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Nutritional Advice for Pregnant Women from an Expert in Women’s Health

Nutritional Advice for Pregnant Women from an Expert in Women’s Health

Credit Source:
* The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, a SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. charity partner.

 

By Dr. Jennifer Blake

Dr. Jennifer Blake is the CEO of The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, the publisher of standard-setting medical guidelines on nutrition throughout a woman’s life cycle.

As an expert in women’s reproductive health I believe it is so important for women to understand that nourishing our bodies — the vehicles that carry us through life and create and sustain new life — is an ever-changing process. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for female nutrition.

For pregnant women, not only do nutritional requirements change by each phase in pregnancy but also vary depending on a woman’s age and life stage. Assisted reproduction has increased the number of women who are able to become pregnant later in life when nutritional needs are different than they are for developing teenage mothers and again for young women in their 20s or 30s. Understanding different needs means nourishing for the best health of mother and child now and later in life. 

A focus on the consumption of appropriate amounts of nutrient-dense foods helps women of all ages to meet nutritional requirements and reduces the chances of certain diseases in women and their offspring. We recommend that women avoid highly processed foods and choose instead a variety of whole or minimally processed foods, aim to nourish first through a balanced diet, and supplement nutritional needs that aren’t being met through the diet alone.

Energy Needs by Stage of Pregnancy

A pregnant woman’s energy needs will vary depending on whether she is underweight, at her healthy weight, overweight or obese prior to pregnancy or if she is carrying more than one fetus. While specific dietary plans should be made with a healthcare provider, below are some general guidelines for women who are considered healthy with a Body Mass Index between 18 – 24 with a single fetus.

  • In the first three months of pregnancy, a woman’s calorie needs stay the same as when she is not pregnant.
  • From month four to six, energy needs increase by about 340 kcal per day.
  • From month seven until birth, a woman needs about 450 kcal more daily.
  • If pregnant with twins, calorie needs go up by about 300 in the first third of pregnancy, 680 in the second, and 900 in the third.

 

Nutrients of Concern During Pregnancy

There are certain nutrients that pregnant Canadian women may not be getting enough of through their diets and that require special attention. These include folate (folic acid), iron, and vitamin B 12.

Folate (Folic Acid) – Offers protection against neural tube defects. Women are advised to start supplementing folic acid at least three months before pregnancy and to eat a diet rich in folate with foods like spinach, soy beans, and lentils.

Iron – Iron is not needed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and can be started later if it upsets the stomach. From about the fourth month onwards, women need more iron to support the multiplication of red blood cells and the creation of maternal and fetal tissues. Most women will have trouble meeting their iron needs through food so a supplement is recommended. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron. Foods rich in iron include oatmeal, lentils, soybeans, many cereals, and meat and fish sources. 

Vitamin B12 – Many pregnant women may not be meeting their daily requirement of 2.6 mcg daily through food alone. Some food sources high in vitamin B12 include milk, various cheeses, eggs, tofu and also meat and seafood sources.  While vitamin B12 mostly comes from animal food sources, it is important that women limit or avoid foods that can be unsafe during pregnancy like some processed meats, raw fish, raw eggs, unpasteurized cheese, fish with high levels of mercury, and liver.

 

Calcium – The body uses calcium for skeletal development and maintenance. Pregnant teenagers need to pay special attention to calcium to meet their own development needs and the needs of their baby.

Table: Important Nutrients for Pregnant Women

 

14  18 yrs

19  30 yrs

31  50 yrs

Folate mcg/day

RDA 600

UL 800

RDA 600

UL 1000

RDA 600

UL 1000

Iron mg/day

RDA 27

UL 45

RDA 27

UL 45

RDA 27

UL 45

Choline mg/day

AI 450

UL 3000

AI 450

UL 3500

AI 450

UL 3500

Calcium

mg/day

RDA 1300

UL 3000

RDA 1000

UL 2500

RDA 1000

UL 2500

Vitamin B12

mcg/day

RDA 2.6

 

RDA 2.6

 

RDA 2.6

 

 

AI: Adequate intake

RDA: Recommended dietary allowance

UL: Tolerable upper intake level

 

RECIPE: Pregnancy

Lemony Salmon Cakes

Serve these lemony salmon cakes with green peas and your favourite chutney. You can mash leftover boiled or baked potato if you have it on hand; or, peel and dice two medium potatoes and boil for 10 minutes, drain, mash and chill.

Prep time:  15 minutes

Cook time:  10 minutes

Ingredients

1 can (213 g) PC Blue Menu No Salt Added Wild Pacific Pink Salmon, drained

3/4 cup (175 mL) Cold mashed potatoes

1/4 cup (50 mL) finely chopped red onion

2 PC Blue Menu Oméga-3 Large Eggs

1 tbsp (15 mL) ground PC Seafood Seasoning Grinder

2 tsp (10 mL) grated lemon zest

1 tbsp (15 mL) PC 100% Pure Safflower Oil

Instructions

  1. Mash salmon well using fork in large bowl. Add potatoes, red onion, eggs, seafood seasoning and lemon zest; mix well. Form into 4 patties, placing each on sheet of waxed paper as you form it.

  2. Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook salmon patties for 3 minutes. Turn, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until cooked through.

Makes 4 servings

Per serving: 160 calories, fat 9 g (1.8 g of which is saturated), omega-3 polyunsaturated fat 1 g, sodium 85 mg, carbohydrate 8 g, fibre 1 g, protein 12 g

Low in saturated fat

Source of omega

Low sodium

For more information, please visit HerNutrition.ca