Watch out for…
Make sure that all meat is cooked thoroughly with no traces of pink or blood to reduce the risk from listeria bacteria. “Listeria gives flu-like symptoms, so you may not recognise it as food poisoning,” says Fiona Ford, Wellbeing pregnancy and nutrition expert (eatingforpregnancy.co.uk). “Listeria can cross the placenta, and in rarer cases can lead to miscarriage,” she adds.
Fish and shellfish are a good source of protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and are low in saturated fat, but you should take care when pregnant. “Raw fish, shellfish and large fish like swordfish should be avoided because of their high mercury content and the risk of mercury poisoning,” says Fiona. “Mercury levels are much lower in tuna, but you should still limit it to no more than twice a week.”
Liver contains high levels of a type of vitamin A called retinol and should not be eaten during pregnancy. “Vitamin A can cause birth defects in your developing baby,” advises Fiona. Check that any multivitamin supplements you wish to take do not contain vitamin A, and avoid fish oil supplements like cod liver oil.
Soft-boiled or raw eggs may carry salmonella bacteria so it’s really important to make sure eggs are cooked thoroughly until both the yolk and white are solid. “Salmonella poisoning can give you nasty diarrhoea and sickness, which can make you very ill, but doesn’t directly affect your baby,” says Fiona.
Cheese is a great source of calcium during pregnancy, but some types should not be eaten as they can contain listeria bacteria. “Mould-ripened cheeses, like Brie and Camembert, and blue-veined cheeses like Stilton should be avoided,” advises Fiona.
Munch away on…
Low fat yoghurt
During pregnancy, dairy products like yoghurt are an important source of calcium. “Try to have two or three portions of dairy a day,” says Fiona. “Calcium is important for your baby’s development, bones and teeth.”
Attempt to include an iron-rich food with every meal. You need extra iron for your growing baby and placenta, especially in the second and third trimesters. “Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and broccoli are a great source of iron,” says Fiona. If you’re not a fan of broccoli there are lots of other iron-rich foods you can try, like fortified breakfast cereals, lean beef, spinach, chickpeas and dried apricots.
Foods high in starch like wholemeal pasta and potatoes help to regulate blood sugar levels, provide energy and are filling. “Including a food high in starch with every meal is recommended,” advises Fiona.
Beans and pulses
It’s important to have protein in your diet during pregnancy. “Protein is a building block for life and is vital for your baby’s growth and development,” says Fiona. “I would recommend two or three portions of protein a day, which can come from lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, beans and pulses.”
Packed with essential nutrients and full of fibre, fruit is an important part of any healthy diet and even more so when you’re pregnant. “It is important to have your five-a-day of fruit and vegetables,” says Fiona.