In her brand-new book ‘A Deliciously Healthy Pregnancy’, acclaimed nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert shows you how to sustain yourself and your growing baby. In this extract, she shares the importance of nutritious food, supplements, hydration and gut health. She also shares two nourishing and simple recipes.
A nourishing pregnancy
Good nutrition in pregnancy is vital for you and your baby. You need to ensure that you are consuming enough energy to support you and your growing baby’s needs, while the nutrients your body stores support your baby’s development and help to reduce the risk of health complications arising in your baby.
Food and supplements in pregnancy
Getting the right amount of essential nutrients is vital in pregnancy. While a “foods first” approach is important – eating a balanced diet with a range of nutrients – supplements are often needed, especially if nausea means you’re struggling to eat a varied diet.
Taking supplements doesn’t mean that you don’t need to worry about what you eat; you should still optimise your diet to give you and your baby the best nutritional outcome.
Your pregnancy diet
Eating healthily in pregnancy helps to optimise your and your baby’s health; enables you to manage symptoms such as constipation; and supports your energy needs. Moreover, what you eat in pregnancy is thought to influence your baby’s health up to their second birthday.
Aim to model a Mediterranean-style diet. Eat a wide variety of foods from the main food groups, including starchy and fibrous foods such as bread, rice, and potatoes; protein and calcium sources; and plenty of vegetables and fruits.
You need a bit more protein and calcium in pregnancy and when breastfeeding. You also need to increase your intake of some other key nutrients.
If symptoms such as nausea make a varied diet feel unachievable, rest assured that many bland foods supply key nutrients. When you feel able, return to a balanced diet with lots of colourful produce.
A balanced pregnancy diet
Guidelines advise that over two-thirds of your food should be made up of fruit, veg, and other complex carbs. The rest of your plate should be made up of protein and calcium sources, both of which you need more of now.
Why gut health is important in pregnancy
Gut health is an exciting new area of nutritional science, as we find links between our minds and gut via the brain-gut axis and discover the role of healthy gut bacteria in immunity and mental health.
Gut bacteria aid mineral absorption, synthesise vitamins, and digest fibre, strengthening the gut and helping the liver to regulate blood sugars and appetite. It’s thought maternal diet and gut bacteria may play a role in babies’ developing gut microbiome.
In pregnancy, a Mediterranean-style diet with a variety of produce, fibre, complex carbs, and healthy fats; fermented foods such as yoghurt and kimchi, which contain probiotics – healthy live bacteria; and foods such as apples, prunes, pears, leeks, garlic, and pulses that contain prebiotics, which feed existing healthy bacteria, can all benefit your baby’s health.
Babies also receive maternal bacteria in vaginal births (research into transferring vaginal bacteria to Caesarean-born babies is ongoing), and there are chances to optimize babies’ gut bacteria with breastfeeding and weaning.
Staying hydrated in pregnancy
Hydration is essential for our health at all times and is especially key in pregnancy. Water ensures that nutrients and oxygen are carried through the blood to our cells and that our kidneys can filter and excrete waste.
In pregnancy, your fluid needs increase, to support your increased blood volume (and in turn your baby and placenta) and to make up for fluid lost due to pregnancy complaints and certain conditions. For example, you will need to replace lost fluids if you are vomiting. (If you are frequently sick and find it hard to keep fluids down, talk to your midwife or healthcare provider.)
Sweating can also increase in pregnancy, which will mean you need to replenish fluids, and conditions such as gestational diabetes increase your risk of dehydration.
When you drink enough water, you may notice you start to feel less fatigued, and that symptoms such as constipation improve.
In pregnancy, aim to drink 2–2.5 litres (31⁄2–33⁄4 pints), or 8–10 cups, of water or other healthy fluids a day.
Sources of hydration
Water is the best hydrator, but other drinks can count towards your fluid intake, too, as shown in this diagram.
Good sources of hydration
Water can make up all of your fluid intake, or aim for at least 5–6 glasses a day (1 glass on waking; 1 glass with each meal and snack; and sips throughout the day).
Safe herbal teas
Enjoy 1–2 cups. Avoid experimenting now or drinking too much of one tea. Stick to ginger, chamomile, lemon, peppermint, or rooibos. Avoid raspberry leaf tea before 32 weeks as it may stimulate the uterus.
Both dairy and plant-based milks are hydrating. You may wish to choose semi-skimmed milk to keep saturated fat intake low.
Juice hydrates and its nutrients add to your five-a-day quota. However, have no more than 1 small glass of 150ml (5fl oz) a day to avoid excess sugar.
Limit or avoid these drinks
Drinks with sugar
Limit sugar-sweetened drinks, such as squash, as the sugar adds up. If you regularly drink squash, opt for sugar-free or make your own fruit-infused water.
