Everything you eat and drink when you’re pregnant is absorbed by your gut and transported through the fetal circulation system to your baby’s developing organs.
Ideally, the food should be full of ‘good nutrients’ like fatty acids, simple carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals, which will ensure your baby has all it needs to grow strong and healthy. Basically if mum’s healthy, baby will be too! Here are some basic guidelines to help you choose foods are best for your unborn baby.
Eat from the five food groups
During pregnancy, both you and your growing baby need extra nutrients, so eating healthy foods from the five food groups is important. These include:
- Vegetables of different types and colours
- Fruit of different types and colours
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties, such as breads, cereals, rice,
pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, legumes and beans
- Mostly reduced fat milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives
And don’t forget to drink plenty of water to remain hydrated and healthy.
Folic acid (folate)
The B vitamin folate is important during pregnancy because it’s one of the few nutrients known to prevent neural tube birth defects like spina bifida. The National Health and Medical Research Council recommend that:
- Women who are thinking about pregnancy or are in the first trimester, should take a supplement of 400 µg of folic acid a day
- Women who are in their second or third trimester, should take a supplement of 600 µg of folic acid a day
- Women who are lactating, should take a supplement of 500 µg of folic acid a day
You should also try and eat plenty of folate-rich foods, including:
- Fresh green leafy vegetables
- Chickpeas and dried beans
- Asparagus and broccoli
- Foods with added folic acid, including some breakfast cereals, bread and juices
Iodine is an important mineral needed for the production of the thyroid hormone, which assists with your baby’s growth and development. Inadequate iodine intake during pregnancy can increase the risk of mental impairment in newborn babies. Foods that are good sources of iodine include:
- Seafood and seaweed (including nori and kelp)
- Eggs, meat and dairy products
- Iodised salt (although you should avoid adding salt at the table or in cooking)
- Commercially sold bread, with the exception of organic and unleavened bread
During pregnancy, a woman’s iron requirements increase because the developing foetus draws iron from its mother to last it through the first five or six months after birth. Iron-rich foods:
- Meat, chicken and seafood
- Dried beans and lentils
- Green leafy vegetables
Did you know?
Vitamin B9 (folate) is required for numerous body functions including DNA synthesis and repair, cell division, and cell growth.