Eating well throughout your pregnancy and taking care to ensure your diet is full of good nutrition is one of the best things you can do for your developing baby – and for yourself. Your unborn baby is relying on you to give them everything they need and you’ll need the extra energy to help them grow inside you!
Lots of people say pregnant women need to eat for two. In actual fact, you probably won’t need to eat much more until the second or third trimesters of your pregnancy. By that stage, it’ll just be an extra 200-300 calories, depending on your needs – that’s basically an extra slice of toast and a smoothie.
It’s important to keep your mealtimes regular during pregnancy, so that your body doesn’t run low on energy throughout the day. Always start the day with breakfast and try to make the effort to eat properly at other mealtimes too.
If you are nauseous during early pregnancy, try to make sure that the meals you are able to eat are good quality and nourishing. You might find it helps to have smaller meals but more often. Eating small, healthy meals also helps later on in pregnancy when you can quickly feel very full or if you suffer from heartburn.
All the good things
A variety of foods will give you and your baby lots of different, valuable nutrients. The foods that make up a healthy pregnancy diet are:
- Lots of fruit and vegetables - at least 5 portions a day
- Plenty of carbohydrates such as rice, pasta and potatoes
- Meat, fish, eggs, pulses or tofu for protein
- Dairy foods or non-dairy sources of calcium
- Oily fish like salmon, trout or mackerel are rich in Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids – great for the heart and provide brain-enhancing LCPs (also found in breastmilk)
- Yogurt-based foods containing probiotics ("friendly" gut bacteria)
- Prebiotic-rich food like wholegrains, bananas, onions, garlic, asparagus, artichokes, tomatoes, leeks and chicory
Piling up the veggies
Eating healthily doesn't have to be complicated or take up lots of time. A quick steak will help to keep up your iron levels. A jacket potato with cheese, or pasta with sauce, plus salad, is easy and nourishing. Pile extra vegetables onto a pizza - spinach, sweetcorn and red peppers are all great choices - to help get your 5-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables. Enjoy a rainbow of different coloured fruit and vegetables for lots of different nutrients and try to make them fill around half of your plate.
1 of your 5-a-day
So how much fruit or veg makes up one portion? Try these guidelines for size:
- A handful of broccoli or any other vegetable
- About 1.5 tablespoons of cooked vegetables
- Two tablespoons of raw, chopped vegetables
- One piece of medium-sized fruit, like an apple or an orange
- Two handfuls of berries
- A glass of fruit juice or a bowl of soup with a vegetable base
- Two or three smaller fruits like kiwis or apricots
Although bright and fresh is usually best, when it comes to getting enough fruit and vegetables in your diet, frozen, chilled, canned, dried or 100% juice all count too.
Remember, though, however much fruit juice you drink in a day, it only counts as one portion.
Folic acid - known as folate in its natural form - is one of the B-group of vitamins. Folate is found in small amounts in many foods, but good sources you could include in your diet are broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, asparagus, peas, chickpeas, baked beans, brown rice, fortified breakfast cereals, wholemeal bread and some fruit (such as oranges and bananas).
It’s also recommended that you take a daily 400mcg folic acid supplement from the time you stop using contraception to the 12th week of pregnancy.
Pregnancy increases your body’s need for iron so factor this into your diet too. Good iron-rich foods include red meat, pulses, green leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals and bread. Have some fruit juice or other food high in vitamin C at the same time, as these foods will help your body absorb the iron better.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient which the body needs for healthy bone growth. For this reason it is important to have enough vitamin D during pregnancy as you are using much more of it to grow new bones. Most of our vitamin D comes from sunlight in the summer, however you can also get it from certain foods including oily fish, organ meats, eggs, and dairy foods such as milk or yogurts. Some foods, such as fat spreads and breakfast cereals are fortified.
The vitamin D which comes from foods we eat, whilst a small amount, is important in the UK as we don’t always see very much sun! As a result, it is recommended that all pregnant and breastfeeding women take a supplement containing 10ug/day to cater for the increased use in these times. Check your pregnancy supplements if you are already taking them, or speak to a doctor if you are worried.
Best for your baby - and the world
On average, organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C and essential minerals such as calcium and iron, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants – and you can also be sure of avoiding any potentially harmful pesticide residues. So it’s worth choosing organic wherever possible.