Healthy eating before and during pregnancy ensures that a pregnant mother has a good store of nutrients to meet the demands of her developing baby, giving the baby the best possible start in life. Nutrition during pregnancy not only affects the immediate health of the baby, but it also has a profound long-term impact on their health, right into childhood and even adulthood. This phenomenon is referred to as foetal programming, where nutrition has the ability to activate and silence certain genes at specific critical periods during pregnancy, permanently affecting the structure, physiology and metabolism of the growing foetus1. Making healthy choices will also help a pregnant mother to stay healthy and well too.
Contrary to popular belief, being pregnant does not mean having to ‘eat for two’, it just means that more sensible, healthy food choices should be made. In fact, it is only in the 2nd and 3rd trimester of pregnancy when extra calories need to be consumed2.
Additional Calories Required Daily for Each Trimester of Pregnancy
When choosing foods to meet the increased energy requirements in the second and third trimester, it is recommended that preferences should be given to foods rich in essential vitamins and minerals, like fruits and vegetables, milk and milk products and oily fish. See the table below for suitable snack foods.
There is no pregnancy-specific diet that is recommended – pregnant women merely have to follow the healthy eating guidelines that apply to the rest of the non-pregnant population. Using the food pyramid is a useful guide in order to ensure that pregnant women are getting the correct amounts of different food groups.
- Godfrey KM & Barker D. Fetal nutrition and adult disease. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000. 71(suppl):1344S-52S