I have to say that my second trimester of pregnancy has just flown by and I’m now well into my third. I was going to do a few posts around my pregnancy but time is running out as the weeks tick by. Here’s a bit of an insight into my second (and third!) trimester in terms of food, exercise, energy and mood.
Energy and mood
In my second trimester, I got my energy back and felt pretty good most of the time, but I have to say I didn’t have the zen like hormones some people associate with pregnancy. In fact, I went through a stage where I had the opposite! One thing that did make me feel better was knowing I wasn’t the only one. I’ve been reading “I’m Not Fat I’m Pregnant” by Jacqui Brown and if you are pregnant or know someone who is, I recommend getting it for you or them. Her diaries are funny and reassuring and the book contains lots of information from the experts. She described these feelings as “pregnancy rage” – all of which is related to hormones. I certainly had some moments that I experienced this, which is totally out of character for me. In general, I’m very easy going, fairly quiet and not easily angered. But so many things would make me grumpy.
As an example, I went to our local bakery one morning and asked for a loaf of sourdough. After I paid for it, I found out it was a fig and apricot sourdough not plain as advertised. I just wanted a plain loaf, which they didn’t have. I felt so mad!! I said “No I don’t want fig and apricot, I want plain. The sign doesn’t say fig and apricot – I want want the sign says.” The poor young looking assistant went out the back to consult another worker, who came back and said “I’m sorry, but we only have the fig and apricot today, we haven’t yet got a sign for it hence why the other sign is up.” I managed to pull my head in and just switch it for a ciabatta, smile sweetly and say thanks and leave, but it really made me mad when something like that wouldn’t usually bother me in the slightest!! I felt quite bad afterwards….. Thankfully, I did get back to feeling more like myself after a month or so.
Now I’m in my third trimester, I’m noticing the tiredness come back again. In the weekends I’ll often enjoy a nap. Sleeping has become more difficult with the bump and I can’t seem to switch my brain off some nights so getting to sleep takes longer too. Oh and there are also frequent stops to the toilet during the night. I guess it’s all good practice for interrupted sleep which I’m sure will be a regular thing in the months to come!
Pregnancy is a time where your nutritional needs are higher, but your energy needs don’t increase too much (you do need a little more, but you definitely don’t need to ‘eat for two’!) so it’s especially important pay particular attention to getting a really good quality diet. Especially because what you eat during pregnancy will influence the health of your wee one for their whole life. It even affects their taste preferences! So if there’s any time to pay special attention to your nutrition, it’s during pregnancy.
While during my first trimester I went off a number of foods and I had strong cravings for carbohydrate based foods and cheese, my taste buds returned to be fairly normal soon after 10-12 weeks and I’ve been focusing on eating a nourishing, varied diet. A couple of things I have enjoyed more than usual during pregnancy are pumpkin, mandarins/oranges and recently a few ice creams, but apart from that I haven’t really had any major cravings since my first trimester.
When you are pregnant, there there are some specific nutrients you do need to be more aware of to ensure adequate intake. This isn’t a definitive list, but it’s a few things I’ve been thinking about for myself (note I haven’t included folate/folic acid as it’s advised to take it 1 month pre pregnancy to 12 weeks – which I’m well past now!). You can check out this booklet for NZ guidelines on healthy eating in pregnancy.
During pregnancy your iron needs almost double from 18mg a day to 27mg a day. This is both for the foetus and also due to the increase in blood supply you have. I have had issues with low iron stores before and have always tended to sit at the lower level of normal. Despite having normal levels before pregnancy and including plenty of iron rich foods, recent tests showed my levels were a little low so I’m now on a low dose supplement to help boost my stores and avoid anaemia. Lean red meat is one of the best sources of iron and I’ve been eating this around three times a week. The absorption of iron is increased by including vitamin C rich foods, so by having vegetables high in vitamin C such as capsicum, kale and broccoli alongside your dinner you can help your body make the most of what you’re putting in.
Vitamin D is a little different to other vitamins and minerals. Our main source of vitamin D is created when the sun hits our skin, rather than our diets. Because there are less sunshine hours and we tend to get outside less in the winter months, our levels can drop. Vitamin D is essential for bone development and recent research suggests that their may be a link between low vitamin D levels and allergy. As well as aiming to get some sun on your bare skin (around midday in autumn/winter for around an hour, and earlier or later in the day for a shorter period), including food sources can help bump up your intake. Oily fish, egg yolks and milk/milk products contain small amounts vitamin D.
If you’re concerned about your vitamin D status, chat to your LMC or GP as certain people may need a supplement. For more information, click here
It’s recommended to take a 150 mcg iodine supplement throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding to support babies brain development as well as our own thyroid health. Iodine is one mineral that is lacking in NZ soils and there are only a few good food sources, so it has re-emerged as a nutrient deficiency. I’ve been taking my supplement each day at breakfast. You can read more about iodine here.
