The first trimester is the period in which the foetus undergoes the most change, including the development of cells, organs and muscles. As a result this can be a high risk period, where the baby is most susceptible to long-term damage and harm.
Pubmed.gov stresses that during this time, it's important to ensure that a mother’s body has enough nutrients, vitamins and minerals to sustain the necessary growth and development.
Given that these nutrients, vitamins and minerals are derived from the foods and supplements an expectant mother will consume, having a healthy balanced diet is essential in making sure a fully developed foetus enters the second trimester.
While we often hear about the precautions that should be taken during pregnancy and the foods that should not be consumed, sometimes knowing what you can eat makes planning your meals easier.
Here is a list of some of the best foods to eat during your first trimester as sourced from Healthline:
1. Dairy Products
Dairy products are a great source of casein, whey, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B, magnesium and zinc all of which are required to aid development in the first trimester. While milk is great, the best dairy product to consume when pregnant is Greek yogurt. Yogurt contains more calcium and probiotic bacteria than any other dairy product and is great for gut health.
All the foods that fall under this category contain fibre, protein, iron, Vitamin B (B9), as well as vitamins, minerals and proteins all of which are used by a woman’s body during the first trimester. Lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas and nuts are also great if you’re not a big red meat eater or are on a vegetarian based diet, as these foods are an excellent source of iron.
In situations where the mother fails to consume enough of these foods and is unable to get the vitamins, minerals and proteins they contain there is an increased risk of neural tube defects, low birth weight and complications for the baby later in life.
3. Sweet Potato
There are five kinds of sweet potato and they all contain a compound that your body can turn into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for a healthy foetus because it is required for cell and tissue growth and differentiation. It would be best for pregnant women to attempt to double their Vitamin A intake. Sweet potato has many other benefits including being a great source of fibre which will help with blood sugar and general gut health.
Salmon is known for containing omega-3 fatty acids, these acids are likely to be the most important nutrient a foetus will needs because it is what forms the brain and eyes. According to the Better Health Channel, consuming the right amounts of fish that contain the omega-3 fatty acids, will ensure that you meet your recommended intake levels while limiting the amount of mercury reaching your baby.
Salmon is also a source of vitamin D, and helps build healthy bones and keep your immune system functioning at capacity so pregnant women should aim for two to three serves per week.
Eggs are packed full of protein and healthy fats as well as being a great source of choline. Not consuming enough choline while pregnant can result in an increased risk of neural tube defects as well as a risk of decreased brain function in the foetus. Having a single boiled egg a day will mean you've consumed a 1/4 of your recommended daily intake of choline.
6. Broccoli, kale, and spinach
Broccoli and other leafy greens are another great source of nutrients including fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, calcium, iron, folate and potassium. Think that sounds amazing, well they're also great for immune and digestive systems and are a source of antioxidants.
The fibre in these vegetables is necessary for gut health and will help prevent constipation, a condition that a lot of pregnant women suffer. For your foetus, consuming broccoli, kale, and spinach will mean a reduced risk of low birth weight.
If you're not big on eating greens, try kale chips, they're easy to make and taste delicious.
7. Lean meat
All meats are a source of protein; while beef and pork are especially full of iron, choline and vitamin B. These are some of the most important nutrients a pregnant body requires throughout the 9months.
Red meat will reduce the risk of iron deficiency and anaemia, which are both conditions that increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight. As a result of the significant amount of iron in red meat, if a pregnant woman is able to consume the required serves, there might not be the need to consume an iron supplement.
8. Fish liver oil
Fish liver oil also known as cod liver oil is similar to salmon in that it also contains omega-3 fatty acids and brings all of the same benefits. In addition, it also includes vitamin D which reduces the risks of preeclampsia.
If not diagnosed and treated right away prolonged preeclampsia can result in the death of both the foetus and the mother. Having one tablespoon of fish liver oil will cover a mum-to-be's daily intake of omega-3, vitamin D and vitamin A.
The options in this category are endless, taste amazing and are full of healthy carbs, water, vitamin C and antioxidants they contain. Like most fruit, berries contain natural sugars that are unlikely to affect blood sugar levels.
10. Whole grains
Whole grains are an easy way to help pregnant women feel fuller for longer and provide their bodies with a source of fuel to burn over a longer period of time. They also contain fibre, vitamins, plant compounds and proteins.
Avocados are full of healthy fats, folate and potassium. The healthy fats are important for developing the foetus' skin, brain and body tissue. While the potassium can help pregnant women who often experience leg cramps.
12. Dried fruit
Prunes and dates are good examples of dried fruits that help women with constipation; and in the third trimester dates are said to help with cervical dilation so that women don't need to be induced.
A final word on nutrition
During pregnancy the human body makes an extra 1.5L of blood and it needs to stay hydrated while producing and maintaining this new blood level. So drinking 1-2 liters of water a day is key. Given that the mother’s body will share water with the foetus, oversharing can occur, and a woman’s body can become dehydrated before she realises.
Symptoms of dehydration include headaches, anxiety, tiredness, bad mood and reduced memory and if experienced a pregnant woman should drink a glass or two of water and have a lie down. Of course, if symptoms persist you should consult with your medical practitioner.
If you feel like you are unable to consume all of these foods it’s often a good idea to consult with your OB or GP about the option of taking vitamin supplements. It's also a good idea to be taking a pregnancy supplement as soon as you start trying for a baby.
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