Whilst pregnant women do not necessarily need to go on any ‘special’ diets during pregnancy, it is universally acknowledged that a healthy, well balanced diet is essential for the well being of both mother and baby. The Yale Medical Group suggests that good nutritional intake is important even before conception occurs with ‘per-conception nutrition’ laying the foundations for a smooth pregnancy, healthy fetus and happy mother.

A popular myth is that a pregnant woman is eating for two and therefore needs to double her food and calorie intake. This is untrue; in fact a pregnant woman should only need approximately 3000 extra calories a day. It is a simple case of quality over quantity, and her main aim in terms of dietary requirement should be to provide herself and her baby with essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals from various food groups in suitable amounts. After all, a growing fetus’s (baby’s) nourishment comes directly from its mother so if she is lacking in any nutrients then it is likely baby is too.

Some of the most important nutrients during pregnancy include:

Calcium. It is recommended that pregnant women should ingest 1300mg of calcium a day in order to facilitate the growth of healthy bones and teeth in their growing babies. A study by the World Health Organization also shows that calcium can help dilate blood vessels thereby increasing oxygen movement around the body and reducing the chances of pre-term delivery. Calcium can be found in sardines, almonds, quinoa, green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale or cabbage.

Iron. Anemia and fatigue are common problems within pregnant women. A iron rich diet can help prevent these as it replenishes red blood cells. Iron can be found in red meats, fish, poultry and whole grain and dark green vegetables.

Folic acid. This is an important nutrient to take before and during pregnancy as it is reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the baby (such as spina bifida) by 70%. Pregnant women should take up to 400mg of folic acid for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is usually taken in tablet/supplement form but can also be found in certain foods such as leafy vegetables, brown rice, nuts and orange juice.

Vitamin A. Otherwise known as beta carotene, Vitamin A helps produce good eyesight, healthy skin and strong bones. It can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, carrots, watermelon, apricots and pumpkin.

The B Vitamins. Vitamin B1, B5, B6 and B12 all provide different yet vital functions for mother and baby. They aid with the development of major organs, blood cells and the nervous system, and have even been known to help ease morning sickness. B Vitamins can be found in white meat, potatoes, pasta, eggs, flax, hemp or chia seeds, brown rice and quinoa.

Vitamin C. Perhaps the most well known vitamins, this helps boost the body’s immune system (which often becomes depleted during pregnancy) and protects mother and baby from infections. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron. It can be found in citrus fruits, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens and peppers.

Vitamin D. This vitamin aids the body’s absorption of calcium, therefore helping with the production of healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D can be found in cod liver oil or, perhaps more pleasantly, in early morning sunshine, but a vitamin d3 supplement should always be taken; discuss amounts with your doctor or midwife. .

Carbohydrates. Carrying another person (albeit a small one) around all day is tiring and puts a strain on the muscles and heart. Carbohydrates are the best way of keeping energy levels up and providing ‘fuel’ for the body. They can be found in whole grains, rice and cereals.

Protein. This is essential for growth and cell/amino acid production. The US RDA recommend 38-45g of protein daily and this can be found in lean cuts of meat (digestion of fatty meats can often increase lethargy), fish, poultry and beans,seeds, nuts and grains.

Water. It might seem obvious but good, old fashioned H20 is invaluable during pregnancy. It keeps mother and baby well hydrated and helps transport valuable nutrients to the relevant parts of the body. It is recommended that pregnant women should drink up to 2 liters of water daily.

Occasionally, pregnant women may need to take supplements to increase their intake of any vital nutrients that they may be lacking in. But this should only be done under the instructions of a GP or midwife. Usually pregnant women can get what they need to thrive from entirely natural means – good, healthy food and plenty of rest and recuperation.

I like green food supplements for mom before and after pregnancy and birth, mom is important to everyone in the family and her healthy is vital to the health of everyone else. Omega 3 oils, and vitamin D3 are important for everyone also but especially the growing child and mom who is nursing and caring for the child.

Essential Nutrients During Pregnancy (And Where To Find Them)