Cheese, Seeds and Sunshine- The low down on Calcium and Vitamin D during pregnancy : Guest Post Laura Clark ( Dietitian)

Cheese, seeds and sunshine – the low down on calcium and vitamin D during pregnancy
In pregnancy food takes on a whole different meaning. What can I eat? What should I eat? What do I feel like eating?! Two really important nutrients to consider are calcium and vitamin D.
As you head into your final trimester, calcium demands on your body are high – the body is clever at dealing with this though and will ensure you hold onto more as well as increasing your placenta’s production of vitamin D for maximum calcium absorption for your baby’s skeleton.
It is important to keep your calcium reserves topped up as your body will automatically use up your supplies to ensure baby gets what it needs. Calcium is found in high amounts in dairy foods with 200mls milk, a 150g pot of yoghurt or a matchbox size of cheese, each meeting a third of your daily needs. Having 3 serves of dairy food a day will therefore meet your calcium requirements.
However, there are other good sources of calcium which can enrich your diet. Choose fortified breakfast cereals or swiss style muesli with added nuts for breakfast or as a snack. Include plenty of green vegetables (e.g. broccoli, leeks, cabbage, spinach, green beans, watercress, curly kale, Chinese cabbage) with your dinner and make double portions so you can use leftovers the next day. Throw red kidney beans or chickpeas into spaghetti bolognaise, chilli, pasta salad or a casserole and for a handy lunchtime snack try baked beans on seeded toast.
Sultanas, dried apricots and sunflower seeds also make convenient, transportable snacks and as well as being rich in fibre and healthy fats are a good source of calcium too!
As for the low down on cheese; some cheeses are off the menu because of the risk that they carry listeria which can harm your baby. These include mould-ripened soft cheeses, such as brie, camembert and chevre (a type of goats’ cheese) and soft blue-veined cheeses such as Danish blue or gorgonzola. Although listeriosis is rare it is best to be safe as it can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth or severe illness in a new-born baby.
All other hard cheeses including cheddar, stilton and parmesan are fine even if made with unpasteurised milk as with a low water content they will not harbour bacteria.

All other soft cheeses such as ricotta, halloumi, cheese spreads and goat’s cheese are also fine but if in doubt check that they’re made with pasteurised milk.

Vitamin D goes hand in hand with calcium as it is needed for calcium absorption to both create and maintain strong healthy bones and teeth. It’s a fat soluble vitamin and is obtained mainly from conversion of ultraviolet sunlight into an active form for the body to use. It’s important to get sunlight when you can, but you don’t need to sunbathe!
Vitamin D has received a lot of attention recently as studies have shown poor levels of vitamin D in mothers will affect a baby’s bone mass making them more likely to develop osteoporosis in later life. Recommendations are that all pregnant women should take an additional 10µg supplement of vitamin D per day.
Dietary sources are limited but do include fortified breakfast cereals which make a handy snack and provide far more nutrition than traditional nibbles such as biscuits.
Oily fish is also a rich source– salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout for example. Don’t have more than two portions a week though because these types of fish contain high levels of mercury that can damage your baby’s developing nervous system.
Another great source of vitamin D are eggs which are great to incorporate into meals and hard boiled make an easy, filling snack.
Vitamin D supplementation is particularly important if you always cover up when you go into the sun, are following a vegan diet, are of Asian origin or are significantly overweight.
For more individualised advice, contact Laura for more information.

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