Flavoured waters, milks, and “juice” drinks can contain too much sugar on top of your dietary intake for the day so limit these.
Fizzy drinks can contain both sugar and caffeine (see above and below). If you like fizzy drinks, try carbonated water or add fizzy water to sugar-free squash or juice.
Mildly diuretic, tea and coffee do hydrate, but in pregnancy, avoid caffeine or limit to 200mg a day (see p.61). Per cup, white tea has up to 60mg; black tea up to 90mg; green tea up to 45 mg (Matcha up to 35mg per 1⁄2 tsp powder); and coffee up to 100mg.
Alcohol does not contribute to hydration. It can also affect your baby’s health so it’s best to avoid it completely in pregnancy.
How do I know if I’m dehydrated?
Being aware of the signs of dehydration can alert you to take steps to up your fluid intake and to check with your healthcare provider that there are no other concerns. The following signs indicate dehydration.
– Urine that is dark yellow or strong-smelling. Ideally, urine should be colourless to pale yellow and without any odour. Passing urine less frequently – fewer than four times a day – also signals dehydration.
– You feel thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty, you are likely to already be dehydrated.
– Your mouth feels dry and your eyes less lubricated.
– You have unexplained fatigue.
– You feel lightheaded.
How much should I drink?
The recommendation for adults is to drink 1.5 to 2 litres (23⁄4 to 31⁄2 pints) of water or other healthy fluids a day. With the extra demands on your body in pregnancy, aim to increase this to 2 to 2.5 litres (31⁄2 to 33⁄4 pints) a day. A mug or glass is about 250ml (9fl oz), so this equates to 8–10 drinks a day.
If drinking 8–10 cups of fluid a day feels daunting, try sipping water throughout the day to stay hydrated. The diagram opposite looks at the optimal sources of hydration.
While plain water is the most hydrating fluid, other drinks can contribute to your fluid intake. Foods with a high water content, such as cucumbers, melons, celery, and tomatoes can also help to refresh the body.
Here are two of our favourite recipes from ‘A Deliciously Healthy Pregnancy’
Butternut Squash Pasta
Provides sustained energy / Supports immune system function
Staple pasta provides fuelling carbs for pregnancy. Pairing with fibrous squash adds beta-carotene and vitamin C, helping to support immune function.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 35 mins
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ tsp paprika
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
350ml (12fl oz) vegetable stock, plus a little extra if needed
30g (1oz) grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve
300g (10oz) dried fettuccine
15g (½oz) sage leaves and 30g (1oz) toasted pine nuts, to serve
Flex it – Use a vegan alternative to Parmesan if preferred.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion. Fry for 8–10 minutes, or until soft and translucent.
Add the garlic, paprika, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir well and cook for another minute or so. Add the squash, cannellini beans, and stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15–20 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the stock has reduced by almost half.
Add the Parmesan and blend into a purée, adding a dash more stock to thin the sauce if preferred. Taste and adjust the seasoning. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain, reserving 1–2 tablespoons of cooking water, and return to the pan.
Make crispy sage leaves by heating the remaining oil in a frying pan over a medium–high heat. Add the sage and fry for 30 seconds, or until crisp. Remove and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.
Add just enough sauce to coat the pasta (freeze any leftover) and the reserved water and stir to combine. Divide between 4 bowls, topped with the Parmesan, sage leaves, and pine nuts.
Date and Walnut Granola Bars Promotes healthy digestion / Provides sustained energy / Promotes brain health
These satisfying snacks are also a nutritional treat. Oats release energy slowly, avoiding sugar dips between meals, and, together with dates, supply fibre to aid digestion. Walnuts provide omega-3s, supporting health and fetal brain development in pregnancy.
Prep 15 mins
Cook 25–30 mins
225g (8oz) porridge oats
75g (2½oz) pumpkin seeds, or seeds of choice
100g (3½oz) walnuts, or other nut of choice, roughly chopped
100g (3½oz) unsalted butter
3 tbsp honey or maple syrup
100g (3½oz) soft, light-brown sugar
½ tbsp ground cinnamon
100g (3½oz) Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
Flex it – Use coconut oil in place of butter and opt for maple syrup instead of honey for vegan granola bars.
Preheat the oven to 160°C (350°F/Gas 4) and line a 20 x 30cm (8 x 12in) brownie tin with parchment paper. Place the porridge oats, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts on a baking tray, stirring them gently to distribute them evenly. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes, until lightly golden.
In the meantime, combine the butter, honey or maple syrup, and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir until melted, then remove from the heat and stir in the cinnamon, dates, and toasted oat mixture.
Tip the mixture into the brownie tin, pressing it down lightly, then bake for 25–30 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely in the tin before removing and cutting into 12 bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
The above is an extract from ‘A Deliciously Healthy Pregnancy’ by Rhiannon Lambert, published by DK.