Nutrition in Pregnancy – The Afternoon Show

Being pregnant is definately a time to focus on nutrition. I did this for the Afternoon Show last May and again this January. Hopefully it helps you along….

Pregnancy is such a magical and exciting time for a woman. One of the most important factors during this time is our diet. During pregnancy a baby will get all of their nutrients from the mum’s diet so all mums need to take extra care to ensure they have a healthy diet. Healthy food choices before, during and after pregnancy will help your baby grow healthy and importantly keep you healthy too. Healthy eating during pregnancy may also help to protect your baby against diseases in later life. The baby will take all the nutrition it needs to help it grow but you need to ensure there are enough nutrients left to keep you strong and healthy too for both during the pregnancy and afterwards when the baby has been born.

Increasing your intake of certain vitamins and minerals such as folic acid and iron is necessary at this time and also increasing your calorie intake a little too. Remember every mouthful you take will also feed your baby so try to limit your intake of junk food which will provide lots of calories but little nutrition.
One of the biggest myths surrounding pregnancy is that you are ‘eating for two’. However this is not the case, your body actually becomes more efficient when you’re pregnant and makes even better use of energy and nutrition from food. You only need about 200 extra calories per day for the second and third trimester. Your own appetite is the best indication of how much food you need to eat and you may find it fluctuating during the course of your pregnancy but probably the most important thing is to eat if you are hungry.

Weight gain and pregnancy

It is good to start your pregnancy at a healthy weight. Never try to lose weight during your pregnancy. You will need to put on at least 7kg (15 lbs) while pregnant to cover the growth of your baby. The average weight gain during pregnancy is 11.5 to 12.5kg (25 to 28 lbs). Most of this weight gain will take place in the second half of your pregnancy. If you are underweight, you may need to gain more weight than outlined here. If you are overweight, you may need to gain less. Your doctor, midwife or dietitian will be able to advise you.

Nutrients that need special attention during pregnancy

Folic acid, also known as folate, is one of the B group of vitamins B9. Folic acid is an important vitamin for a healthy pregnancy. It helps prevent conditions such as spina bifida and other neural tube defects that can affect the baby’s spine. It is important to take a folic acid supplement along with a good dietary supply pre-pregnancy and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. You need 400 µg per day. All women of child bearing age should be taking a folic acid supplement daily whether planning a pregnancy or not. About 50% of pregnancies are unplanned.

Good dietary sources of folic acid include;
Green vegetables, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts & spinach
Beans and peas
Some fruits, such as oranges
Yeast or malt extract e.g. ovaltine
Some brands of bread, breakfast cereal, milk and other foods may have folic acid added to them.

Iron and vitamin C
Iron is important to help make the extra blood needed by you and your baby and is needed for the growth of your babies brain. It is estimated that your blood volume increases by up to 50% during pregnancy. As you go through pregnancy your baby will build up a store of iron which will last them until they reach six months. In Ireland 75% of women do not eat enough iron. Vitamin C is helps your body absorb iron from plant sources of iron. Try to include an iron rich food in your diet daily.

Good sources of iron
Red meat e.g. beef
Breakfast cereals with added iron
Pulses, such as beans, peas and lentils
Dried fruit, such as prunes
Dark green vegetables e.g. broccoli and spinach
The need for vitamin C increases by 33% during pregnancy. Choose rich sources of vitamin C daily.
Good sources of vitamin C
Fruit e.g. oranges, berries, tomatoes, juices.
Try including a glass of juice with breakfast.

Calcium and vitamin D
Your baby’s teeth will begin to develop as early as the sixth week of pregnancy and calcium is also needed for bone development. The baby will generally take enough calcium from the mother so it is important that the mother includes enough calcium rich foods in her diet to ensure she maintains good bone health too. We have an increased requirement for calcium during pregnancy so a good dietary intake is imperative for good bone health.

Good sources of calcium include;
Dairy including milk, cheese and yogurt. Only use pasteurised dairy produce when pregnant.
Soya milk fortified with calcium.
tinned fish,
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and good sources include;
Oily fish
Some fortified milks and margarines

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are important for developing your baby’s brain and eyes.
Good dietary sources include;
Oily fish, such as herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines & trout
Seeds, such as linseed, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame
Try to eat 1 portion of oily fish each week.

Drink water regularly – at least 8 glasses a day.

