’s growth, nerve and muscle cells, and to reduce risk factors of pregnancy complications. If you can eat extra mushrooms, oily fish and egg yolk combined with plenty of morning sunshine on as much skin as possible without burning then this is a good start. Vitamin D is a cheap and very safe pregnancy supplement I’d strongly ensure is in your multi, or taken separately if not.
You cannot get this from your plants, so you need to eat animal products, nutritional yeast or products that have been fortified, or take a supplement. My top food sources are organic or grass fed meats, cooked eggs, cooked fish, and full fat dairy. This crucial vitamin helps to produce blood cells and DNA.
To build immunity and cells in baby and to ensure you’ve got some immunity cells functioning too, plus to help skin renew and scars heal. Found in eggs, nuts and seeds especially pumpkin and walnut, and cooked seafood.
Omega 3 fatty acids (known as DHA and EPA)
Important for healthy brain development and cell structure during gestation. Found in fatty fish, eggs, flaxseed and flaxseed oil. I often supplement with quality DHA/EPA from Metagenics that is tested and ensured it’s pure and without mercury. Never buy your fish oil from the supermarket or pharmacy!
So how do you get all these nutrients from these foods into one day?
This little menu guide is a great way to include pregnancy friendly foods.
Scrambled free range eggs with chopped kale/spinach and pan-fried salmon on nut and seed bread and a kiwifruit on the side.
Home made guacamole with lemon juice and steamed broccoli pieces with a handful of nuts and seeds.
Organic chicken drumsticks or roasted chicken thighs with roasted vegetable salad (capsicum, onion, pumpkin, kumara, cauliflower) topped with flaxseed oil, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and kelp salt.
Small green smoothie with spinach, banana, greek yoghurt, blueberries, cashews, chia, avocado and LSA blended with side of banana bread.
Venison/lamb meatballs on mixed green veg, with fresh mango, avocado and coriander salsa to top.
In regards to supplementing, I prescribe based on an individual need. For the best quality I also only use activated B supplement forms in my preconception, pregnancy and breast feeding supplements now based on the growing evidence on old folic acid simply not being good enough, and also being a risk factor in those with recurrent miscarriages or methylation issues. If you’re concerned at all about the pregnancy supplement you’re taking, check in with a qualified professional.