Eating healthy and not skipping any nutrient is very important for you and your baby during pregnancy. As soon as you get pregnant, people around you start giving you their advice and opinion about what and how much to eat. It is important to educate yourself about all the necessary nutrients so that you don’t skip any of them during this period.
I visited Vanessa Ghossoub, an experienced dietitian and sports nutritionist, who is also the founder of Svelte Healthy Living, and she answered all my questions related to eating healthy during pregnancy.
1- Can you briefly describe your background?
“I am the founder of Svelte Healthy Living Health Center, launched in 2010, where the Journey of solving cases and helping people lead better lives through eating and exercising properly. Moreover, I am a health expert:
• Dietitian and sports nutritionist – AUB Graduate
• Fitness Trainer – Merging Diet and Fitness for Maximum results
• Radio Host – “Sohtak Bel Balad”
• Media speaker/Motivator – MTV, LBCI, & Al Jadeed
• Expert Articles and recipes – Fit N Style, Fitness News, Moms & to Be, Annahar, Atyabtabkha, JustfoodTV
• Brand Ambassador – London Tea, Spinneys, Blédina, Gerblé, Aruba, Joe Weider.
I think that people confuse the D of Diet with Deprivation, Demotivation and Depression when it should be exactly the opposite! However, I understand this, and only after years of being a dietitian myself that I understand exactly why.
Having the chance to listen to people’s real problems is a lesson to me, I know how to reward instead of punish, pull instead of push and be positive instead of negative. Believe that you can, and you will!”
2- What nutrients are critical, both before and during pregnancy?
• “Proteins (eggs, salmon, chicken), carbohydrates (high fiber cereals, fruits) and healthy fats (olive oil, nuts), in accurate amounts, are all highly needed during pregnancy, for muscle growth and tissue development, energy and immunity, respectively.
• Vitamin C is important to increase Iron absorption during this time. Mix citrus juice in salads with beans and meat to better absorb this Vitamin. Vitamin C is found in sweet pepper, broccoli, strawberries, kiwi…
• Iron is found in meats, lentils and dark leafy greens and is important for blood circulation.
• Folic acid is crucial for your baby’s development, present in dark green leafy vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, celery, spinach, but also in beans, lentils, peas and nuts.
• Omega 3 is important and found in fish, tuna, walnuts, almonds and canola oil.
• Calcium can be found in low fat milk, yogurt and dairy foods.
• Vitamin B12 can be found in milk, poultry, salmon and meat.
• Vitamin A found mainly in carrots.
• Vitamin D found in eggs and milk.
• Potassium found in spinach and lentils”
3- What nutrients a pregnant woman should have more of?
“The Daily Recommended Intake (or RDI) for pregnant women, is slightly higher for Vitamin A and C (for immunity), Calcium and Vitamin D (for bones and blood pressure), Vitamin B12, Folic Acid (for baby’s development and growth), and Iron (for blood circulation).”
4- Is it true that a pregnant woman can eat for two? So how much extra can a pregnant woman eat?
“This is a myth. You are eating for one, not for two. So forget your grandma’s stories about feeding yourself more to have a healthier baby, and focus on feeding yourself healthier instead. You can allow yourself for 300 extra calories of good nutrient since your body is burning more. Good nutrients could be a cup of low fat yogurt with some almonds and a kiwi. Eating for two can lead to gestational diabetes and blood pressure. Eat the quantity for one, think quality for two.”
5- Does a pregnant woman need to drink more liquids? And does it prevent water retention?
“Pregnancy hormones upset all sorts of normal balances within your body, including levels of sodium and potassium – and this leads to your body retaining more fluid, rather than absorbing and expelling it.
A pregnant woman needs approximately 10 cups (2.3 liters) of fluid per day. This includes the three to four glasses of milk or calcium-fortified soy beverage recommended.
• Fluid requirements can also be achieved with a glass or two of fruit or vegetable juice, herbal tea, soup, rice drink or any other non-alcoholic refreshment.
• Coffee and regular tea should be consumed sparingly because of the caffeine.
• In addition, your body will derive water from food, especially fruit, vegetables and semi-liquid foods like yogurt.
• With exercise, it is important to drink additional fluid if the weather is hot.
• One of the most effective ways to help decrease water retention is to drink more water. As odd as that sounds, your body is hanging on to the fluid because it feels it doesn’t have enough! So don’t let yourself become dehydrated.
• You shouldn’t cut out completely on salt, but you should avoid very salty meals and snacks which are likely to be heavy in sodium.”
6- Why is it important not to gain too much weight? And what is the normal weight gain during pregnancy?
“In general, you should gain about 1 to 2 kg max during the first three months of pregnancy, and 0.5kg per week during the rest of your pregnancy. If you are expecting twins you should gain 15 to 20 kg during your pregnancy.
Weight gain recommendations: Normal is 11kg (baby 3.5kgs + uterus 1kg + 0.65kg placenta + 0.8kg amniotic fluid + breast 0.4kg + extra blood supply 1.25 kg + water retention 2kg + fat 2kg). If you were initially underweight, you can gain up to 18kg, and if you were overweight you can limit your weight gain to 7kg. If you are having twins, you can go up to 20 kg max.”
7- Is it important to take supplements?
“Folic acid is important for pregnancy, as it can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects. It’s not easy to get the amount of folate recommended for pregnancy from food alone, which is why it is important to take a folic acid supplement.
Taking a prenatal vitamin can help cover any nutritional gaps in the mother’s diet. Prenatal vitamins contain many vitamins and minerals. Their folic acid, iron, iodine, and calcium are especially important. Your doctor could also prescribe, if needed, Vitamin D to avoid gestational diabetes and low birth weight new born babies, Fish oil for Omega 3 necessary for the baby’s growth and the mother’s cardiovascular health, and Probiotics to relieve from constipation.”
8- Are the extra kilograms gained during pregnancy a sign of a healthier baby?
“Not at all! It has nothing to do with it. You can gain 7kg and have a perfectly healthy baby. Even more, if you are obese or overweight, this might affect your baby’s health negatively, definitely not a sign of a healthier baby.”
9- Finally what tips can you give a pregnant woman?
“Few foods to avoid:
Hot dog, sushi, deli meat (turkey, pate), tuna (1 can per week), undercooked shellfish (oysters, clams and mussels), unpasteurized soft cheeses (Listeria: goat, brie, camembert, blue cheese, feta), unpasteurized fresh milk, raw eggs (including Caesar’s dressing and mayonnaise), undercooked meat (toxoplasmosis, salmonella), alcohol, caffeine (less than 200mg/day), artificial sweeteners and under cleaned fruits and vegetables.
All important things said, moderate exercise like walking, swimming or aqua gym can help during delivery and in getting back in shape faster. Be positive and arm yourself with patience and enjoy the experience!”
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