What to Avoid
What to Eat in Pregnancy
A healthy diet is important for you and your baby. Although your dietary energy requirements will increase a small amount, it is important that you do not ‘eat for two’ and that you do not see the pregnancy as a chance to ‘let yourself go’ with regard to your diet. A healthy diet can ensure a healthy amount of weight gain and to minimise the risk of diabetes in pregnancy. Avoiding excessive weight gain will also leave you with less to lose after the pregnancy.
Being overweight or obese carries additional risks in pregnancy such as diabetes, high blood pressure and difficulties with the birth, and so if you are already overweight, maintaining your current weight with minimal gain may be an appropriate goal. Crash diets or rapid weight loss are not recommended in pregnancy, and an optimal weight goal can be discussed during your visits.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013) recommend the following:
Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five food groups every day:
Plenty of vegetables of different types and colours, and legumes/beans
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
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat
Note: You get plenty of fats and oils from the amount used with cereal foods and from meat, eggs, cheese, peanut butter, margarine, etc so fats and oils aren’t included separately.
Eat less of:
Meat pies, sausage rolls and fried hot chips
Potato crisps, savoury snacks, biscuits and crackers
Processed meats like salami, bacon and sausages
Cakes, muffins, sweet biscuits and muesli bars
Confectionary (lollies) and chocolate
Ice-cream and desserts, cream and butter
Jam and honey
I would recommend you aim to eat fresh rather than processed foods where possible. For example meats, fish, fruit, nuts, seeds or grains, plenty of salads and vegetables rather than foods from tins or packets which are more likely to have added fats, sugar or salt. Organic produce may be free of the small amounts of pesticides and fertilisers used in commercial farming but has not been shown to have any health benefits so are down to personal preference.
What to Drink in Pregnancy
Avoid sugary drinks or sports drinks which will increase your sugar levels.
Preferably drink water or occasional diet drinks.
Drink enough to quench your thirst and to be passing adequate amounts of pale straw coloured urine. If your urine is dark you may be inadequately hydrated - our bodies are good at telling us how much we need and there is no benefit to over-drinking large amounts of water.
Around 8 glasses per day is reasonable, but the amount will depend on your activity and the weather. Large amounts of caffeine have been associated with miscarriage in the first trimester. Avoid drinking more than 2 cups of tea or coffee per day.
Foods to Avoid in Pregnancy
Many products are promoted as low fat indicating they are perhaps healthier. This is not always the case as they are often loaded with sugar. Check the labels. Low fat yoghurt is usually OK, but low fat lollies or snack bars are high in sugar. Small amounts of naturally occurring fats such as butter, cheese or olive oil are fine to take in moderation. Avoid raw eggs or eggs with a runny yolk. This is to avoid the risk of Salmonella. Eat only a small amount of liver, if any at all, to minimise Vitamin A toxicity.
The Victorian Health Department advises:
Fish has a number of nutritional benefits. However, because mercury levels in some fish tend to be higher than in others, it is recommended that in becoming pregnant and during pregnancy, you limit consumption of certain fish to a maximum of four portions (150gm per portion) per week. These fish include shark/flake, ray, swordfish, barramundi, gemfish, orange roughy, ling, southern blue fin tuna and fish caught in geothermal waters.
You can eat other fish, including canned tuna, as often as you like. Where possible eat a variety of fish.
Listeria & Toxoplasmosis
The Victorian guideline ‘Thinking About Pregnancy’ states:
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite. This parasite is found in raw meat and in the faeces of cats that eat raw meat. Toxoplasmosis in pregnancy can cross the placenta and result in miscarriage, damage to the baby’s nervous system and rarely death of the child/infant.
In Australia there have been very few cases of newborn babies affected by toxoplasmosis. In those cases, most of the babies had either a very mild illness or no symptoms at all. If you have contact with cats or raw meat it is important you minimise the risk of toxoplasmosis by:
Using good food handling techniques, including hand washing
Cleaning any soil from food for eating
Cooking meat right through
Ensuring cat faeces and litter is disposed of daily
Where possible avoid cleaning litter trays and contact with cats
Wearing gloves when in contact with soil and/or cleaning out the ‘kitty litter’
Washing hands thoroughly after gardening, cleaning out ‘kitty litter’ or handling pets.
Listeria infection is caused by bacteria called Listeria monocytogene. These bacteria have been found in raw meat, raw vegetables and some processed foods. Although listeria infection is very uncommon, infection can result in miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth.
You can help prevent listeria infection by:
Good food handling techniques, including hand washing, wash fruit and vegetables
Eating safe foods (such as freshly cooked food, hard cheese)
Avoiding high risk foods such as soft cheeses (e.g. Camembert, Brie, chèvre and soft blue cheese), pre-prepared coleslaw and pate.
Avoiding contact with any animal afterbirth.
Processed cheese, cottage cheese and cheese spreads such as Philadelphia are safe.
Exercise in Pregnancy
I strongly recommend that you develop or maintain your fitness in pregnancy with regular exercise three times a week. Exercise may help reduce the risk of diabetes and blood pressure problems, minimise excess weight gain, and is associated with a greater sense of wellbeing. There are a few important factors to consider.
You should not exercise to the point of exhaustion in pregnancy. Excessive exercise has been associated with miscarriage in early pregnancy. Guides to how far to push yourself include either achieving a level of 7 out of 10 (where 10 would be maximum exertion) or using the ‘talk test’ (ie still able to hold a conversation whilst exercising).
Avoid high impact sports or where there is a risk of injury (e.g. horse riding, skiing, combat sports)
Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, jogging and weight bearing exercises are fine.
You may be more prone to muscular injury or losing your balance
You should stop if you feel any unusual symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, palpitations or pain.
You may be advised not to exercise at all, in such cases as previous pregnancy complications or pregnancy loss, placenta praevia, preterm birth or blood pressure problems.
My wife, Jo Ford is a pregnancy specific personal trainer. She runs small group exercise classes that include a mixture of cardiovascular, strength training and pelvic floor exercises, plus pregnancy meditation. Contact her on 0414 781826 to find out about times and locations. Or check out her website: www.bodybump.com.au
Healthy Weight Gain in Pregnancy
A moderate weight gain is normal in pregnancy. On average, 12-14kg is a healthy amount to gain in total. There are risks associated with excessive weight gain or excessive weight loss in pregnancy.
Body size is calculated using the Body Mass Index (BMI) this is your weight divided by the square of your height in meters.
Eg. If height is 1.7m and weight is 70kg, BMI = 70 / (1.7x1.7) = 24
Online calculators are easily found or see below.
A number of institutions have recommended target weight gains in pregnancy that are associated with the best outcomes. If you are a normal weight, you would be expected to gain just under half a kilogram per week in the second half of the pregnancy. Do not become too stressed if your weight gain is not exactly in this range, consider this as a guide only.
Once you know your BMI, you can use the following as a guide
Weight gain target: 12.5 - 18 kg
Classification: Normal weight
Weight gain target: 11.5 - 16 kg
Weight gain target: 7 - 11.5 kg
Classification: Obese I
Weight gain target: 5 - 9 kg
Classification: Obese II
Weight gain target: Minimal
BMI less than 18.5
35 or more