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Ask Elsa: Any advice to avoid piling on the pounds in pregnancy?

Q I RECENTLY lost two stone by following a calorie-controlled diet. I'm eight weeks pregnant and worried that the weight will start piling on once I increase my portions and calories, any advice?

A I would suggest that instead of trying to increase portion sizes you should try to focus more on the nutritional value of the food you eat during pregnancy. Eat small meals regularly and make sure you eat a portion of protein with every meal to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Consume quality proteins such as organic eggs, lean red meat, organic chicken as well as beans and lentils.

Also ensure that you consume at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day and opt for wholegrain carbohydrates such as oats and brown rice. However, even wholegrain carbohydrates shouldn't take up more than a quarter of your plate at meal times.

One should never 'diet' whilst pregnant but at the same time, the old 'eating for two' adage is a complete myth.

For the first six months a woman's recommended energy intake of 1,940 calories per day does not change at all so there's no need to eat more than this amount. In the last three months, pregnant women only need an extra 200 calories a day which is equivalent to a pot of yogurt with fruit. If you choose to breast feed then you will need to consume an additional 500 calories per day to produce quality breast milk.

Q Every morning I wake up feeling congested with a stuffy nose. I've had allergy tests but nothing has come up. Any suggestions to improve symptoms?

A Begin each day with a warm lemon juice drink as it is cleansing to the nasal cavity and sinuses. Squeeze half a lemon in warm water, you may even like to add a teaspoon of Manuka honey and grated ginger to this.

I would also recommend that you increase sulphur-rich foods in your diet such as onions and garlic as these help to break down congestion. Also increase the use of ginger, chilli and turmeric in your cooking as these are anti-inflammatory and will help to break down congestion.

Reduce acid-forming foods such as dairy, wheat, sugar, alcohol, red meats and processed foods. You could possibly benefit from taking a Quercetin and Vitamin C complex.

Steam inhalations may also help. Fill a large bowl with boiling water and add a few drops of pure essential oils such as eucalyptus or tea tree. Put a towel over your head and inhale the vapours for about ten minutes.

Elsa Jones is a qualified nutritional therapist. She offers one-to-one consultations to treat your individual health concerns. www.elsajones nutrition.ie