Mediterranean-style eating isn’t just for holidays, there are many benefits to a diet rich in fresh fruit and veggies, crispy green salads, olive oil and plenty of fish – especially for pregnant women! Enjoy your favourite sun-drenched foods in your pregnancy diet all year round.
Olive oil is rich in essential Omega-3, crucial for producing a healthy nervous and immune system for your baby; it also contains a generous amount of Vitamin A which is linked to better vision and healthy eyes. Olive oil also has an abundance of Vitamin E, which is especially valuable during breast feeding – ensuring you have sufficient supplies of Vitamin E will benefit your newborn, boosting healthy kidney and pancreatic function.
Use olive oil on your skin as well – women have been using it for centuries to help keep their skin supple.
Big juicy flavour-filled tomatoes are key to many Mediterranean dishes – delicious, readily available and just as good cooked as they are raw, tomatoes are ideal to include in your holiday-influenced pregnancy menus. Tomatoes are a fantastic source of essential Vitamin C and are also rich lycopene, an antioxidant that protects against cell damage – research has shown that including plenty of lycopene your pregnancy diet can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia.
Red peppers are packed with beta-carotene which converts in your body to Vitamin A, essential for your baby as it encourages the healthy development of eyes, bones, skin and organs. Perfect raw in salads and dips, try stuffing the handy space inside a pepper to create a complete meal. Long, sweet pointy peppers are delicious filled with olives, baby tomatoes and either crumbled feta cheese or slices of halloumi – simply sprinkle them with olive oil and a scattering of herbs and roast them in the oven until the peppers are soft and the cheese has melted.
You should aim to eat at least two portions of fish each week as part of your healthy pregnancy diet – and ideally at least one portion should be oily fish to enjoy the benefits of all those essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that some fish, including tuna, can also include high levels of pollutants – however, the health benefits of oily fish during pregnancy outweigh the downsides, so don’t avoid it altogether, just limit your intake to two portions a week. The NHS recommend pregnant women should avoid swordfish, shark, marlin and shellfish – but there’s no reason not to tuck into as much white fish (such as cod, haddock, plaice or skate) as you fancy!
Keep the Mediterranean theme going with fish cooked in plenty of freshly chopped herbs.
Eat plenty of nuts
Nuts often feature in Mediterranean dishes and they’re a fantastic source of nutrients for pregnant women. Walnuts have more omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha-linolenic acids than other nuts – eat plenty of them! Crushed walnuts with rich, creamy yogurt and a spoonful of honey makes a delicious and easy dessert often served in Greek restaurants. Almonds are a great source of fibre and protein, containing a whole range of essential pregnancy nutrients such as Vitamin E, selenium, zinc, calcium, magnesium and B vitamin, including folate and vitamin B7 – perfect for nutritious pregnancy snacking.
Sadly, that other mainstay of Mediterranean meals – a bottle of local wine to wash down the salads and the bowls of olives is off limits. But hey, fresh chilled water with a slice of lemon and a sprig of fresh mint is a great substitute!