Nine months of nutrition—how dads can get involved

It’s fair to say, most dads love food, so why not get your partner involved in your nutrition throughout pregnancy and those early sleep-deprived days of parenthood? 

Mater Mothers dietitian Shelley Wilkinson said maintaining a balanced diet during pregnancy—including a supplement which contains folic acid and iodine) is essential for good health, as well as for a growing baby. 

“Early in pregnancy, the quality of a woman’s diet can influence how the baby's organs develop while later in pregnancy, her diet influences baby's growth and brain development,” Shelley said. 

It can also limit your chances of developing gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia or weight gain above healthy recommendations.

“Women are good at putting their children's and partner's needs before their own, and that doesn’t change when they are pregnant so sometimes they need a helping hand—that’s where dads (and family and friends) come in.”

Here are some tips on how you can help your partner eat well while she is pregnant: 

• Prepare the evening meal if she is experiencing morning (or evening!) sickness. Sometimes the smell of foods cooking can turn a pregnant woman off a meal that she has spent time preparing. She may even find cold meals easier to manage like sandwiches, salad, cheese and crackers, cereals, fruit. Remember to avoid the “at-risk” Listeria foods, like cold meats, smoked seafood, soft cheeses or left-overs (that are cold or were prepared more than 24 hours ago).

• Prepare meals at other times, too!

• Help out with the grocery shopping (and stick to the list).For ideas of good buys see the dietary guidelines below.

• Make more than you need and freeze into good meal-sized portions.Bolognaise, curries, and casseroles (based on meats, legumes, and vegetables) all freeze well and just need rice or pasta added to make a nutritious meal.This is also handy for the first months after your baby is born.

• Do the dishes, even just occasionally!

What are the dietary guidelines for pregnancy?

The dietary guidelines are informed by scientific studies that tell us the best amounts and combinations of foods to eat for good health and limiting long term disease (like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers).

They are also important for a healthy pregnancy and combine the best food and nutrition science into simple and easy to understand household measures and serves.

In pregnancy it is important for women to eat a variety of foods from all of the foods groups (this means they get the benefit from all nutrients that each group has to offer). 

As well as knowing that vegetables and legumes/beans are one of the main food groups to base each meal on, we now know that women need to keep their meals colourful; they should include 'greens' (brassica/ cruciferous veges), orange, raw leafy, starchy vegetables and other vegetables, such as red and yellow vegetables each day.

Whole fruit is best for women during pregnancy (or packaged in natural juices). Only occasionally should they consume dried fruit and juice.

Dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives are recommended in their reduced fat varieties and they are okay to eat during pregnancy. 

Women are also encouraged to eat protein-rich foods, such as lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans. Highly processed meats and sausages as well as other foods listed in the ‘discretionary’ food group should be eaten only occasionally. 

Wholegrain and high fibre grain (cereal) foods should be eaten, when possible as they are great sources of folic acid and iodine as they have been fortified with these nutrients since 2009. Foods with folate and iodine are very important food choices for a healthy, growing and developing baby.

Unsaturated spreads and oils are included in the guidelines as the ‘sixth’ food group.

The recommended average daily number of serves includes an allowance for these high quality fats, depending on individual needs.

More active or taller individuals may choose some additional serves from the Five Food Groups, unsaturated spreads and oils or discretionary choices.

Where can we get more dietary advice and support?

If your partner does not have private health insurance and is attending the Mater Mothers’ Hospital for publically-funded antenatal care you can attend the 'Healthy Start to Pregnancy' workshop which is run most days in the antenatal clinic. Speak to your midwife, obstetrician or level 7 antenatal clinic reception to make a booking.

All other women, whether or not they are birthing at Mater Mothers, are invited to attend the 'Optimal Pregnancy Nutrition' workshop or an individual appointment with a Mater Health and Wellness dietitian.

Phone Mater Health and Wellness on 07 3163 6000 for more information or to make a booking. 

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