Yes, mamas, pregnancy is one of the most thrilling times in our lives. It is also when looking after your body is essential to the power of two because you’re growing another human. Proper nutrition during this period is crucial for the mother and the developing foetus. Eating well before and after childbirth can help support the mother’s and baby’s health and well-being. Read further for some “bite-sized” essential pre- and postpartum eating tips to help you stay healthy and energised throughout your pregnancy.
Before we dig in, one of the keys to an excellent diet pre and post-pregnancy is your relationship with food. Psychologist Dr Julie Fraga has a special focus on maternal mental health. She identifies how pregnancy can have a positive effect on your relationship with food:
“For some women, pregnancy shifts body image and their relationship to their body in a positive direction. Food takes on a new purpose, and instead of seeming ‘dangerous,’ calories are the fuel that helps the baby grow and develop.” While there are two sides to every coin, consider this aspect when considering food before, during, and after your pregnancy.
Pre-partum Eating Tips:
Focus on nutrient-dense foods: As you prepare for pregnancy, focus on consuming various nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods can provide essential vitamins and minerals required for foetal development.
Increase your protein intake: Protein is essential for healthy foetal development and can help keep you full longer. Good protein sources include lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, and dairy products.
Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water is critical during pregnancy. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water daily, and avoid drinks high in sugar or caffeine. (This may not help your frequent bathroom trips, but it is excellent for your body).
Cut back on processed foods: Avoid consuming processed foods, often high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt. Opt for whole foods instead. While you may have those cravings, there are lovely whole foods and whole food recipes that will satisfy them all!
Consider taking prenatal vitamins: Prenatal vitamins are specially formulated to provide essential nutrients required for foetal development. Consult with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Postpartum Eating Tips:
Prioritise your nutrition: Truthfully, your entire world now centres on this new baby and having you adapt to him or her being in this world. After childbirth, it’s easy to focus solely on the baby’s nutrition and forget your needs. However, it’s essential to prioritise your nutrition, as it can help you recover faster and support lactation.
Eat frequent, small meals: Eating small, regular meals throughout the day can help stabilise your blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy.
Include healthy fats: Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, and fatty fish, can provide essential nutrients and help keep you full longer.
Opt for fibre-rich foods: Fibre-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation, which is common postpartum (and not the most comfortable).
Avoid highly processed foods: As mentioned above, you don’t want to fill your body with foods high in sugar or unhealthy fats and salts, as they can negatively impact your health. Instead, opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods.
Stay hydrated: Drinking enough water is essential postpartum, especially if you are breastfeeding. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water a day. Limit alcohol and caffeine and drinks high in sugar or caffeine.
Finally, consult your doctor before making significant changes to your diet, especially if you have any medical conditions or concerns. Many women have psychological concerns about pregnancy and gaining or even losing weight.
A healthy relationship with food goes a long way in alleviating those concerns, so if you need a psychological consult, don’t hesitate and book an appointment. By prioritising your nutrition, you can support your health and your baby’s health throughout pregnancy and beyond.