A balanced diet during pregnancy

A balanced diet during pregnancy

Nutrition is one of the fundamental necessities for the well-being of a pregnant woman and her child. Certain micro-nutrients are essential for both mother and child. A balanced diet, consisting mainly of fresh products, covers these new needs.

An increase in micro-nutritional requirements

Pregnancy increases the body's need for most micro-nutrients. What are they for?

First of all, to prepare the mother-to-be’s body for pregnancy. Indeed, the formation of new tissues (placenta, amniotic fluid, extension of the blood mass...) consumes vitamins and minerals. Certain metabolic changes also increase the micro-nutritional expenditure.

Secondly, of course, to help the baby to grow and develop whilst building up nutritional reserves.

Are some foods allowed and others not recommended?

Pregnancy can be compared to a journey with the baby’s birth the destination. At each growth stage, nutritional needs are different. Added to which may be certain conditions relating to health issues (diabetes, or non-immunisation to toxoplasmosis for example) which may mean some foods must be avoided.

There is no such thing as a “pregnancy diet”. It is generally advised that foods such as seafood, raw fish (sushi) and insufficiently cooked eggs, cooked meats, unpasteurised cheeses and fruit juices should be avoided...anything that could cause food poisoning. Equally, processed foods such as industrially-produced cakes, milk products containing additives or sugar substitutes should also be avoided. There is no question that harmful substances should be eliminated from the diet. During pregnancy you should neither drink alcohol nor smoke. It is advisable to avoid household products, food-grade plastics and other products containing endocrine disrupters.

Increasingly, pregnant women are turning towards a more natural approach, and good nutrition is the core element of this approach. What should I eat during pregnancy? This is one of the most frequent questions asked, to which the reply is very simply: "with common sense"!

An iron-rich diet during pregnancy?

A diet that ensures a balanced iron level is rich in proteins and amino acids (meat, fish and legumes) combined with foods rich in vitamin C, which helps to fix the iron (fruit, green leafy vegetables). Iron-rich foods are proteins from either animal or vegetable source (meat, fish, legumes, eggs, wholemeal cereals).

A diet which provides plenty of trace elements

Minerals and trace elements, cofactors of enzymatic reactions, have a supportive role in the metabolism whether or not you are pregnant.

Certain minerals like magnesium play a role in transporting and using glucose, and intakes are variable depending on the diet. This is why the diet of a pregnant woman should include trace elements found in walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds or rapeseed.

Calcium is also a very important nutrient. Requirements increase during the third trimester. Pasteurised dairy products are a major source of calcium, along with tofu, almonds, spinach and other green vegetables. To benefit from maximum uptake, it is important to also consume vitamin D, which facilitates the absorption of calcium, by regularly eating oily fish (sardines, mackerel, which are all rich
in omega-3...).

Vitamins B6 and B9 during pregnancy

These two vitamins are closely involved in the various physiological phenomena that occur during pregnancy. Oestrogen activity in early pregnancy increases the need for vitamin B6, whose role is to help regulate hormonal activity. Vitamin B9 (folic acid or folates) supports the growth of maternal tissue during pregnancy and the normal formation of blood. It also plays in important role in the development of the baby’s nervous system. Folates are found in large quantities in brewer's yeast, spinach, watercress, lamb's lettuce, legumes (chickpeas) and leafy vegetables.

What should I eat during the first trimester?

At the start of pregnancy, nausea will sometimes disrupt your appetite. Small amounts of food taken throughout the day can reduce this. Foods should be chosen for their carbohydrate content (such as pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.). Priority should be given to lightly cooked fresh vegetables, not too many spices and even less fried or processed foods, which generally contain too much salt.

Some pregnant women swing between cravings and aversions during their first trimester. If the craving is for fruit and vegetables, why resist? More often though, they tend to crave fatty or sugary foods (chocolate, ice cream or savoury biscuits). If this is the case, they should eat healthy snacks regularly throughout the day.

Food aversions combined with nausea can curb the appetite but this is not the right time to start a diet! Avoiding food you dislike is natural, but you should compensate the deprivation of one food with another. For example, if meat becomes an aversion, it is important that amino acids and proteins are provided by another source, such as eggs or fish.

What should I eat in the second and third trimesters?

Les besoins nutritionnels s'accroissent avec le développement de l'enfant et la préparation du corps maternel à l'accouchement et à l'allaitement. Les recommandations du Programme national nutrition santé (PPNS) ne vont pas dans le sens d'une augmentation systématique des apports caloriques mais plutôt d'une écoute de ses besoins et d'une diversification des aliments pour que bébé grandisse harmonieusement. Les besoins caloriques augmentent au premier trimestre de 0 à 100 calories consommées par jour, puis environ 340 calories au deuxième trimestre et 450 calories au troisième. La prise de poids se situe idéalement à 12 kg (3 ou 4 de plus avec des jumeaux).

Certaines femmes subissent des remontées acides pendant le 3e trimestre de la grossesse du fait de la compression des organes digestifs. Il est possible de les limiter en évitant les repas trop copieux, les aliments gras et sucrés, de s'allonger immédiatement après le repas...

What should a pregnant woman drink?

Water, water and more water! The mother-to-be and her baby need a lot of water. A minimum of 1.5 to 2 litres per day of pure water, without adding any sugar (such as syrup, fruit juice etc.).

Drinking more water or herbal tea, eating more fibre and taking exercise is a good way to avoid constipation. Coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and energy drinks should be avoided.

What should I eat while pregnant?

The diet in pregnancy is not just a matter of calculating calories. The nutritional quality of food and drink is essential. The list of foods is extensive and you don't need a diet manual to combine health and pregnancy.

Here are the nutritional “musts” for the months to come:

  • as often as possible, eat organic and/or locally produced products
  • lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (half a plateful at each meal)
  • wholemeal cereals (no more white flour!)
  • pasteurised milk and dairy products
  • small oily fish (sardines, mackerel), avoid the larger varieties such as tuna, swordfish etc.
  • oil-producing seeds (all nuts, almonds, hazelnuts)
  • virgin cooking oils (first-press)