For most women as they enter the second trimester the sickness, intense fatigue and random food cravings start to settle and energy levels gradually recover. Your baby’s skeleton begins to calcify, her forebrain grows rapidly, permanent teeth buds develop and the lungs, kidneys and digestive tract are formed but not fully functioning yet.
During the second half of pregnancy, the mother’s body shifts from storing energy and nutrients to releasing them for her baby’s growth. This is because during the first half of pregnancy, although it is an intense period of foetal development, only 10% of growth occurs – the remaining 90% happens in the second half of pregnancy and requires large amounts of energy and nutrients.
7 top nutritional tips for mums going through their second trimester
1. Control your sugar intake As the second trimester progresses your body becomes more resistant to insulin – this is thought to ensure there is enough blood sugar available to the foetus for energy rather than being used by the mother. To support healthy blood sugar management, choose whole grains such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, beans and lentils and keep your intake of sugary snacks, desserts and drinks to a minimum.
There can be a lot of ‘hidden’ sugars in processed foods so check food packaging labels – under ‘carbohydrates’ note the amount ‘of sugars’ in the food you are eating and know that 5g ‘of sugars’ = 1tspof sugar. In particular, breakfast cereals, yoghurts and drinks, including flavoured waters, should be checked.
2. Eat a variety of healthy fats Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, olives, raw nuts and oily fish are great sources of health fats. Nuts are now considered OK to eat during pregnancy as long as you are not allergic to them, and oily fish should be maintained at two servings per week. These fats not only provide energy for the mother and support the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, but they also support your baby’s brain development and fat accumulation, which increases in the second trimester.
3. Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods This will help reduce the risk of constipation, which occurs often in pregnancy as gut motility slows down, possibly to absorb more nutrients from the foods you are eating. Foods rich in fibre include whole grains (beans, lentils, brown rice etc.), vegetables, fruit and flaxseeds.
4. Eat foods rich in iron Your iron needs increase from the first trimester and will be monitored by your midwife. Dark green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, red meat and dried apricots are good sources. Iron is poorly absorbed, even during pregnancy, but you can support absorption by avoiding tea at mealtimes and eating foods rich in vitamin C with your vegetable-based iron-rich foods (e.g. tomatoes and peppers with a dark green leafy salad or a glass of fresh juice with baked beans on toast).
5. Eat foods that support bone and teeth health for your baby These include foods rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin K, found in dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, rocket, watercress, parsley), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin/sesame/sunflower seeds, quinoa and dairy (e.g. yogurt).
6. Make sure you eat some protein every day Protein is needed for the growth and development of both yours and your baby’s body during pregnancy, so it is particularly important in the second and third trimesters when your baby’s growth rate increases. Vegetarians and vegans should pay special attention to getting all the essential amino acids – these are protein building blocks that our body cannot make, so they have to come from our diet. Animal-source foods, such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs and dairy, contain all the essential amino acids.
7. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables daily Not only will fresh fruit and veg provide you with a good level of vitamins, minerals and fibre, but also antioxidants. Pregnancy is understood to be a ‘pro-oxidative’ state, meaning we have higher levels of free radicals being produced. While this is a natural process and we have antioxidants to quench them, it is a good idea to consume an antioxidant-rich diet as well in the form of fresh fruit and vegetables – choose a colourful variety and aim for two handfuls of fruit and three or more handfuls of vegetables every day.
Perfect meal plans for every day
The example meal plan below gives you an idea of how the above recommendations might look in practice (you can Google some of the recipes for inspiration):
Make sure you know what foods you should be avoiding during pregnancy – read the NHS website for latest advice.
Avoid nuts if you are allergic to them.
Take 10mcg of vitamin D each day (for the duration of your pregnancy and while breastfeeding), as per government recommendations.
For more pregnancy-related nutrition recommendations please visit Nourish to Flourish.
Always speak to your GP or midwife if you have any queries or concerns regarding your health and for supplement advice during pregnancy. The recommendations above do not replace professional medical advice. Neither Stephanie Ridley, Nourish to Flourish or Kiddicare accept legal responsibility for any injury or illness sustained while following the advice given.
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