A healthy diet with extra folate and regular exercise are the two most important factors in ensuring a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby at this stage. Here's a sample meal plan to try during your first trimester. By Sasha Zambetti
Many women have a misconception that they’ll be putting on a lot of weight during pregnancy, but this is not necessarily the case. Weight gain is dependent mainly on two things:
Your pre-pregnancy weight
Suggested overall weight gain during pregnancy is determined according to your BMI (Body Mass Index – your weight in kilogrammes divided by your height in metres squared). Research indicates that underweight women (with a BMI less than 18) should gain 15 to 20kg; women of normal weight (with a BMI of 18 – 25), should gain between 10 and 17kgs; those who are overweight (with a BMI of 25 – 30) should only gain between seven and 12kgs; and obese women (with a BMI of 30 and greater) should only gain between five and nine kilos.
The secret is to include nutrient-dense foods that give you double the nutrient value, not double the calories. Eat lots of veggies and fruit, and steer clear of sugar and refined foods. Opt for the whole-wheat option whenever you can. Drink lots of water (adding fresh fruit or mint to make it more palatable).
You may be advised to stay away from a few potentially dangerous foods like unpasteurised soft cheeses and fruit juices, ‘runny’ eggs or anything containing raw eggs (batter/dough, sauces like béarnaise, hollandaise, mayonnaise or some dressings, mousses and tiramisu), smoked foods, pâtés, certain cold meats, undercooked or raw meats and fish, fish containing excess mercury, such as tuna or swordfish, and anything that could pose a health problem to your child. Free-range, grass-fed or organic meats and veggies should be your first choice, as you have a better chance of eliminating your baby’s exposure to harmful chemicals, toxins and unnecessary hormones.
You’ll also be advised to eat foods rich in folate, allowing your baby’s neural tube to fuse properly in the first month, and to assist with your baby’s proper nervous system development; vitamin B6, which should help ease nausea; vitamin C, to help keep illness at bay; and iron to facilitate your increasing blood volume.
Nausea is actually a good sign
The good news is that nausea during pregnancy is a good sign – it indicates high levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Nausea should subside when the placenta takes over to nourish and maintain your baby in the second trimester. Occasionally, oestrogen and thyroxine, or if you’re having twins, may exacerbate your suffering. Common ‘cures’ for nausea include sufficient sleep, relaxation and eating little amounts regularly (often spicy, rich, fried and fatty foods trigger nausea, so steer clear of those). Ginger-flavoured teas, lollipops and biscuits (but do try limit sugar intake) may help, as might sipping water (some prefer iced water), to keep you hydrated. Cranberry juice every now and then can help prevent bladder infections, which are common at this stage.
A good pre-natal multivitamin, as well as a folate/folic acid supplement, is essential daily. Endeavour to eat a nutritious diet and do moderate exercise at least four times a week. Your vitamin supplement is especially important if you’re struggling with nausea and can’t keep anything down.
More about the author:
Sasha Zambetti runs the kitchens at The Cooking School from start to finish. Having qualified as a chef from Prue Leith College of Food and Wine in 2000, she worked in various lines of catering, from hotels and restaurants to private dinners, finally finding her place in food media. In 2003 Sasha was appointed as the food editor of Your Family Magazine. Learn more about Sasha Zambetti here.
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