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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Aptaclub - Nutrition for pregnancy

Published 23/07/2014 | 09:55

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Important Nutrients for Pregnancy

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Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby.  You don’t need to follow any special diet – if you enjoy a wide variety of foods from the main groups of the food pyramid including wholegrain carbohydrates, plenty of fruit and vegetables, lean protein foods and low-fat dairy products everyday day, you will be well on the way to a healthy diet.  Our nutritionists have developed some simple healthy recipes tailored for pregnancy that will help you stick to a healthy diet check them out here. This will ensure you get nutrients that are key to a healthy pregnancy.  Let’s take a look at some of those key nutrients in more detail. - See more at: healthy diet during pregnancy


Calcium is essential for your baby’s growing skeleton and to keep your own bones healthy.  The best source of calcium is from milk and milk based products such as yoghurt and cheese. You need 3 portions of dairy foods per day.  It is recommended to choose low fat dairy products – half the fat (or less) but the same amount of calcium which is good news for your bones.

So if you start the day with a high fibre breakfast cereal with low fat milk , snack on a low-fat yoghurt with some chopped fruit at 11am, and include some low-fat cheese (about the size of a matchbox) with your lunch (in a wholemeal sandwich or wrap), you have reached the recommended 3 portions of dairy products.   And while some of these foods may not be your preferred choices, just remember to include some low-fat dairy food from the list above in a meal or snack and you are well on your way to your 3-a-day.

Other sources of calcium include spinach, tinned fish (with bones mashed in), beans and seeds.


Iron is a key nutrient for your baby’s brain development and for your increased blood volume during pregnancy.  It is involved in the transport of oxygen to the developing baby, and helps to protect your own health. 

Sources of iron include lean red meat, chicken, well-cooked eggs and beans.   Other non-animal sources of iron include breakfast cereals with added iron, peas, beans and lentils, dried fruits (prunes, apricots, raisins) and green vegetables like broccoli and spinach.  Try to include at least one of these iron-rich foods at lunch and again with your evening meal.

Vitamin C is important to have with iron rich foods as it helps your body absorb iron from food so stock up on these good sources of Vitamin C to help boost your iron levels:

• Oranges (or freshly squeezed juice)

• Berries

• Kiwi fruit

• Tomatoes

• Potatoes

• Green vegetables

• Peppers

Think of combining one of these foods with your iron-rich foods to pack a nutritious punch.  For example, have a glass of freshly squeezed juice with an iron-fortified breakfast cereal, or a baby spinach and tomato salad with an omelette – all simple combinations to ensure you get the most from your meal.

Tea and coffee contains tannins which will decrease iron absorption so avoid drinking these with or soon after iron rich meals.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are now recognised as essential in healthy brain development and healthy vision of the developing baby in the womb and during breastfeeding.

Our bodies have a very limited ability to make these fatty acids, so it’s important that we get them from our diet.  Pregnant women can achieve the recommended intakes by including 1-2 portions of oily fish in their diet each week.  Oily fish include salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring.  These are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. 

However, vegetarians or women who don’t like fish can include certain foods in their diet to get small amount of omega-3 fats such as rapeseed oil, linseeds and walnuts.  A supplement may be needed for women who find it difficult to include enough omega-3 rich foods in their diet.  Talk to your healthcare professional or pharmacist for advice on a pregnancy-specific supplement.

Folic Acid

Nutritionists generally prefer that we get all the nutrients we need from eating whole foods rather than taking supplements or tablets - with one exception.  For a healthy pregnancy, a 400µg folic acid supplement is recommended everyday both before you become pregnant (at least 4 weeks before conception) and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Folic acid is important for the development of your baby’s healthy spine and brain in the early stages of pregnancy.  The risk of spina bifida can be reduced if all mums-to-be take a daily folic acid supplement, so if this pregnancy is a surprise, start taking folic acid as soon as you find out you are expecting.

A 400µg folic acid supplement taken every day ensures you get all of the folic acid you need for pregnancy, but it’s a good idea to include foods rich in folate (the natural form of folic acid) in your diet, such as:

• Green leafy vegetables (think of spinach, broccoli, cabbage and brussel sprouts)

• Peas and beans

• Some fruits, especially oranges and berries

• Foods with folic acid added to them e.g. some breakfast cereals, milks and breads

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, is important during pregnancy for your baby’s developing skeleton and to ensure you absorb calcium from food.  In Ireland we have poor levels of this important vitamin, due mostly to the fact that we do not get enough sunlight to produce vitamin D on our skin. 

Vitamin D does occur naturally in a few foods but in order to ensure you get enough vitamin D during pregnancy, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland recommends taking a 5ug supplement of vitamin D every day.  If you are already taking a pregnancy supplement, check if it contains 5ug vitamin D.  If you aren’t, talk your healthcare professional or pharmacist about a suitable supplement.  However it’s important not to take both a pregnancy supplement and a vitamin D supplement – if in doubt, ask your healthcare professional.

Good dietary sources of vitamin D include:

• Oily fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring

• Eggs – the yolk contains the vitamin D

• Fortified foods – some brands of milk, spreadable margarine and breakfast cereals have added vitamin D so check the label.

Our nutritionists have developed some simple healthy recipes tailored for pregnancy that will help you get all the nutrients you need. Check them out here

“Aptaclub is a support service for Ireland’s new mums and mums to be. Aptaclub members enjoy FREE expert advice, money off coupons, exclusive discounts from quality brands and personalised articles on pregnancy and baby nutrition. To join today, visit www.aptaclub.ie

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