nutrition in pregnancy

Maximum nutrition in pregnancy

Pregnancy is not always a time when we can sit back, relax and spend hours clicking through mum-to-be websites (hello!). Many of us have two jobs to do, homes to run and older children to look after.

In the middle of all of that, we also have to remember to eat for two or at least one-and-a-bump. How can we manage our busy lives and still eat well? Here is some expert advice on how to get maximum nutrition with minimum fuss for busy mums on the go:

1. Remember to eat

This may sound obvious, but it is surprising how many people skip breakfast, use lunch to run errands and then collapse on the couch with a bowl of cereal at the end of a long day. Not eating means no energy and even less chance that you will get around to a healthy meal the next time you eat. Always have breakfast lunch and dinner – even if you just give it five minutes and only have time for a snack.

2. Plan ahead

If you are busy it is easy to miss meals but take 30 minutes to plan the week’s menu and it can make all the difference. Plan dinners for the week and then look at what you want for breakfast and lunch. Then shop!

If you don’t have good food in the house, you will end up eating something less than ideal. The first time you do this, it might take a little thought but you will quickly find you can fly through it and having a plan for the week will help you stay on top of your nutrition.

3. Cook ahead

Make use of your freezer and save money by cooking double the amount of meals like Bolognese, lasagna, soups and casseroles that you can freeze and pull out on evenings you are too tired to cook. Soup is easy to make and freeze and is great for a work lunch along with some bread and cheese.

4. Drink!

Getting dehydrated will make you feel very tired and it will be harder to think straight and plan anything. It is not unusual for pregnant women to get dehydrated – morning sickness can be a problem but many just forget to drink when they are running around looking after other children, work and family. You need at least two litres of water every day. You can add mint leaves, cucumber, lemon slices or a drop of low-sugar cordial.

5. Ask for help

We do have this idea of being a ‘superwoman’ and handling everything ourselves, but the reality is that we can only handle so much before something gives. If there are people around you can ask for help, then do. If your mum can cook a meal, then ask her. If a neighbour offers help with shopping then say yes. These are favours you can pay back later and have probably paid forward already.

6. Super snacks

Even if you miss a meal or don’t have time to cook, you can still pick up some valuable nutrition with some healthy snacks.

  • Yoghurt and yoghurt drinks are great snacks. They are good sources of protein for a growing baby and also give you lots of calcium for those little bones.
  • Cheese is another great high protein snack and small packs of cheese are great in a handbag or lunchbox.
  • A handful of dried fruit counts as one of your five-a-day and they are packed with vitamins and minerals. Raisins have iron and dried apricots are rich in beta-carotene.
  • Fruit is a quick and easy stand-by and is a great way to pick up vitamin A and fibre.
  • Nuts are another good protein-rich snack and they only need to be avoided if you have a strong history of peanut allergy in your family – or you are allergic yourself.
  • Cereal bars are not as ‘full-of-sugar’ as you might think and they are a great high-fibre snack that often comes with the benefits of wholegrains and nutritious seeds. Check labels and look for bars that have at least 3g of fibre per 100g.

Add nutrition to meals

In an ideal world, we will all grow our own organic vegetables, harvest them lovingly and cook everything from scratch… However, if you are like most people and trying to pull a healthy meal together in fifteen minutes with what you found in the freezer, then there are a few things you can do to boost the nutrition:

1. Use frozen veg.
Frozen veg are just as good as fresh and need a whole lot less preparation. Even if you are having fish-and-chips for dinner, boil up some frozen peas to add some vitamins.

2. Add seeds. 
Seeds are a quick and easy way to add minerals like magnesium and copper. All seeds are useful so try anything from sunflower seeds to linseeds to pumpkin seeds. Add them to a yoghurt for a snack or dessert and use them on breakfast cereals and salads.

3. Stock up on tins.
Sweet corn, tuna, salmon and beans to make a quick sandwich or meal anytime. Add a dollop of mayonnaise to tuna and sweetcorn for a sandwich that ticks all the nutrition boxes or try baked beans on toast.

4. Yoghurt.
A good source of bone-strengthening calcium (an eight-ounce carton contains about 35% of your daily requirement), low-fat or non-fat yogurt also supplies protein and potassium. Choose plain yoghurt, since the flavoured kinds are often high in sugar, and make sure the label says the brand contains “live and active cultures,” since those bacteria have been shown to benefit your gastrointestinal tract and may help prevent yeast infections.

5. Boil an egg.
Eggs are a great way to add protein as well as some iron. Hardboiled eggs travel well so they are great to throw into a lunch box for work or just to have in the fridge for a quick lunch. A boiled egg and wholegrain toast with a sliced tomato is a super-quick meal for any mum-on-the-go.

More like this:

The best foods for new mums
Eating for two
Supplements in pregnancy

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.


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Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.