Your guide to pregnancy nutrition

What should you eat and what should you avoid in pregnancy? Your most frequently asked questions, answered!

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There seems to be so many things you have to remember when you sit down to eat a plate of food during pregnancy! We’ve answered some of the big pregnancy diet questions…

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Oily fish are a great source of protein and essential fats, so why do I have to watch how much I eat?

Certain oily fish may contain low levels of pollutants such as dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). When pregnant, you should limit your intake of sardines, fresh tuna, salmon and mackerel to no more than two servings per week, as high levels of dioxins and PCBs can affect your baby’s development.

Folic acid is vital in pregnancy to prevent spina bifida. But what foods can I find it in?

Folic acid is found in a variety of foods including green vegetables (like broccoli) and brown rice. Some breads and cereals are also fortified with folic acid. The Food Standards Agency recommends a daily folic acid supplement of 400mcg from when you stop using contraception to week 12 of your pregnancy.

Can I eat Mozzarella, Cheddar and Stilton cheeses while I’m pregnant?

You can eat Mozzarella and Cheddar, but not Stilton. The blue veins in Stilton are a form of mould, which carries a risk of listeria, and can be dangerous to your unborn baby. You’re advised to avoid soft blue and mould-ripened cheeses in pregnancy. However, thorough cooking kills listeria, so well-cooked Stilton should be safe. Just make sure it’s cooked all the way through and piping hot.

I’ve heard calcium is important, particularly in the last 10 weeks of my pregnancy. Why?

Your calcium requirements double during pregnancy and increase further during the last 10 weeks, when it’s needed to create your baby’s bones. But you needn’t eat more calcium-rich foods as your body adapts to absorb more calcium from the foods you’ve eaten. Good calcium sources include milk, cheese and yogurt.

What’s the current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of caffeine when pregnant?

Current Government guidelines advise no more than 200mg of caffeine a day (about two mugs of coffee). Too much caffeine can increase the risk of your baby having a low birth weight, recent findings have confirmed. There’s also evidence that suggests high levels of caffeine during pregnancy can result in spontaneous miscarriage.

What’s the current Government guideline about how many calories I should have during pregnancy?

In the first six months of pregnancy, you’ll most likely need between 1,800 and 2,100 calories a day (the same as when you’re not pregnant), depending on your activity levels. During the last three months of your pregnancy, you’ll only need 200 additional calories per day.

I heard Vitamin A could be dangerous for my developing baby. Is this true?

Eaten in excess, certain vitamin A-rich foods can collect in your liver and harm your unborn baby. Foods that contain liver (even cod liver oil tablets) have very high levels of vitamin A, so you should avoid them while you’re pregnant.

But the other form of vitamin A (known as beta-carotene)  found in green, orange and yellow fruit and vegetables such as peppers, carrots, mangos and tomatoes, is safe to eat during all stages of your pregnancy.

Why is eating five fruit and vegetables so important when I’m pregnant?

Eating fruit and vegetables daily halves the risk of miscarriage if you’re underweight. Fruit and vegetables also supply you with antioxidants, which protect against cancer and heart disease, and are thought to make you less likely to develop chronic illness.

A large-scale study by the Miscarriage Association found that while women with a low Body Mass Index are more likely to miscarry, daily fresh fruit and vegetables significantly reduces the risk.

Mum’s story

“I ate bananas to avoid leg cramps”

“I got really bad leg cramps when I was pregnant the second time round and I heard that a lack of potassium can cause it, so I made sure I ate bananas. I did seem to really help – I think sometimes it’s easy to forget that minor pregnancy niggles are actually caused by something you’re either not eating or something you’re just not getting enough of.”

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Paulina, 39, mum to Tom, 4, and Jack, now 2

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