Eating for Two Series: The Best Nutrients

In the first part of the Eating for Two Series, Darwin Dietitian Richard Sager focussed on his top tips for healthy eating during pregnancy, but the power of this strengthens when it's coupled with the right nutrients. 

Let's take a look at the top nutrients Richard suggests to include in your diet: 

  • Iron. Your iron requirement is more than double your pre-pregnancy requirement. Iron deficiency is associated with prematurity and lower birth weights. The recommendation during pregnancy is 22-36mg iron daily. Small amounts of iron are found in most of the fruits, vegetables and grains that you eat, but you should try to include some higher iron foods like Kale, tofu, tuna and salmon, spinach and dry fruit as well as taking a supplement if your doctor has deemed this necessary. Non-animal sources of iron should be eaten with a vitamin C-rich food like an orange or chopped tomato or capsicum.
  • Calcium: You need about 1100mg calcium per day. Aim for four servings of calcium-rich foods each day. Each of the following servings provides about 300mg.
    • 200 to 250ml skim or reduced fat milk (or calcium-fortified soy or rice milk)
    • 1 ½ cups low fat cottage cheese
    • 40g reduced fat cheddar cheese
    • 200g low fat yoghurt
    • 100g canned salmon, sardines or mackerel with bones
    • 1 ¾ cup broccoli, silverbeet, spinach, kale
    • 100g tofu
  • Folate: The richest sources of Folate in food include green leafy vegetables, sprouts, fruits, brewer’s yeast, liver and kidney. Dietary folate can be easily destroyed by cooking or processing. Folic acid is the form most commonly used in supplements and fortified foods. Folate is essential before pregnancy as it is essential for normal cell division and the prevention of neural tube defects (spina bifida) in the baby.
  • Very large quantities of sodium is closely linked to high blood pressure. Whilst your sodium requirement increases slightly in pregnancy as your body fluid, it is not necessary to exceed 2300mg per day.  The best ways to avoid excess sodium:
    • Limit the frequency of processed, pre-packaged foods and if you use them check the label for less than 200mg per 100g
    • Do not add salt in your cooking, but (if you need to) add a little at the table
    • Limit very salty foods like pickles, chips and soy sauce

In summary, if you aim to include a good balance of nutrients and healthy eating habits it will benefit you and your baby mentally and physically in the long term.

If you would like any assistance with your pregnancy nutrition plan, Richard Sager from Darwin Dietitians has been servicing Territorians and all their dietary needs since 2008. His message is simple, you don’t have to eat less, you just have to eat right.