Pregnancy is often seen as a time to forget the diets and eat what you like but, this is the time to get ahead and ensure you are eating a nutritious and balanced diet to give your baby the best start. And, it doesn’t stop when your beautiful baby says hello to the world - diet and nutrition are just as important. So, whether you are trying for a baby, have a bump well on the way, or you have just welcomed your precious newborn into the family, here are my top nutritional tips:
This is a really important time for nutrition. How many of us have heard, said or secretly thought “Now I’m pregnant I can eat what I like!’ I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but whilst there are indeed two of you, your body is more efficient during pregnancy and you don’t need to eat extra calories for the first two trimesters. However, it is a time to make sure the calories we do take in are of the best quality.
Folate rich foods are the goal in the first trimester; opt for fortified cereals, oranges or orange juice, spinach leaf salad, asparagus with dips and wholemeal bread.
Eggs and cheese are not just good sources of protein, they are also a really good source of Vitamin A, which will help you ward off infection and aid the development of your baby’s organs.
You should also avoid raw or undercooked eggs, and mould-ripened or soft blue-veined cheeses.
Monitor the cravings
Not all women get cravings and there is no real scientific evidence as to why some women do, though hormone changes are likely to play a part. You can indulge your 2am desire for ice cream or gherkins (or maybe both together) without any real cause for concern but occasionally women report cravings for non-food items such as chalk. This is called Pica and you should speak with your doctor or midwife if you find yourself salivating over soap.
It’s all about bones! You and your baby need calcium rich foods, and Vitamin D to help you absorb them. Your baby is developing teeth and bones and you need to ensure your calcium stores are stocked for both of you for the duration of your pregnancy. You may have been advised to take a Vitamin D supplement to ensure you are getting the recommended dosage.
Sardines on toast are an excellent bone-boosting snack in your second trimester; the edible soft bones in the fish are crammed full of calcium as well as omega-3 fatty acids and iron (making them great for eye and brain development as well as bones).
Dairy is the default calcium choice with milk based drinks and yoghurt being obvious choices. Almond milk or soya are good alternatives if you have a non-dairy diet.
As well as milk, your other magic ‘M’ to remember is magnesium which helps convert food to energy. Pumpkin or sunflower seeds and baked potatoes are easy ways to get your fill, and flavoursome too!
Now this is where you get to eat more! 200 calories a day, and some additional B vitamins and vitamin C too.
Vitamin C is really important but can be lost in the cooking process so raw or lightly steamed veggies are best; you might want to try carrot, celery or red pepper crudités dipped in salsa, guacamole or hummus. Tomatoes, strawberries, kiwi and citrus fruits are also great choices. Vitamin C helps your placenta to develop and work properly, aids the absorption of iron, keeps your immune system tip top and protects against cell damage.
B-group vitamins are found in fortified cereals, pork (thiamine), ham, green veg, brown rice, granary toast and beans; shedding new light on the old favourite beans on toast!
Staying hydrated throughout pregnancy is as important as staying well fed, particularly in the third trimester when constipation can become a problem. Keeping your fluid intake up can help keep things moving along. Plenty of fibre rich wholegrains, fruit and veg will all help too.
If you’re breastfeeding you will continue to be you baby’s only or main source of nutrition for up to six months which is a huge responsibility. Your baby’s weight gain will continue to zoom upwards so this means continuing to eat well, both for your baby and for yourself. And it’s not just extra calories that are needed – your body’s requirement for lots of different nutrients increases. My advice would be to continue to follow a balanced diet but also have these particular nutrients front of mind:
It’s not surprising that the requirement for calcium increases when breast-feeding. Aim for 4-5 servings of dairy foods or other calcium-rich foods each day.
This is another nutrient that can fall short when breastfeeding. It’s recommended that you continue to take a supplement to keep your all-important Vitamin D levels topped up.
Omega-3 fats continue to be hugely important as they provide a component of your baby’s brain, eyes and nerves, which continue to grow and develop after birth. Eat oil-rich fish, though no more than two portions each week.
While you are breastfeeding, your fluid requirements skyrocket so just remember to always have water to hand and stay hydrated.
MARINATED CHICKEN BREASTS WITH SOY ORANGE SAUCE
Prep: 20 minutes (excluding marinating time)
Cook: 25-30 minutes
Makes: 2 portions
100ml orange juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp ginger, grated
1 tbsp honey
2 chicken breasts, skin on
1 tbsp olive oil
150ml chicken stock
1 tsp cornflour
Salt and pepper
- To make the marinade; measure the orange juice, garlic, soy, ginger and marmalade in a bowl. Stir to combine. Add the chicken breasts. Cover and marinate in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight if possible.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade. Preheat the oven to 200C /180 Fan/ Gas 6.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan. Fry the chicken skin side down for a few minutes until golden, turn over and fry for another minute. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
- Sieve the marinade into the frying pan. Bring to the boil and reduce by half. Add the stock and reduce again. Mix the cornflour with a little cold water. Add to the sauce and stir to thicken. Season with salt and pepper and serve with the chicken.
- If liked, serve with a steamed green vegetable such as pak choi.
SALMON AND PEA KEDGEREE
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 30-40 minutes
Makes: 4 portions
Suitable for freezing
200g basmati rice
150g frozen peas
500g skinless salmon fillet
4 tbsp water
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp korma curry paste
2 tbsp chopped coriander (optional)
4 tbsp toasted flaked almonds (optional)
Salt and pepper
- Cook the rice according to the packet instructions. Add the peas for the last few minutes of cooking. Drain, spread out on a plate and cool slightly.
- Put the salmon in a microwavable dish with 4 tablespoons of water and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, plus a little salt and pepper. Cover, leaving a steam vent, and cook for 2-4 minutes on High, or until just cooked through. Alternatively you can poach the salmon in a saucepan in fish stock for about 8-10 minutes. Transfer the salmon to a plate and flake into chunks. Reserve the cooking liquid.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and sauté the onion for 8-10 minutes, until golden. Stir in the curry paste and cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and stir in the rice and peas. Season and stir in the remaining lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of the salmon cooking liquid. Gently fold in the fish.
- To serve, stir through chopped coriander and sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds, if using.