Nutrition in the first trimester

By Akii Ngo, Bump Babes

PBC Expo spoke with nutritionist Akii Ngo who works closely with Bump Babes, to find out about nutrition in the first trimester of pregnancy - what foods can assist with your mood and what foods you should avoid.

What nutrients are important during the first trimester?

Having a balanced diet is always important regardless of pregnancy or not, so it is important to note that healthy eating (fruit, vegetables, low saturated fat, recommended amounts of protein, high quality carbohydrates, lean meats, healthy fats, grains, dairy, keeping hydrated, etc.) doesn’t and shouldn’t change specifically for a pregnancy. In actual fact, there is no recommendation for extra calorie intake during your first trimester.

But certain nutrients are definitely needed more than others and these include: Folate (or Folic Acid), Zinc, Iron, Iodine, and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) - a type of omega-3 fatty acid (healthy fat). Having good quality, low GI carbohydrates throughout pregnancy will help maintain energy levels and may help with fatigue. Fibre (both soluble and insoluble) is necessary for good bowel health.

How should women expect to be feeling and how can food assist with this?

Pregnancy is different for every woman. Just as every woman is different which means experiences can vary greatly. But in general, some women can expect to notice changes in their body, their energy levels, tastes, desire to eat (or not eat) and in more cases than not, some nausea or vomiting.

Food can minimally or significantly affect a pregnant woman’s feelings particularly in relating to nausea, vomiting and appetite. Eating small and frequent meals is recommended for those expectant mums with high levels of nausea and vomiting. This is also true if you are experiencing heartburn (indigestion) or feel full very quickly after eating. There are foods that you can eat that can either help or make nausea worse.

Foods that prevent, avoid or stop nausea and should be eaten include:

  • Ginger or foods/drinks containing ginger which has anti-nausea properties that can definitely help with curbing such symptoms
  • Dry foods such as crackers, biscuits, jelly, low sugar flavoured popsicles
  • Plain vegetables or fruits
  • Lemons which can be eaten, sipped with herbal teas, sucked or sniffed

Foods to avoid in general, and that can cause nausea are:

  • Fatty, greasy and sugary (i.e. chocolate) foods
  • Spicy foods
  • High amounts of caffeine - it is recommended to limit caffeine to less than 200mg/day during pregnancy (equates to 2 cups instant coffee or 1 cup of barista made)

What foods should women avoid during this time?

There prominent foods that need to be avoided from beginning to end of pregnancy, from trimester 1 to trimester 3. This is because expectant mothers are at higher risk of illness due to pregnancy and the unborn children are more susceptible to illness. Avoid anything that is not 100% fully cooked and cleaned thoroughly:

  • Any raw foods (ensure all meats are cooked thoroughly without any pink bits)
  • Raw seafood (sushi, sashimi, oysters, shellfish)
  • Soft cheeses (brie, camembert, ricotta, fetta), deli /cured meats (turkey slices, ham, salami, etc.)
  • Pate (or any meat spreads)
  • Soft boiled or poached eggs, eggs with raw foods (mayonnaise, aioli, mousse, cake/pancake batters)
  • Soft serve ice creams, unpasteurised products (milk and dairy products)
  • Lightly cooked or raw bean sprouts (including alfalfa, broccoli, onion, peas, mung, soybean)
  • Ensure all vegetables and fruits are thoroughly cleaned
  • Alcohol (no safe level) as it is a toxic and could result in birth defects, foetal alcohol syndrome
  • High mercury fish: swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, shark. However, fully cooked salmon, catfish, cod and tuna are fine to eat
  • Avoid taking vitamin A supplements (particularly retinol) or fish liver oil supplements as these are harmful to the baby’s growth and development and can cause deformities - especially in high doses
  • Regular amounts of high sugar foods which do not contribute to fuelling the child's growth.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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