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Eating For Two: How cautious should we really be?

'Tis the season to be jolly, but for expecting moms, 'tis also the season of navigating festive feasts with a tiny plus one on board. We've all heard the age-old saying, "eating for two," but what does it truly mean, especially during the Christmas season? To dish out some answers, we sat down with Carmelle Robinson, a nutrition specialist from Vitality Holistic Nutrition in Traralgon, Victoria. She spills the beans on the dos and don'ts of pregnancy nutrition, just in time for the holiday feast-a-thon.


Here's a quick sneak-peak! (click on the drop downs):


Balanced Nutrition During Pregnancy

Nutrient-Rich Foods vs. Portion Sizes

Key Nutrients for Fetal Development

Common Misconceptions About Pregnancy Nutrition



 


Carmelle sitting at desk providing advice
Carmelle Robinson

Balanced Nutrition During Pregnancy:

Many people have heard the phrase "eating for two" during pregnancy. Could you explain what it really means in terms of nutrition, and how important is it for pregnant women to focus on balanced meals?


Carmelle Robinson: Firstly, I strongly believe that the phrase 'eating for two' should be rephrased to 'nourishing for two', as it's not about the volume of food we should be increasing, it's focusing on increasing the nutrients we are consuming. Caloric needs only start to increase in the second trimester when a mother's blood volume increases, body fluids increase and more energy is being used by the mother's body to grow a baby. The nutrients we eat during pregnancy are the building blocks for our babies. This is why it is important to ensure a balanced diet during pregnancy.


On average pregnant women require these additional needs per trimester:


- No additional caloric needs in the first trimester.

- Up to 400 extra calories per day in the second trimester, including an extra 6g of protein per day.

- Up to 500 extra calories per day in the third trimester, including an extra 10g of protein per day.


The importance of balancing meals is to ensure that all the crucial nutrients needed to grow a baby, plus give mum the energy to get through the constant body changes - it’s more about focusing on increasing nutrient-dense foods, than focusing on increasing volume.


Focusing on balanced meals decreases the risk of developing common pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, anaemia, preeclampsia and preterm birth.



Nutrient-Rich Foods vs. Portion Sizes:

During pregnancy, how crucial does managing carbohydrate intake become for both the mother's health and the baby's development? What role do carbohydrates play in supporting a healthy pregnancy, and what practical tips can you offer for monitoring carbohydrate intake during this critical time?


Carmelle Robinson: Carbohydrate intake is important during pregnancy as it is the baby’s primary source of energy. The balance is tricky, but it’s important for a mother to listen to her hunger signals, but also have a look at what she is eating alongside her carbohydrates.


Carbohydrates alone will not satisfy hunger for very long. They get broken down quickly in the digestive system, the energy is used up quickly, and then you’ll be searching for more food shortly after. By pairing our carbs with fats &/or proteins, we can delay the breakdown, absorption & use of energy from our carbs.


I use a macronutrient pie chart to guide my pregnant patients on how to balance their macronutrients. I think it’s also important for women to remember that they need to listen to their body’s as well. Every craving you have is usually for a reason - a lot of women will crave carbohydrates during pregnancy if they are not consuming enough to provide themselves with energy throughout the day - or if their baby isn’t getting what it needs.



Key Nutrients for Fetal Development:

What are the critical nutrients that play a crucial role in the development of the baby, and how can expecting mothers ensure they are getting an adequate amount of these nutrients through their diet?


Carmelle Robinson: At least 3 months prior to conception is the best time to be thinking about critical nutrients for your baby’s health & development. I recommend 6 months - 12 months as the optimal preparation time, but 3 months would be the minimum.


There are many critical nutrients when it comes to healthy development of a baby, these are my top priorities for mothers going into conception:


  • Choline - Choline is an essential amino acid for healthy brain development & protects against neural tube defects. It is as crucial as folic acid.

  • DHA - from omega-3 fatty acids, supports babies' neurological development, reduces inflammation & oxidative stress in the body.

  • Folate / Folinic Acid - Supports healthy pregnancies, protection against neural tube defects and other pregnancy complications. Also important for DNA methylation.

