Nutrition in pregnancy is of crucial importance for both a mum to be and her developing baby. In turn, when you are carrying multiples, the need for good nutrition is even more important as the nutrient and energy demands to develop healthy babies are extremely high. And while there are no specific nutrition guidelines for eating when you are carrying twins (or more babies), there are a few key nutrients to be mindful of. As such, there are foods that mums to be should focus on to help ensure both their own optimal health and that of the developing bubs.
As is the case with the first trimester of a single pregnancy, calorie requirements are not significantly increased when you have a twin pregnancy. Rather many women feel quite ill during this stage and as such, eating a nutrient rich diet that you are able to tolerate is the most important aspect. Especially iron, zinc and omega 3 rich foods including fish, lean red meat, nuts and seeds offer vital nutrients and should be included on most days. Daily consumption of leafy green vegetables and wholegrains will also ensure you tick the box for folate consumption – in these cases a chilled green smoothie can be an easy way to get key nutrients in an easy to consume drink. Most importantly, your pregnancy multivitamin that contains iron, zinc, DHA, iodine, Vitamin D and calcium is crucial.
Read more in my guide to good eating in your first trimester.
Once you reach the second trimester, you may find that your hunger begins to increase and the huge demands on your iron from the developing foetus means that your dietary intake of iron is important. The best advice at this time is to increase the number of meals you have as opposed to simply snacking more. Consuming small meals every 3-4 hours will ensure that your nutrient intake is improved especially of the key nutrients your body is needing more off.
Aiming for each meal to include an iron or calcium rich food is an easy way to naturally increase your nutrient intake – for example, eggs or baked beans on toast; soups or leftovers made with lean meat or cooked fish and vegetables and snacks of nuts, seeds or smoothies. Most likely you will need an extra 300 calorie meal once or twice each day to give your body the extra calories that it needs.
Read more in my guide to good eating in your second trimester.
Once you reach the final trimester, it is all about the balance of what you can manage to eat (and fit in), how long you have before you deliver your babies and getting enough energy to do much at all while you carry around an extra 20-25kg. While you will be in need of plenty of calories, iron, zinc and calcium, most likely you will also need to continue supplementing to get enough of these key nutrients. When you can eat, again the focus does need to be on iron rich foods, and most mums to be find that small snacks consumed every couple of hours is the best way to manage your energy needs with what your body can tolerate.
Nutrient rich options include salmon or tuna on crackers; lean meat strips in stir fries or wraps, baked beans or eggs with toast, smoothies and snacks of fruit, yoghurt, nuts and seeds. When you focus on making sure each food choice offers something positive nutritionally, the body will do a good job of absorbing what it needs to. The biggest nutritional issue for women at this time is low iron levels – the demands for iron when carrying multiple babies are extremely high, and most people need supplementation through the entire pregnancy no matter how well they eat. For this reason, pay close attention to your iron levels at the end stage of your pregnancy as having low iron having just given birth is not ideal as you will need your energy to be at its best once you get some with your bubs.