A mother’s nutritional intake plays an important (and modifiable) role during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a time of significant physical growth and change, for mother and baby, from conception, through birth and beyond.
During this time, nature takes over and there is much that requires a certain degree of surrender to let the body do what it needs to, to grow a person. In saying that, nutritional intake provides the raw materials to optimally support the physical processes that occur during each trimester.
Nutritional intake refers to both the quantity and quality of what is consumed, more specifically the amount of energy, macro and micronutrients, and general nutritional density of what is ingested each day and week.
Why is nutritional intake important during pregnancy?
Nutritional intake is a vital consideration during pregnancy because it strongly influences:
- The normal growth and development of the baby
- The health and capacity of the mother’s body to support the baby’s growth
- The ability of the mother’s body to recover during the postpartum phase
For more information on Post-Partum nourishment click here.
What do macronutrients do during pregnancy?
The macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and each play an important part of supporting healthy pregnancy outcomes for mother and baby.
Carbohydrates are an energy source for both the mother and baby along with being important to support general reproductive health.
As it is the only macronutrient that can increase blood sugar levels, and elevated blood sugar levels can lead to suboptimal outcomes for both mother and baby, moderate carbohydrate intake from whole food sources is recommended during pregnancy.
Good sources include vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, and some dairy foods.
Key carbohydrate tips:
- Don’t avoid them – they are not the root of all nutritional evil!
- Don’t eat excessive amounts
- Focus on unprocessed, wholefood-based sources
- Minimise refined sources (high sugar or white flour-based foods, juices, soft drinks)
Protein can be considered literally the building blocks of life, as each of the mother’s existing cells needs protein to function and the baby’s cells need it to grow and function normally. Therefore, it makes sense that protein needs to increase during pregnancy to support the significant growth taking place.
Good sources include animal (red meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, cheese, yoghurt, collagen, protein powders) and vegetarian (lentils, beans, tofu, nuts).
Key protein tips:
- Quality is key – get your protein from whole food sources
- Good quality protein or collagen powders can be used but they should not be the primary source of protein intake – think of them as playing a supporting role rather than the main event.
Fats (essential fatty acids – EPA and DHA) are also building blocks for the baby’s growing cells. Remember that 60% of the baby’s brain is made from fat and this is being formed by the type of fat eaten by the mother during pregnancy. It is also the raw material for each cell in the body and is an important source of energy and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).
Good sources of fats include avocado, nuts and seeds (whole or as butters), olives, olive oil, eggs, meat, and dairy foods.
Key fat tips:
- Quality is key – source fats from wholefoods
- Limit intake of fats from processed foods.
What about micronutrients? They are important during pregnancy too.
Micronutrients refer to vitamins and minerals found in carbohydrate, protein, and fat wholefoods such as those mentioned above (and in fortified processed foods).
An overall nutritionally dense diet is recommended, however particular nutrients that are important during pregnancy include:
While your nutrient intake plays an important role in a healthy pregnancy, it is not about eating perfectly every day, it’s more about overall diet quality.