Want to eat well during pregnancy and nourish your baby with all the prenatal nutrients and vitamins your body needs
Your healthy, nutritious pregnancy diet doesn’t just benefit you….it benefits your baby too.
Eating a well-balanced diet during pregnancy can improve your overall health, reducing the effect of some of the less pleasant side-effects you might be experiencing (nausea, fatigue and constipation for instance) as well as minimizing the risk of some of the more serious complications (such as pre-eclampsia) that have been linked to dietary deficiencies during pregnancy. Managing a healthy pregnancy weight gain is better for both of you whilst piling on too many pregnancy pounds can cause serious health problems.
Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much – you don’t actually need extra calories during pregnancy until the third trimester and even then, your need for extra calories only increases by around 200-300 calories a day. But nevertheless, your well-balanced pregnancy diet should provide all the nutrients necessary to grow a strong, healthy baby.
Your daily pregnancy diet should include:
- Protein is essential for your baby’s growth– ideally you should include two-three servings of meat, fish, cheese or eggs, or vegetable proteins such as nuts, beans, lentils, quinoa or tofu every day
- Carbohydrates act as fuel for your body and should be on the menu at every meal. Aim for complex, unrefined carbs which are richer in nutrients and provide a sustained source of energy to keep your blood-sugar levels stable. Carbs can be found in cereal, breads, rice and pasta as well oats, rye, spelt, barley corn, quinoa, yams, buckwheat and sweet potatoes
- At least five to six portions of fruit and vegetables – go for the ‘rainbow’ with fruit and veg of many colours. Try for a good spread of dark green, leafy vegetables, root vegetables and plenty of fruit. Fresh is best but don’t dismiss frozen, canned or dried fruit and veg… or whizz up a delicious, vitamin packed smoothie.
- Include calcium rich foods, important for healthy teeth and bones and for baby’s heart, nerve and muscle development. Skipping calcium will mean your baby will help herself to yours, which could put you at risk of osteoporosis later in life. Dairy products such as cheese, milk, yogurt and fromage frais are the obvious choice but don’t forget, calcium can be found in green leafy vegetables, small fish with bones (such as sardines), tofu, beans, nuts and seed· About 400 micrograms a day of folic acid is generally recommended when you are trying to conceive and during the first trimester to help prevent neural defects such as spina bifida. Folic acid is found in greens, potatoes, chickpeas, wholegrains, sweetcorn, broccoli, fortified cereals and soya milk – aim for two servings a day.
- Two portions of oily fish each week will help promote your baby’s healthy brain development
- Stay hydrated– we would recommend six to eight medium glasses of filtered or mineral water, especially when exercising or if the weather is hot. Whilst sports drinks can give you an instant lift after your pregnancy workout they tend to be high in calories and can contribute to weight gain. Tests have shown that milk will give you more benefit than a manufactured sparkling drink.
- Fibre is important to keep everything moving through your system and avoid constipation and the dreaded pregnancy piles. Eat plenty of fruit and veg, wholemeal bread, brown rice and pasta – but make sure you stay hydrated as too much fibre and not enough fluids can exacerbate constipation.
Let’s talk pregnancy vitamins!
Your healthy pregnancy diet is critical to the health of your baby for many years to come – growing a new person requires plenty of prenatal vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin D keeps your bones and teeth healthy – and helps your baby to develop strong bones too. Our bodies make Vitamin D naturally from sunlight and it’s only found in a few foods, including fortified margarines and breakfast cereal. Exercise outside for half an hour and let the sun do its work!
Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, fight infection and promotes healthy bones, joints and skin, encouraging a healthy immune system too. Good sources include citrus fruits, blackcurrants, strawberries and kiwi fruits as well as green leafy veggies, tomatoes and peppers.
Vitamin B12 is needed for making new cells (especially blood cells) and building the nervous system. You’ll find it in meat, fish, eggs, milk, soya and in some fortified breakfast cereals but it’s not abundant in fruit and veggies. Vegetarians and vegans might need a supplement.
Iron is essential to help your red blood cells transport oxygen around your body and deliver it to your baby. It’s also needed for bones and connective tissues, cartilage and ligaments. The iron found in meats, eggs, poultry and fish is easily absorbed and there’s iron present in leafy green veg, dried fruits and nuts it’s harder for your body to absorb it from these sources. Iron absorption can be improved by including a source of vitamin C with your meal – go for a glass orange juice with your meal!
And include a regular intake of healthy fats
‘Good’ fats are essential for the development of your baby’s brain and nervous system: read more about which are the good fats and which are the bad fats here:
And one last word… avoid alcohol – it’s not a healthy option. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggests that one or two units once a week won’t harm your baby – but giving up altogether is better for both of you. Behaviour problems, learning disabilities and hyperactivity have all been linked to drinking in pregnancy – as well as low birth weight and foetal alcohol syndrome.