You might be eating for two when you're pregnant, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to go overboard. Annabel Karmel is Britain’s number one author on cooking and nutrition for babies and children, and with her latest book, Eating for Two, she goes back one step further.
Eating for Two:The Complete Guide to Nutrition During Pregnancy and Beyond was so interesting to write, as I’d been given so little advice when I was pregnant about what to eat. I’ve always had mums asking me about all these myths about what you can and can’t eat, so I thought I should do some proper research and find out the truth behind all these old wives’ tales.
There’s a lot of confusion on lots of things, such as which cheeses are safe to eat and how much fish you can have each week. This book is based on the latest research – plus it was great fun coming up with healthy, delicious recipes for adults for a change!
There are some obvious basic rules when it comes to certain foods, such as unpasteurised cheese and raw seafood; these are important to stick to, as these foods come with a warning for a reason. Other than that, think about things in moderation. Try to keep a healthy, balanced diet, eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Don’t deny yourself everything; if you love your caffeine, let yourself have the occasional cup of coffee, but don't go overboard. I craved chocolate – especially dark chocolate – when I was pregnant … but it’s not all bad, as it does contain some iron!
Of course, don’t overindulge on favourite treats such as sugar and chocolate just because you’re pregnant – not only is all the processed sugar not good for you and your baby, it will also make it so much harder to get out of that habit once you have had your baby.
I craved chocolate – especially dark chocolate – when I was pregnant … but it’s not all bad, as it does contain some iron!
Regarding specific nutritional ‘rules’, you’ll get advice on the importance of folic acid and iron: these need to be followed, but also make sure you have enough fibre in your diet, as pregnancy can cause awful constipation.
Pregnancy is often seen as a time to forget diets, throw away the scales and eat whatever you like. The combination of food cravings and knowing that weight gain is inevitable – and even necessary – can fuel the temptation to eat fatty and sugary foods, with the excuse that you’re “eating for two”.
In reality, while there are now two of you, your body is even more efficient during pregnancy, and you don’t need to eat extra calories for the first two trimesters. Even during the third trimester, only an extra 200 calories (around 840 kJ) are needed each day, on average; less if you were overweight at the beginning of pregnancy. Healthy snacks that contain about 200 calories include a small handful of nuts and seeds, a hard-boiled egg with two slices of wholemeal toast and spread, or a pot of low-fat fruit yoghurt and a cup of fruit salad.
Excess weight gain can increase the risk of problems such as pre-eclampsia and diabetes during pregnancy, not to mention the fact that carrying extra weight after the birth that can be hard to lose. It can also be as a result of choosing foods that are higher in fat and sugar but lower in the vitamins and minerals crucial to your baby’s development.
There are some basic guidelines for breastfeeding mothers, too, as well-nourished women are more likely to be successful at feeding their babies. You actually need to eat and drink more than when you were pregnant, as women often feel hungrier and thirstier while breastfeeding. It is important that you eat and drink enough to satisfy your appetite. You’ll need about 500 extra calories a day. It takes a while for the body to recover from the birth of your baby, so it’s a good idea to take a good quality postnatal mineral and vitamin supplement.
It’s important to make sure that you have enough iron-rich foods in your diet. Many mums are deficient in iron after the birth of their child and this could lead to anaemia, which will leave you feeling very run-down and also more prone to infection.
Try Annabel's recipe for satay chicken or sea bass/red snapper with tomato relish, published with permission from Eating for Two.
Annabel Karmel’s iPhone app offers 120 new nutritious and easy recipes, plus exclusive video content. Available from the iTunes store, $6.49.