When you're pregnant, it doesn't always mean you're eating for two.
Yes, a growing baby benefits from a mother's diet throughout the day, but many health experts say nutrition during pregnancy should be about adding extra nutrients, as opposed to extra meals.
"Eating for two is a myth. Definitely during the first trimester, women do not need to eat extra calories," says Anar Allidina, a registered dietitian based in Richmond Hill, Ont. "Women need about 340 calories more per day in the second trimester and 450 calories a day in the third."
Instead, Allidina says pregnancy is a crucial time for women to eat more iron, calcium, protein, vitamins A, B and C, folate, magnesium, selenium (required for the thyroid gland) and zinc. All these nutrients, she points out, can be found in fresh produce and lean protein.
But what about those cravings that are so closely associated with pregnancy? You may have heard stories about women waking up in the middle of the night craving chocolate chip ice cream or read about strange non-food cravings like soil, charcoal and cigarette ashes, but as it turns out, some women don't have cravings at all.
"The taste and smell of certain foods are more sensitive when you're pregnant and this is due to hormones. However, no research has yet to prove why women get cravings. Cravings of non-food items such as ice and laundry starch (also known as pica), have been linked to iron deficiency instead," Allidina tells The Huffington Post Canada.
According to a survey by BabyCentre.com, 40 per cent of women craved something sweet, while 33 per cent craved something salty. And some types of food were more popular than others: 17 per cent of women craved Mexican food and spicy cuisines, while 10 per cent craved citrus fruits, apples and other tart foods.
And while some may look forward to their plate of sushi and a pint of beer right after giving birth (two things women are told to avoid during the 40 weeks of pregnancy), Allidina says you should also avoid undercooked red meats, chicken and eggs to reduce your risk of salmonella poisoning.
What did you miss during pregnancy? Let us know in the comments below:
So what can you eat? Here are 10 foods that are good for your and your little one:
WHY IT WORKS: "Having bananas during the early weeks of pregnancy may help with nausea that many women experience," says Anar Allidina, a registered dietitian based in Richmond Hill, Ont. Allidina adds that bananas are a great source of vitamin B6 (helps with morning sickness), fibre, vitamin C and potassium.
WHY IT WORKS: These leafy greens are packed with folate. "Adequate folate is required in early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain and spinal cord)," Allidina says. Spinach also contains fibre, manganese, iron, vitamin A, C and K.
WHY IT WORKS: Most of us know that beans are an excellent source of protein and fibre, but beans during pregnancy will help you deal with constipation. "Almost 40 per cent of pregnant women will become constipated at some point during pregnancy. Common triggers for constipation include the pressure on your growing uterus, the pregnancy hormone progesterone that slows your digestive track, and iron supplements," Allidina says. Beans also contain a rich source of folate and iron.
Red Bell Peppers:
WHY IT WORKS: Vitamin C is responsible for the growth and repair of tissues in your body during pregnancy. "Red bell peppers have twice the amount of vitamin C content compared to green peppers — one large red bell pepper contains 209 mg of vitamin C, which is three times the vitamin C found in an orange," Allidina says. Consuming vitamin C also helps us absorb iron faster, so don't forget to add peppers to your stir fries, salads and sandwiches.
WHY IT WORKS: Looking for the good stuff? Check the yolk. "Egg yolk contains choline, an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in the development of your baby’s brain in addition to boosting your own brain," Allidina says. Expecting moms should get around 450 mg of choline each day. And if you're a vegan or don't like eggs, other sources include beef, milk and soy beans.
WHY IT WORKS: This nutrient-dense fruit is bursting with goodness. "Avocados are a great source of fibre, vitamin K, folate, vitamin C, potassium and vitamin B6," she says. Filled with healthy mono-unsaturated fats, these are the "good" fats that can help protect against heart disease. Avocados have been known to help fight morning sickness and help your baby's brain and tissue growth.
Greek Yogurt :
WHY IT WORKS: Creamier compared to most yogurts, Greek yogurt actually offers more protein. "Regular non-fat yogurt has six to eight grams of protein per serving, while Greek yogurt has 15 to 18 grams per serving," Allidina says. Greek yogurt is often strained so most the liquid is removed. It's also a good source of calcium — which every woman needs during pregnancy.
WHY IT WORKS: This tropical food is full of vitamin C, folate, fibre and potassium. "Papaya is also a natural way to soothe heartburn, which is often experienced during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester," Allidina says. However, pregnant women should only eat ripe papaya, as unripe papayas contain pepsin in their latex (the resin from the papaya tree), which can induce contractions.
WHY IT WORKS: As discomfort becomes more common during the third trimester, it's important to eat frequently. "Nuts are a great source of protein and heart healthy fats, and make a great snack since they're easy to store," she says. Nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashews all have healthy fats, protein and fibre.
WHY IT WORKS: You can eat up to six ounces of albacore (white) tuna a week — eating more than the recommended amount can lead to higher mercury levels that can be harmful to your baby, Allidina says. But including oily or fatty fish in your diet fuels your body with omega 3 fatty acids which helps your heart and strengthens your brain health. Eating up to 12 ounces of fish a week is considered safe during pregnancy.