All About You: The Guide to Your First Trimester Nutrition
There’s nothing more exciting than seeing the pink lines confirming the big news – you’re pregnant! Pregnancy is a phase that’s delightful, surprising and confusing, and now you need to care for yourself more than ever. What you eat really matters, right from the very start. It can ensure good development of your little bundle and help you deal better with early issues you may face.
The recommended amount of weight gain for a woman with average weight is 25-30 pounds (11-16 kg), majority of which is gained in the second and third trimester. The first trimester does not require you to consume any extra calories, and recommended weight gain by the American Pregnancy Association is 1-4.5 pounds (up to 2 kgs) for the first trimester. At this time, you should not worry about your weight, but rather focus on eating a good, nutritious diet.
A wholesome diet is always important, but more so now that what you eat will be passed on to your little one. Make sure you continue to eat a balanced diet of whole grains, dairy, protein, fresh organic fruits/vegetables and healthy fats and oils. Also, do make sure you stay well hydrated.
More specifically, make sure to include these in your diet:
- A good dose of folate and folic acid – to avoid birth defects
Make sure you get your daily dose of folic acid, which is recommended as 400-800 milligrams/day all through your pregnancy (and ideally at least 3 months before conception). Good sources of folic acid are citrus fruits, beans, legumes and leafy green vegetables such as spinach.
- Food rich in calcium and Vitamin D – great for your bones
Your bones need all the strength possible during this time. Calcium also helps you circulatory, muscular and nervous systems to run properly. Eating (organic) dairy products will ensure you get a good dose of calcium, along with vegetables such as broccoli, kale or spinach.
Vitamin D is necessary for baby’s bones and teeth. Fatty fish, such as salmon, eggs, or fortified milk are great sources of Vitamin D. Adequate amounts of vitamin D can be obtained through 10-15 minutes of exposure to the sun as well.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – for early development of baby’s nervous system
Research has suggested that increasing intake of dietary omega-3 fatty acids may have a number of health benefits for the baby. Two most beneficial omega-3s are EPA and DHA. EPA supports the heart, immune system, and inflammatory response. DHA supports the brain, eyes, and central nervous system, which is why it is critical for pregnant and lactating women. Oily fish such as salmon, halibut, mackerel have naturally occurring omega-3, so make sure to include them in your diet. If you do not eat fish, you can get another type of omega-3 fat from ALA, from food such as seeds (chia and flax), walnuts, soy beans and green vegetables (such as spinach, Brussel sprouts, kale and broccoli). You might also consider taking a supplement.
- Iron – to prevent iron deficiency
During pregnancy, you need a lot more iron (approx. 30 milligrams a day versus 18 milligrams for non-pregnant women) to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. If you do not have enough iron, you may feel fatigued. Lean meat, poultry and fish are good sources of iron, which are also easily absorbed by the body. Plant sources of iron include beans, whole grains and leafy green vegetables. Eating foods high in vitamin C (such as citrus fruits, red peppers, sweet potatoes, and broccoli) along with iron-rich foods will help increase your body’s absorption of iron.
Your prenatal vitamins might already include iron, or your OBGYN may add a separate iron supplement.
Despite having a nutritious diet, you should likely take a prenatal vitamin (ideally starting 3 months before conception), so you can fill any gaps and ensure you are getting all the key nutrients. Consult your doctor to keep a note of the exact dosage that will work best for your body.
What to Avoid:
- Soft cheeses: Please avoid any soft cheeses such as brie, feta, gorgonzola, goat cheeses as they can contain listeria.
- Raw or uncooked meat: Meat that is undercooked, especially sausages and minced meat, may be harmful to your health. Make sure to avoid any cold cuts too.
- Raw seafood or fish with mercury: Please avoid fish that often have high level of mercury such as swordfish, king mackeral and tilefish as mercury is linked to development delays. Avoid chilled seafood such as raw oysters, sashimi and sushi unless the sea food is fully cooked.
- Raw or partially cooked eggs: Ensure that your eggs are thoroughly cooked. Do watch out as raw eggs can also be found in salad dressings, sauces and mayonnaise.
- Unpasteurized milk: Make sure the milk you consume is pasteurized to avoid the risk of listeria.
- Unwashed produce: Please make sure you wash off all fruits and vegetables properly especially those that are known to have high dose of pesticides (e.g., apples, strawberries)
- Alcohol: There is no level of alcohol that is considered safe during pregnancy. They are not considered the safest for your baby’s growth. Experts say that it may even lead to miscarriages.
- Caffeine: You do not need to cut this completely, but do limit the intake (recommended is 200 mg per day).
As your body changes, you may face some issues in the early days. Here are some tips on what you can make your journey easier:
Beating morning sickness/nausea: Best way to deal with this is to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Stay away from strong smells that would make your nausea worse. Also avoid spicy, greasy food; you would generally feel better with bland food. Food such as crackers, anything ginger (such as ginger tea, or candy), lemon, flavoured popsicles or even lollipops help ride off the feeling.
Dealing with constipation: Due to higher levels of hormone progesterone, you may experience constipation. Your prenatal or iron supplement may make it worse. Remember to increase your fiber intake and drink plenty of water or other fluids for some relief.
Cravings: It’s fine to indulge in your cravings. Eat your favourite slice of cake or order something you have been craving for, and instead focus on managing the portion. You could look for different recipes that could help you make your favourite pizza or fried food in a healthier way. For instance, instead of deep-frying your food, sauté it lightly. Finding different ways or alternatives to eating healthily and happily is key.
Always hungry: Make sure you plan to have some healthy snacks around you for when hunger pangs hit unexpectedly. Some easy options are figs, nuts, dates, prunes, fruits or yogurt.
So, if this is your first trimester of pregnancy, worry not, for you and your little one will find your way through this journey. Most importantly, make sure you have fun all the way, and make some memories you will cherish.
If you are ready to prep for your baby, we are as excited as you are! Check out some of our baby bedding and other stylish essentials that are comfortable for your bundle of joy. Prepare yourself for a journey of ups and downs and you will reach your happy place with your family in no time!