  • Iron - it is important to ensure your iron storage levels (ferritin) are adequate before conceiving as it can drop quickly during pregnancy with the increase of blood volume, and babies' rapid growth. Iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy, left untreated is associated with an increased risk of low birthweight, premature delivery and reduced neurocognition in infants. Iron also helps your body keep up with the blood supply to your baby.

  • Iodine - Crucial for foetal brain & nervous system development.

  • Vitamin D - Important for bone development, immunity and absorption of calcium

  • Calcium - Helps with bone development, muscles, heart & nerve function.


The easiest way to ensure you're getting enough of these nutrients is to eat a variety of foods. Unfortunately it can be difficult to consume the amounts we need through food and is why I recommend looking for a good quality prenatal supplement that includes all of these nutrients in the formulation.


If you are deficient in any of the above, especially iron, calcium, or vitamin D, it is best to increase your levels with nutrient-specific supplements BEFORE conception.


My personal favourite prenatal supplements that are available online to purchase are: Naturobest and The Natal Naturopath Ever Natal.


It’s always difficult to get everything we need from our diet when we are pregnant, especially if we suffer from food aversions and morning sickness. Using the macronutrient pie chart will help with making sure that moms are getting a wide variety of nutrients from their foods, and then filling in the gaps with a supplement ensures all bases are covered.





Common Misconceptions About Pregnancy Nutrition:

There are many myths and misconceptions about what pregnant women should and shouldn't eat. What are some common misconceptions you come across, and what advice do you have for women navigating through this sea of information?


Carmelle Robinson: This is a great topic and honestly I was confused when I was pregnant as well. I think this will always be a controversial topic and it is up to the mother & her healthcare provider to decide what is best for the individual.


The main misconception i often come across is that women can eat whatever they want and eat as much as they want. While it's important to fuel your body, we still need to look at energy coming in vs energy going out, as well as the quality of the food coming in.


I think the one thing that everyone can agree upon across the board is definitely to avoid alcohol during pregnancy, and raw/undercooked meat. There is an abundance of evidence to show that consuming these will result in harm to your baby. Raw & undercooked meat can carry e.coli, salmonella, campylobacter & toxoplasma gondii which can harm an unborn baby, even without mum noticing any symptoms.


In terms of other food safety practices, the Royal Women's Hospital has a great handout HERE.


Proper food safety is important during pregnancy to prevent food born illnesses such as the ones mentioned above, but also listeria that can harm your baby, cause miscarriage or preterm birth.


I think it is important to read, do some research, chat with your healthcare provider & get your information from credible sources, not from social media.



 


As you prepare for the holiday season and consider your dietary choices during pregnancy, seeking professional advice is key. Carmelle Robinson offers valuable insights and guidance for expecting mothers at Vitality Holistic Nutrition in Traralgon, Victoria. For personalised support and further information, visit Carmelle's page and make informed choices for a healthy and joyful pregnancy.


Wishing you a belly full of joy and a season full of delicious, nutritious delights! 🎄🍼



5 Key Takeaways:

1. Quality Over Quantity: It's not a buffet for two; it's a gourmet experience. Nourish your body with nutrient-dense foods rather than overloading on the holiday buffet.

2. Carbs Need Sidekicks: Carbs are the MVPs of pregnancy cravings, but they need backup. Pair them with fats and proteins for a hunger-fighting team that lasts longer than your favourite Christmas movie marathon.

3. Build Your Nutrient Avengers: Your baby deserves the best superhero origin story. Prioritize choline, DHA, folate, iron, iodine, vitamin D, and calcium. It's like creating an Avengers team for your baby's health.

4. Myth Busting 101: No, you can't eat everything you want. Alcohol and raw meat are definite no-nos. Consult the Royal Women's Hospital's food safety guide for a healthy feast.

5. Carmelle's Corner: For personalised advice and a sprinkle of nutrition magic, head to Carmelle Robinson's page at Vitality Holistic Nutrition in Traralgon, Victoria. Because when it comes to pregnancy nutrition, some helpful advice can go a long way. Visit Carmelle's page here.







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