Food Safety, it is very important to practise good food hygiene

• Buy, store and prepare food correctly
• Always wear gloves when gardening or handling cat litter
• Always wash your hands before a meal
• Avoid salad bars or open display food areas

Food Safety – foods & drinks to avoid
• Lightly cooked or raw eggs
• Unpasteurised dairy produce
• Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, fish and shellfish
• Paté
• Excess vitamin A & liver
• Peanuts if there is a family history of allergy

Food Safety – foods & drinks to limit
• Marlin, swordfish or shark
• Keep tuna to 2 medium sized cans or 1 fresh tuna steak per week
• Alcohol
• Caffeine – max of 4 caffeinated drinks per day
• Herbal teas – max of 2 cups per day. Use teabags and avoid drinking it too strong
• Herbal remedies – avoid these unless a qualified professional has advised they are safe. Always
check with your doctor

Common pregnancy complaints;

1. Morning sickness…
• Eat small carbohydrate based snacks
• Aim to eat 6 times per day instead of big meals
• Drink plenty of fluids especially between mealtimes
• Get plenty of fresh air
• Ginger can help reduce nausea so try ginger nut biscuits or ginger ale
• If sickness is very bad seek professional help

2. Constipation…prevention is better than cure!

• Diet – including high fibre foods in diet; wholegrain bread, high fibre cereals, porridge, linseed,
dried fruit, fruits, vegetables
• Fluid – increase the amount of fluid everyday. Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
• It may also help to try prune juice if constipated
probiotic yogurts may help promote reagular bowel activity
• Exercise – regular gentle exercise will help
• Medicine – never without medical supervision during pregnancy

3. Heartburn…generally happens nearer the end

• Eat small regular meals, avoid big meals
• Eat slowly and chew food really well
• Avoid fried, fatty or spicy foods
• Avoid fizzy drinks and caffeine
• Don’t lie down for an hour after eating
• If very severe symptoms seek medical advice

1. Food cravings…
An American survey on cravings during pregnancy showed that 85% of women reported at least
one food craving. Of those; almost 40 per cent of women craved ’something sweet’, 33%
something salty, 17% something spicy & 10% craved citrus fruit, green apples and other tart or
sour foods.

You should acknowledge pregnancy cravings but don’t necessarily give in to them…make sure that it’s food you want and not a hug! Try to incorporate your craving into your mealtime. If craving a non-food item seek professional advice.

Weaning your baby – The Afternoon Show

Weaning Your Baby can be a daunting experience…but here are a few tips to guide you

Introducing solids into your baby’s diet is a vital step in ensuring all their nutritional needs are met, therefore allowing adequate growth and development. Many parents worry about when the best time is to start weaning as there is so much conflicting information out there. The weaning process should not commence before the baby is 4 months of age/17 weeks and not later than 6 months/26 weeks. Whenever you decide to wean your baby, it’s important to understand that weaning is a gradual process that calls for patience and understanding from both you and your child.

Early weaning (less than 4 months) is not recommended since research shows a link with the development of food allergies and intolerances as well as possible obesity during childhood. Therefore for the infant’s safety and later growth and development, all expert groups advise milk, either breast milk or formula milk, as the infants sole source of nutrition during the first 4 – 6 months of life.

The weaning period is seen as a ‘window of opportunity’ in that a variety of foods can be offered along with different tastes, textures, flavours along with rougher food consistencies in the later stages. It is important for the infant to meet ‘the key milestones’ during this critical time to prevent any faddy eating later on. When solids are introduced before six months you are only getting the baby used to different tastes and textures and their main nutrition is still being provided by the milk. The amounts of solids taken are built up slowly then over many weeks.

This is a completely new mystifying experience for your baby. Although sucking is a natural reflex, babies need to be ready to learn the new skill of pushing food to the back of their mouth with their tongues and swallowing. When starting the weaning process try to make it a special time between you and your baby rather than a chore. Choose a time of day when you can give plenty of time and energy to the task and that you are not liable to be distracted. Midday is usually considered a good time to start and if possible try to feed your baby at the same time daily to establish a routine. As babies are used to food coming in a steady stream they can find the gap between mouthfuls frustrating so it is a good idea to offer some milk before feeding so that they are not frantically hungry.

Despite all the guidelines the best indicator of when to start solids is your baby. If your baby was sleeping well at night-time and begins waking earlier or during the night it is a good indicator your baby is ready for solids to be introduced. Other indications may include:
• Your baby sitting up and holding his or her head up. This means your baby will be able to sit in an
upright position for feeding.
• If your baby is looking at or trying to grab food it could mean he or she is ready to move on to
• If your baby is irritable when finished their milk feed and appears to be still hungry this is another
indication that they may need more feed.

Initially your baby will only have a tiny amount of food and more than likely will spit it back out
but remember this is a new experience for them and it’s going to be messy! Just offer them a few spoonfuls and remember to chat and smile with them while feeding. After a few days your baby will begin to get used to this new experience and the texture of food and will have learnt how to swallow foods. Once you and your baby have become more confident and used to this new feeding regime you can try gradually incorporating solids into other mealtimes.

