Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
- The requirement of several nutrients increases considerably during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Attention should thus be paid to the quality of diet. Food recommended for pregnant women include berries, fruit, vegetables, whole grain cereals and fat-free dairy products, lean meat products and fish.
- The energy requirement of a pregnant woman only increases slightly.
- As the additional energy requirement during pregnancy is not significant, the increased requirement of vitamins and minerals should mainly be met by increasing the nutrition density of the diet, in other words adding to it foods that are low in energy but high in protective nutrients.
- All pregnant women are advised to take a vitamin D supplement throughout the pregnancy and also a folic acid supplement when planning a pregnancy and in its early months. The need for other nutritional supplements should be individually assessed.
Increasing the nutrient density of diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Vegetables, fruit, berries, whole grain cereals and legumes are good sources of fibre, iron and folic acid when you are pregnant. Fish, on the other hand, is an excellent source of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin D and iodine. However, you should avoid certain fish species when pregnant and breastfeeding and make sure that you use fish safely, as certain species contain mercury and other harmful substances. Read more about safe use of fish and fish products.
A sufficient iron intake is important, as most women find that their blood haemoglobin count is lower during pregnancy. About one half of the iron requirement during pregnancy can be met with dietary sources, whereas the other half comes from the iron stores in the mother’s body or an iron supplement. Good sources of iron in the diet are meat and fish, as they contain easily absorbed non-heme iron.
The recommended intake of fat-free liquid dairy products during pregnancy is 500-600 ml a day. You are also advised to have two to three slices of cheese to make sure you get enough calcium and to boost your vitamin D and iodine intake.
Exercise during pregnancy
You can exercise normally and following the general recommendations when you are pregnant. Pregnant women are advised to get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week divided over several days. If you have not been taking exercise before getting pregnant, it is important to start slowly and exercise for some 10–15 minutes three times a week, gradually increasing the duration of the exercise and the number of times you exercise a week.
National Nutrition Council, 2016: Eating together - food recommendations for families in children