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For Mums

Nutrition 101 for Pregnant Mamas (Plus, Healthy Recipes to Try at Home!)

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Pregnant mums – have you heard this before ? “Oh, you’re pregnant ! Lucky you – you can eat whatever you want”. Or perhaps you’ve used that good old “I’m eating for two” excuse more than a couple of times already.

Whilst it’s true that you do need extra calories when you’re expecting, pregnancy is not a green light to eat like you’re at a buffet for the 40 weeks that you are with baby! Remember: there’s a healthy amount and way of gaining weight during pregnancy.

According to the current guidelines from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), appropriate weight gain during pregnancy should be based on your calculated pre-pregnancy body mass index. Women who are already underweight before they get pregnant should put on between 28 to 40 pounds (12.5 to 18kg) throughout their pregnancy, whilst women of normal weight should gain between 25 to 35 pounds (11.5 to 16kg). Women who are considered overweight should gain 15 to 25 pounds (7 to 11.5kg), and women in the obese category should only gain between 11 and 20 pounds (5 to 9 kg).

*As reaffirmed by the IOM and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) in 2020

How many extra calories do I need if I’m pregnant ?

Contrary to the “eating for two” myth,  you don’t need to double your daily calories so that your baby will develop well. In fact, the IOM recommends that during the first trimester, there is no need to increase food intake at all. During the second and third trimesters, the general recommendation is to increase daily intake by 350 and 450 calories, respectively. An interesting fact is that a breastfeeding mum actually needs more extra calories than a pregnant mum in her third trimester !

You would also want the extra calories to come from healthy sources, such as lean proteins, whole grains, fruit and vegetables. A slice of cheesecake now and then is okay, but not at every meal. Think about this – the more weight you put on when you’re pregnant means the more work you’ll have to do postpartum to eventually lose that weight. Putting on too much weight also means a higher chance that you may need a Caesarean section, and have medical conditions such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. Plus, an overweight mum can mean an overweight baby, with more medical complications at birth and a higher risk of obesity later in life.

Do remember that if you have a health condition such as diabetes, you should go over your diet recommendations with your doctor.

Equally as important is staying active during your pregnancy, but make sure that you get clearance first from your doctor. If your doctor says that you’re okay to exercise, getting in a moderate-intensity workout regularly will not only stave off excess weight, but will also help you to stay fit, feel great and help to decrease complications during your pregnancy as well.

Healthy Eating Tips

Most pregnant mums will attest to the fact that as they progress into their third trimester, the hunger pangs will strike! A helpful tip is to prepare healthy snacks and keep them in your car, bag and workplace so that you’re not tempted to grab something unhealthy. You may crave for your roadside stall’s pisang goreng, but it may not be prepared in the most hygienic way, and you want to avoid any potential food poisoning issues whilst you’re pregnant. Your favourite potato chips are fine on occasion too, but do remember that these snacks are high in sodium, which can lead to water retention and uncomfortable swelling.

Here are some practical habits you can adopt:

  • Have a variety of healthy snacks with you – dried fruit and yogurt for when you’re craving something sweet, and nuts or healthy chips for when you want that savoury kick.
  • Stay well-hydrated – a handy trick is to have your favourite water bottle with you at all times, and flavour it with some lemon, if that helps you drink up.

Healthy Recipes to Try

Here are 3 easy-to-make snacks to help you keep your healthy eating habits on track during your pregnancy:

Snack #1 – Crunchy Garlicky Edamame

Edamame, also known as soybeans, are a great snack as they are high in protein so will keep you full for longer.

You’ll need:

  • 3 cups of shelled edamame, defrosted and drained (you can find this in your local supermarket’s frozen section);
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons of garlic powder (you can also use cayenne pepper or chilli flakes for a spicy kick!)
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Spread the shelled edamame over a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the edamame then sprinkle the salt, garlic powder and black pepper. Mix well and re-spread the edamame over the baking sheet so that it is a single layer. Bake in oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the edamame are crispy and brown.

Snack #2 – Protein Pancakes

Have this for breakfast or tea time and make extra to take with you as a snack throughout the day. These go well with a cup of decaffeinated coffee or tea!

You’ll need:

  • 100 g oats
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 100 g cottage cheese
  • 1 banana
  • 1 pinch of baking powder
  • 1 splash of almond milk
  • Groundnut oil

Suggested toppings – or you can substitute for whatever you like :-

  • 4 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons runny honey
  • 4 tablespoons fat-free Greek yoghurt
  • A handful of any of these – blueberries, strawberries, kiwi fruit, mango, pomegranate seeds

Blitz all the pancake ingredients (except the oil) in a blender until smooth, adding an extra splash of almond milk if it’s too thick.
Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, brush with oil, then pour out any excess.

Drop heaped tablespoons of the batter into the pan and cook for 3 minutes, or until little bubbles start to form on the surface. Carefully flip with a palette knife and cook for a few more minutes, or until the pancakes are lightly golden and cooked through.

Transfer to a plate, then layer the pancakes up with the fruit and almond butter, drizzle over the honey and spoon on the yoghurt.

Snack #3 – Green Smoothie

This is a great way to make sure you get your fill of fruit and veggies for the day! Just make it in the morning, use what you have in your fridge and you can also make enough for the next day. This recipe is tweaked from actress Reese Witherspoon’s Green Juice recipe – she swears that drinking this daily contributes to her flawless and glowing skin!

You’ll need:

  • Some fruit – a banana, a green or red apple, an orange, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries
  • Some veggies – kale, romaine lettuce, cucumber, celery
  • Optional: coconut water, lemon

Cut up all the fruit and vegetables and put it in your blender (or Thermomix, if you have one ). Blitz it, do a taste test and adjust accordingly. (Tip: Fruits like banana and oranges will add to the sweetness of the smoothie. Add coconut water or plain water if you prefer a less thick smoothie).

Pour into your tumbler, take it with you on your busy day, and you have a super healthy delicious drink that keeps you full and feeling deservedly good about yourself. 

Here’s to a safe and healthy pregnancy ahead, mamas!

By Kim Boey


Photos courtesy of Fitness Edutraining Asia (FEA)

Kim Boey is an educator, personal trainer and group fitness instructor who has been in the fitness industry since 1997. She’s the creator and teacher for the Training Pregnant and Postpartum Clients course at FITM, a fitness education centre, and is mum to 2 boys.

From our team of purposeful, multi-faceted mummies. For editorial or general enquiries, email to us at hello@makchic.com.