Your calcium needs don’t increase during pregnancy because our bodies absorb and use it more efficiently, but you do want to make sure you get the recommended daily intake of 1000mg a day or it’s possible your body will draw on your own stores from your bones and teeth for baby. Dairy products are one of the highest sources of calcium and I’ve been enjoying probiotic yoghurt, milk and cheese as my calcium sources. Tinned fish with bones such as sardines and salmon are also high in calcium (also a great source of omega 3 fats). Tofu also provides a source as do fortified milk alternatives such as almond and soy milk. Leafy green vegetables and some wholegrains also contain calcium.
Omega 3 fats
Omega 3 fats are essential for brain development. Our babies to be are dependant on us to supply them with these, so including food sources of omega 3 fats in your diet is important. Eating fish, including oily fish like salmon or sardines two to three times a week is an easy way to ensure you get an adequate intake. I’ve been aiming to have fish each week at a minimum once, but most of the time it’s more. I’ll have either salmon or white fish for dinner around about once a week, and then a tin of salmon at lunch one or two days of the week. Earlier in pregnancy tinned fish really grossed me out, but I’m over that now and really enjoying it. It doesn’t look the best, but I find mashing it up and mixing through some finely chopped red onion and lemon juice makes it extra tasty. This spread on toast with avocado and sliced tomato is delicious.
Some types of fish do need to be minimised or avoided during pregnancy due to their higher mercury levels – you can find out more about that here.
So what does all this mean practically? The best thing you can do is eat a varied diet with plenty of wholefoods such as:
- plenty of vegetables and some fruit
- wholegrains such as oats, brown rice, quinoa and good quality bread
- fish, lean beef/lamb, chicken or alternatives if you’re vegetarian
- legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, black beans etc
- healthy fats for cooking such as olive oil
- dairy products or calcium rich alternatives if you’re dairy free
Everyone is different, and individuals may have different needs – this is just some general pointers 🙂 Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek expert help, especially if you avoid food groups for certain reasons.
For me, breakfasts have been oats, yoghurt, fruit and some type of nuts/seeds or eggs or toast and smoothies.
Lunches have been big bowls of vegetable soup with toast and egg (especially when it was colder!); omelettes packed with vegetables, or sandwiches with avocado, salad and tinned fish. Sometimes I’d have leftovers or make roast vegetable salads and have these with some type of protein.
Dinners always include plenty of vegetables, a source of protein and healthy carbohydrates. On Friday nights we’ll often have home made hamburgers (something I’ve loved throughout pregnancy) and I’ll make a side of vegetable fries or roast vegetables to boost my vege intake – things like Brussels sprouts, carrots and pumpkin. My current favourite burger is chicken breast, pineapple and free range bacon packed with crispy lettuce, red onion and tomato. Amazing!
For snacks I’ll eat nuts, fruit, yoghurt and wholefood balls and bars (Tasti and Nice and Natural ones). Sometimes I’ll have something I’ve made, like bliss balls or healthier versions of baking.
Sometimes I’ll have a sweet treat, most often in the weekends or after dinner. I’m a big believer in including the foods you love and not being super restrictive. After all, food is both for fuel and for pleasure. The key is portion and making sure that your baseline diet is full of foods that will nourish you and your baby. I don’t eat a whole block of chocolate – it will be something small, just enough to satisfy my taste buds. You can check out my What I ate Wednesday posts if you want a bit of a nosey into what I eat.
Keeping active during pregnancy is important for both your health and your babies too.
I’ve always loved running, but I stopped running pretty early on. It just didn’t feel comfortable. I think up until about 20-25 weeks I’d run/walk which felt fine, but it was more walking than running. I have to say it took me a while to enjoy the slower pace of going for a walk, but I found listening to podcasts was a great way to make it more enjoyable for me. I’ve also been walking with a friend at work at lunchtime a few times a week which is fun too – a chance to catch up and exercise at the same time.
Cross fit went out the window very early on, there were just too many exercises that I was worried I’d injure myself doing and I didn’t have the expertise to modify this. I have been doing some resistance exercises at home with weights but in general I’ve been pretty slack at this the past 3 months.
I’ve also attended a few pregnancy yoga classes which have been really enjoyable and relaxing, but these are now on hold as the instructor is away.
At 34 weeks I’m noticing how much more breathless I am and I was quite puffed after coming back from a walk on Friday! No doubt I’ll continue to find that during these these last weeks of pregnancy as baby continues to grow and my lungs get squished.
To read more about nutrition in pregnancy, Ministry of Health have a publication here, the info I’ve published here is just general and if you’d like some specific advice, talk to a nutritionist or dietitian.
Till next time,