Stefanie Valakas, Dietitian, Baulkham Hills NSW
19 September 2018
If you are (or have ever been) pregnant, it seems that advice about what to do, eat, buy and pack comes from every which direction. From well-meaning family members and friends, health professionals, the internet, social media, the media and sometimes even strangers!
As a dietitian with a special interest in pregnancy and fertility nutrition, I thought I’d bust some of the top myths about eating well during pregnancy.
5 myths about nutrition during pregnancy
1. Eating for two
Eating enough to meet the needs of growing and sustaining the extra tissues, fluids and of course your developing baby is most definitely key in pregnancy nutrition. However, it’s definitely not anywhere near double what you ate before pregnancy!
In fact, in the first trimester you do not need anything extra than your usual, unless your weight was low before you were pregnant. Instead, focus on the extra nutrients that you need to help support baby, such as folate from green veggies (and also from your prenatal vitamin) and omega-3 fats. Also ensuring you’re getting enough vitamin D as well as setting up positive eating and activity habits.
2. No coffee
Whilst reducing your caffeine intake during pregnancy is a good idea, you don’t have to go cold turkey! Up to 200 mg of caffeine per day is considered the safe upper limit for pregnancy, which is about 1-2 espresso coffees a day. Some women choose just to ditch the golden liquid all together, and opt for herbal tea instead.
A hot chocolate during your second or third trimester may be another option if you’re used to drinking 3 or more coffees a day, this will provide you with a nutritious serving of dairy.
3. No fish
Avoiding fish altogether during your pregnancy, especially the oily fish varieties such as salmon and trout, will deprive you of an essential type of fat, omega-3s! Unfortunately, our bodies cannot make this type of fat, meaning you have to eat sources of omega-3 fats regularly to meet your needs.
New research continues to emerge showing the benefits of getting enough omega-3 fats, with marine sources being ideal, before and during pregnancy to help your baby’s brain develop and new research has shown that supplementing with omega-3s can reduce the risk of pre-term birth! So, it’s definitely important to include omega-3s either through oily fish, walnuts, chia seeds, eggs and legumes or beans. If you don’t eat fish, or don’t eat it regularly, get in touch with Stefanie, to discuss supplementation.
In the case of fish during pregnancy, it’s all about the type and the cooking method! Avoiding fish that contains high levels of mercury such as flake (or shark), catfish, orange roughy/deep sea perch, broadbill/swordfish or marlin. Ensuring, all fish that you eat is cooked through well to avoid any risk of food poisoning. This is simply because your baby is more susceptible to any of the nasty bacteria that we usually don’t have a problem with, so enjoy fish & seafood that is well-cooked and avoid any that is raw or not cooked through.
4. Don’t exercise
A common myth is to reduce your physical activity when pregnant, however, for most women, it is safe and encouraged to be active to maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy. It is a great way to get the benefits of endorphins, relaxation and a better night’s sleep! It also helps prepare your body for labour (you’re probably going to sweat!) and sets up great routines post-baby arrival.
Going for walks and swims are gentle forms of exercise that will help maintain your fitness and prepare you for labour. Consider joining local prenatal exercise or yoga classes in your second and third trimesters are just some ideas to get you started.
It is still a good idea to discuss your exercise plan with your doctor and/or physiotherapist, in terms of intensity and appropriate types of activity as you progress during your pregnancy, and follow their advice – especially if any complications pop-up along the way.
5. Eat whatever you like, you’re growing a baby!
Pregnancy is a great time to eat a really nourishing diet, it’s important that you get enough energy and nutrients from your food (as well as your prenatal supplement), which means ensuring you’re eating mostly from the five core food groups day-to-day. Those are: fruits, vegetables, grains & cereals, dairy foods and lean meats and alternatives (seafood, eggs, nuts & seeds, tofu, legumes & beans).
If you’re feeling fatigued especially in the first and third trimesters, use the times when you’re feeling energised to batch cook meals in advance and freeze them in the portions you’ll eat to save yourself having to cook everyday!
Want some more information about healthy eating during pregnancy?
Check out the link to this resource of the National Health and Medical Research Council https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/The%20Guidelines/n55h_healthy_eating_during_pregnancy.pdf
If you’d like a comprehensive nutrition assessment to help you prepare for a pregnancy or during your pregnancy, call the The Talbot Centre on (02) 8814 5703 to book an appointment with Stefanie, our dietitian with a special interest in nutrition for pregnancy and fertility.
Dietitian, Baulkham Hills NSW
Stefanie has a strong interest and passion for paediatric nutrition, with a focus on creating positive behaviours and habits around food from childhood leading to a positive relationship with food in adulthood. Stefanie also has an interest in perinatal and fertility nutrition and general nutrition support across the ages and works with a wide range of nutritional concerns, assisting individuals and families to navigate the confusing world of nutrition successfully.