Initial foods to introduce can include pureed fruits and vegetables along with mashed potato or baby rice. Avoid adding butter, salt or salt derivative, sugar or any other processed addition to your baby’s foods. Babies’ taste buds are much more astute than ours and they can detect sweetness in vegetables that we cannot. Begin by offering a few teaspoons daily and aim to increase the portions and the types of food offered over a few weeks. The initial consistency should be pureed and as the weaning progresses aim to mince/mash the foods then in final stages a choppier consistency should be well accepted. Home prepared foods are great and it can be a good idea to get a good balance between offering home prepared foods with commercial infant foods to avoid fussiness in the future.

Following the six month stage, gluten can be introduced into the diet along with beaker cup use. Try to give very diluted unsweetened juices in the beaker cup (one part juice: four parts water) rather than very sweetened juices. Parents should be aware that the ‘types’ of foods offered in the first year of life can in fact lay the foundations for their later food preferences. So frequently offering sugary foods such as biscuits, chocolate along with sweetened desserts is a pattern the infant will become accustomed to, and so will preferentially develop a taste for sweet rather than savoury foods.

Ideas for first weaning foods include;
• Baby rice;
• Baby porridge (this will contain gluten so avoid giving until 6 months or more);
• Rusks;
• Puree fruit e.g. apples, pears;
• Mashed potato or sweet potato with formula or breast milk
• Pureed vegetables e.g. broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, spinach, courgette, turnip, peas, beans and
• Pureed meat, pureed chicken;
• Melted cheese after 6 months
• Yoghurt, custard, fromage frais after 6 months

Don’t be afraid to combine flavours. There are great ideas in cookbooks including combinations like pear and butternut squash mixed together or another one that babies often love is banana and avocado mixed together which provides lots of calories and vitamin E. Be careful that you don’t force your own tastes on your baby. E.g. if you don’t like parsnip do offer it to your child to give them an opportunity to develop their own likes and dislikes. Exposing your child to lots of tastes from early on will help reduce the risk of a fussy eater later on.

Once your baby is eating a wider range of foods you can start introducing lumpier textures. Chewing and swallowing lumpier food is linked to speech development so is an important milestone. By 7-8 months your baby will start to pick things up with her thumb and finger and transfer objects from one hand to another. This is a good time to encourage your baby to start feeding themselves by offering them finger foods between meals as snacks. Slices of banana, fingers of toast, baby rusks or cubes of cheese are good examples to start off with. It will be quite a messy so be prepared! Remember you don’t have to wait until your baby has teeth. Some babies don’t get their first tooth until they are 18 months and others may start at 3 months. Every baby is different. Sit with them while you offer them finger foods and never leave your child unattended at this feeding stage in case they begin to choke.

At this stage your child should be eating three meals per day. The quantity of their intake will vary but your baby will be able to enjoy a wide variety of tastes at this stage. Try to make mealtimes a sociable occasion and let your child join you at mealtimes instead of them eating alone. Once a baby reaches 12 months they should be having a similar diet to the family and partake in all mealtimes. As babies have smaller stomachs than us and they do eat smaller portions so try to include regular healthy snacks in the diet for energy. About a third of their daily calories will come from snacks so make sure they offer some nutritional value. Good tooth friendly snacks include;

Vegetable sticks
Fruit (frozen fruit can be good if they are teething)
Dried fruit
No added sugar rusks or biscuits
Toast fingers with houmous or cream cheese and many more.

Although all nutrients are important in your Childs diet iron deficiency is common among Irish toddlers. Children are born with a 6 month supply of iron in the diet and that is one of the reasons it is important to start the weaning process no later than 6 months. Iron requirements until the age of two are very high especially from 6-12 months. Although green vegetables and pulses are great sources of iron red meat is an excellent source and mixes well with root vegetables, potatoes and pasta. Sometimes babies don’t like the texture of meat initially but after a few exposures to it they get used to the new chewier texture. Try to include a variety of iron rich foods like beef, lamb, spinach, kidney beans and lentils into the diet and incorporate them in to the family diet. Remember kids learn from example and if you don’t eat a healthy balanced diet there is a good chance your child won’t either!

Once you start weaning try to establish a routine. The initial period is important as future feeding behaviours are established during the weaning process including the schedule or routine of the infant’s meals/feeds, which can in turn affect later feeding behaviour. For example if an infant is accustomed to eating at irregular times and on demand, rather than having a routine and established daily meal schedule, this will program them to continue this ‘grazing’ pattern throughout infancy and childhood potentially leading to stressful mealtimes!