Eat your way to a healthy pregnancy

Try our seven-point plan for eating your way through a healthy pregnancy

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Now you’re expecting, there are a few healthy eating rules you might like to adopt and superfoods to add to your shopping list to help keep you feeling good, and give your baby the best possible start. Here’s the lowdown.

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Forget eating for two!

Eating extra for your baby is a myth. While it’s important to gain enough weight piling on too much too quickly can increase your risk of pregnancy diabetes and high blood pressure.

Most mums-to-be need just 200-300 extra calories a day in the final months, on top of the normal 2000-2500 daily calories. Remember, it’s quality not quantity that counts. For example, go for brown bread, rice and pasta rather than white – these will give you more energy in the long run.

Stock up on folic acid

Folic acid helps reduce the risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, so take a daily 400mcg supplement until the end of your 12th week. Also go for folic acid rich foods – try spinach, cabbage; broccoli; brown bread; bananas; fortified breads and cereals.

Prioritise protein

Protein is used to make new cells for you and your baby so you need to eat two or three daily portions of these foods – sources include lean meat and chicken, eggs and pulses such as beans. Also include up to two portions of oily fish (trout, sardines or salmon) each week. They are protein-rich and contain vitamin D for healthy bones and omega-3 fatty acids for your baby’s developing nervous system. But don’t eat more than two portions of oily fish a week, as there are concerns about pollutants.

Drink milk

Three portions of calcium-rich foods each day will help your baby develop healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is best absorbed from dairy sources, so include milk, yoghurt and cheese in your diet. As for portion sizes, go for a pot of yoghurt, 200ml of milk and a matchbox-sized piece of cheese. Full-fat and low-fat dairy products contain the same amount of calcium, but low-fat versions don’t have as much vitamin A, good for eye and bone development, and vitamin D. 

Go easy on the caffeine

Cut right back on caffeine – high levels can lead to low birth weight or even miscarriage. Try to stick to around three mugs of instant or filter coffee each day, and don’t overdo the tea or cola either, as they also contain caffeine. Stay well hydrated by drinking at least 1.5 litres of water a day and sipping herbal teas. When it comes to alcohol, current guidelines say it is safe to drink one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week, but some experts still advise cutting it out altogether.

Feast on fruit and veg

Fruit and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals needed to keep you and your baby healthy. It is recommended you eat five portions a day, ideally fresh, but dried or frozen counts towards your daily intake.

Foods to grow a healthy baby

It’s easier than you think to eat well for pregnancy. Try to include the following in your diet every day.

  • Lean meat or fish
  • Milk and cheese
  • Five portions of fruit andf vegetables
  • Potatoes, bread, pasta and rice
  • Fortified breakfast cereal

WHAT ABOUT ALCOHOL?

Current guidelines suggest pregnant women drink no more than one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week. But how much is a unit?

1 unit = ½pt of normal strength beer OR 1 x 25ml measure of spirits
2 units = 1 x 330ml alcopop OR 1 x 175ml glass of wine
3 units = 1 x 250ml glass of wine 

What to avoid

Pregnant women are advised to steer clear of the following as they can contain bugs harmful to you or your baby. But don’t panic if you accidentally eat something on this list as illness is rare.

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  • Liver and liver pâté
  • Raw or part-cooked eggs or anything they’re included in such as certain desserts and home-made mayonnaise
  • Raw shellfish
  • Mould-ripened or blue-veined cheeses, including Brie, Camembert and Stilton Swordfish, shark, marlin
  • Peanuts, if you, your partner or children suffer from a nut allergy, hayfever, eczema or asthma

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