Nutrition & Exercise During Pregnancy

How do you get the right nutrition during pregnancy you ask? In this blog by Matchstick Monkey, you will find out about nutrition during pregnancy, foods to eat and avoid, cravings, exercise and additional supplement guidance.  

Whether you are trying for a baby, you’re currently pregnant or you have recently given birth, getting the right nutrition is the key to health, both physical and mental. Good nutrition also helps your baby to grow and develop healthily. 

Nutrition During Pregnancy

To ensure you have a nutritious diet during pregnancy, you should aim to eat a variety of good foods every day. If eating from all different food groups seems a bit overwhelming on a daily basis, try to enjoy your variety of good foods over the space of a week. Alongside eating from various good food groups, adding exercise into your daily routine when pregnant is a great way to keep active and strengthen your body. 

Good nutrition is achieved by eating a variety of different foods and incorporating exercise into your lifestyle. A specialist diet isn’t necessary unless it’s advised by a medical professional. Foods with a high vitamin content are great during pregnancy and to make sure that your body is getting all that it needs, folic acid is often recommended to pregnant women. 

You may find that you are hungrier than usual during pregnancy, but you don’t need to eat a whole lot more in terms of the volume of your food. Instead, add various choices of different ‘good foods’ you can enjoy. Being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to cut out your favourites either, but you should be mindful of eating too much of one food type.

Plan meals to eat throughout your day such as a strong breakfast, lunch, dinner and healthy snacks that you can turn to. This will help you to avoid any unhealthier choices. Use the NHS Eatwell Guide to see how you can balance your diet using a variety of food choices. 

Safe Foods During Pregnancy

One of the many joys of pregnancy means that for the next nine months you can encourage healthy and nutritious eating behaviours that will benefit you and your baby. It’s most important that a pregnant woman gets a varied diet with balanced nutrients throughout her pregnancy journey in order to stay healthy and strong. We’ve created a list of foods that are safe to eat during pregnancy in combination with a healthy lifestyle:

  • Hard cheeses e.g. cheddar and parmesan 
  • Dairy e.g. yoghurt, ice cream and milk
  • Cooked hen’s eggs
  • Bread and baked produce
  • Pasta, spaghetti and rice 
  • Cooked fish, seafood and tuna
  • Clean vegetables, fruit and salads
  • Chicken, pork and beef with no signs of pink or blood
  • Cold meats e.g. ham and corned beef.

Again, you will get nutrition from eating a varied diet of good foods. Don’t be afraid to try new things and spice up your palette, as long as the foods you are eating are safe to eat during pregnancy. 

Unsafe Foods During Pregnancy

Whilst most foods are available to eat during pregnancy, it’s important to understand the difference in foods that are going to do good for you as well as the foods that you really should try to avoid eating if you can as they can cause harm to your baby. Foods that you should avoid during pregnancy include:

  • Undercooked meat e.g. red steak
  • Raw unfrozen fish e.g. sushi
  • Pasteurized milk 
  • Cheeses with a hard exterior e.g. camembert and brie
  • Soft blue cheeses e.g. danish blue and gorgonzola

The reason for the limit of these types of food is because the live bacteria in raw, undercooked and pasteurised products are unsafe for your growing baby. In some cases, these foods can be eaten if they are almost over-cooked and very hot but ideally, you should check to make sure it’s safe for you and your baby before eating them.

Pregnancy Cravings

Cravings are real! Some mums can experience weird and wonderful cravings. Cravings are how your body calls out for something it wants and usually, they won’t last too long during your pregnancy. Common cravings include frozen berries, celery, toast and peanut butter, although anything that is safe to eat during pregnancy could pop up as a craving. 

One of the most important parts of being pregnant is to ensure that you are getting the best balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals that it needs to support both you and your growing baby as well as safe exercise.

Exercise and Pregnancy

Exercise allows your developing body to maintain strength and flexibility before, during and even after pregnancy. Exercising throughout your journey with pregnancy will help you to stay healthy, lower your blood pressure and strengthen your body in preparation for childbirth. 

Exercising is a way that can increase comfort during pregnancy. It can help alleviate the aches, pains and strains that come with pregnancy; particularly for pain in your back and knees. Here’s some exercises that you can incorporate into your pregnancy journey:

  • Walking either briskly or at a leisurely pace
  • Pool swimming
  • Stationary cycling
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Prenatal personal training
  • Low impact aerobics with certified instructor guidance 
  • Labour and delivery preparation exercises

Not all exercise is a good idea during pregnancy. Some high-risk activities can cause harm to your baby and your body during pregnancy. High-risk exercises to avoid during pregnancy include: 

  • Skiing
  • Road cycling
  • Horse riding
  • Rugby
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Scuba diving
  • Surfing 
  • Intense or cross country running

Unless you are already an established extreme-sport athlete, it isn’t a good idea to start a high-risk activity like the ones mentioned above during your pregnancy. If you are used to these extreme activities, discuss with your doctor during your pregnancy to see how you can tailor the activity so that any risk is decreased whilst you still enjoy your exercise. 

Alternative Sources of Nutrients During Pregnancy

You can enhance your nutrition during pregnancy with additional sources of vitamins and supplements, always ask a medical professional’s advice. You can read more from the NHS on vitamins and supplements during pregnancy. 

To conclude, good nutrition during pregnancy comes from eating a varied diet, adding healthy alternatives as snacks and engaging in some low impact exercise throughout your pregnancy journey. 

Related blog: What Can A Pregnant Mother Do To Help Promote Her Baby's Health?