Back to basics in pregnancy

A recent Australia-wide study has shown some pregnant women aren’t getting enough of the basics staples in their diet.

The University of Adelaide research found none of the pregnant women in its sample group followed the Australian Dietary Guidelines on consumption of the “five food groups”.

Dr Lenka Malek, a postdoctoral research fellow in Global Food Studies at the University, found two-thirds of the women involved thought they were eating well.
“The results are rather alarming – we were expecting to see at least some pregnant women correctly following the guidelines across all food groups, but there were none,” she says. 
The study examined the eating habits of 850 pregnant women across Australia. It found:
  • 56% of pregnant women ate the daily recommended two serves of fruit
  • 29% consumed enough dairy
  • less than 10% ate the recommended levels of other food groups: vegetables, grains and lean meats.
Bupa dietitian Rebecca Hall says it’s really important pregnant women get back to basics and focus on the five food groups, while avoiding high risk foods.

“Choosing a wide variety of foods from each of the five food groups will help to meet the extra demands of pregnancy,” Hall says.

“Ensure you incorporate lean meats or legumes, lentils and tofu into your diet and eat a variety of vegetables, particularly the green, leafy kind. Also be mindful of your dairy or calcium intake.” 
Hall says it’s important to ensure you have enough iron, protein and calcium while you’re pregnant, particularly if you’re a vegetarian or vegan.

“For pregnancy it’s definitely not about eating for two, it’s more about the quality of the foods that you’re eating, not the quantity,” Hall says.

“Try not to over complicate it, because you’ve got lots of other things going on, so stick to things you know; just make sure you get that variety of foods across the five food groups.”
healthy food in a tray

Nutritious foods for pregnancy 

Protein: Protein is the building block of new tissue, which pregnant women need to support not only the baby’s growth, but their own bodies too.  
Good sources: Lean meat, chicken (without the skin) and fish, but be aware of those containing high levels of mercury (e.g. swordfish, barramundi and tuna).
Other sources: Eggs (cooked), legumes, lentils, milk, cheese and yoghurt.

Iron: Is important for red blood cell production to meet the increased needs of both mum and baby. 
Good sources: Red meat, chicken, fish and eggs (cooked). 
Other sources: Legumes, lentils, wholegrain breads, broccoli, spinach, silver beet, parsley and nuts. The iron in these sources is not as readily absorbed, so eating them with foods containing vitamin C − like capsicum, tomato and citrus fruit − can improve absorption. 

Folate: Important for the early development of the baby and the growth of their red blood cells. 
Good sources: Spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and fortified breads and breakfast cereals. Folate is destroyed by heat so it’s preferable to eat vegetables raw (ensure they are washed) or lightly steamed rather than boiled. 

Calcium: Most pregnant women don’t have increased requirements but it’s important that they eat the recommended three serves of dairy (or fortified alternatives) daily, especially when breastfeeding, to ensure the growing baby has enough to develop strong bones and teeth. 
Good sources: Milk, yoghurt, hard cheese (avoid soft varieties), fortified soy products and salmon or sardines with bones.
Other sources: Almonds, tofu, tahina, parsley and figs.

Iodine: Important for the brain development and growth of the baby. 
Good sources: Eggs (cooked), seafood (be aware of those containing high levels of mercury as above), margarine, milk, hard cheese, yoghurt and fortified bread. 

Recipe

Chickpea and sweet potato salad (light meal, serves 2)

Ingredients:

½ medium sweet potato (~200g)
1 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed (can swap for 4 bean mix)
3 eggs 
1 cup broccoli, cut into small florets
2 cups baby spinach
1 medium capsicum, sliced
¼ Spanish onion, diced
2 tablespoons slivered almonds

Dressing:
½ cup natural yoghurt 
2 tablespoons parsley, washed & chopped
1 teaspoon of Wasabi paste OR 1 tablespoon seeded mustard (both optional, dependent on taste preferences)

Method:
  1. Place eggs in a small saucepan half filled with water. Bring water to the boil, once boiling reduce to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes. 
  2. Place sweet potato in a heat proof container, prick with a fork and cook on high in a microwave for 5-10 minutes. Once soft cut into ~1cm cubes.
  3. Lightly steam broccoli in the microwave container or over the stove. 
  4. Mix dressing ingredients together
  5. Once eggs are cooked, rinse under cold water then shell and cut into quarters. 
  6. Put spinach, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, broccoli, capsicum, onion and eggs into a bowl and stir through dressing. 
  7. Garnish with slivered almonds. This dish can be served warm or cold (place in fridge for 30 minutes before serving). 
*A good addition to this recipe is canned salmon with bones. Drain and add at step 6.

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