Pregnancy is such a special time in a woman’s life, congratulations! But it can also be full of confusion and trepidation as you have to consider things that you would normally take for granted like ‘what to eat’? as well as ‘what not to eat’ All this whilst you are navigating morning sickness so you may not even have an appetite!
Good nutrition during pregnancy is important to help supply your body with the energy and nutrients it needs to support your changing body and growing bump and reduces the risk of birth defects. Eating well can also help you manage unpleasant side effects like tiredness and morning sickness as well as reducing the risk of anaemia.
Nutrition recommendations don’t really change that much during pregnancy. A diet rich in vegetables and a little fruit in a rainbow of colours is the best place to start with a moderate amount of protein and healthy fats to keep you feeling satisfied. Meals should be based around starchy foods – potatoes in their skins, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, bread, oats and the like to give you energy. You can refer to the Eatwell Guide here for more information on a balanced diet.
“Women’s health, particularly around conception and in early pregnancy, contributes to lifelong health for them and their children.”
The old saying of ‘eating for two’ doesn’t really apply as you have only a small increase in need; approximately 200 kcals from the third trimester, but this does vary by how active you are. Your body also becomes super efficient at absorbing the nutrients it needs. I know I struggled with how much I ate when I was pregnant as I felt a constant need to graze in order to keep morning sickness at bay. The main thing to focus on is eating nutrient dense foods when you can so you are not consuming empty calories.
What to eat:
- fruit and plenty of vegetables – the more variation the better, they provide an abundance of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre preventing constipation.
- wholegrains – starchy carbohydrates which provide energy and fibre
- iron rich foods – kale, apricots, fortified cereals and bread
- calcium – dark leafy vegetables, tahini, sesame seeds, milk, cheese and yoghurt
- protein – eggs, nuts, fish, meat, peas, beans and pulses
- healthy fats – rapeseed oil, avocado, seeds and nuts
- vitamin C – potatoes, oranges, broccoli, peppers
- vitamin D – oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals and chestnut mushrooms
- folic acid – wholegrain foods, spinach, kale, broccoli, beetroot and poultry
What not to eat:
- liver and pate – including vegetarian pate
- deli meats – that are cured or uncooked
- unpasteurised milk and cheese
- shark, swordfish and marlin
You can find lots of information on the what you should avoid eating from the NHS website, so I will focus on the things YOU CAN HAVE and should include to keep you and your baby healthy and happy.
Yoghurt – Packed full of calcium and in some brands vitamin D both of which are absolutely essential for you and your baby.
Berries – High in vitamin C to help you absorb iron and full of fibre to help prevent constipation which is common during pregnancy.
Sweet potatoes – High in vitamin A (not to be confused with vitamin A from animal sources like liver which need to be limited) essential for healthy development of your babies internal organs.
Oily fish – no more than 2 portions a week, but this helps with brain development due to being rich in omega-3. Good sources are salmon, sardines, mackerel and trout.
Broccoli – An excellent source of folate along with other green vegetables needed for your babies brain and spinal cord development.
Oats – My personal favourite! Filling, slow release carbs to help keep your energy and blood sugar steady. Also high in fibre to keep you moving (ahem.)
Pulses – Peas, beans and lentils are high in vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein and count towards your 5 a day. A real superfood!
Rapeseed oil – Full of heart healthy fat, low in saturated fat and contains some omega-3.
Dried apricots – Great for a snack on the go and easy to nibble on when you’re not feeling your best. High in fibre, folate and iron.
And finally, WATER – So important it can’t be underestimated, this will help keep you regular and keep your energy levels up. Make sure to sip regularly throughout the day, particularly if you’ve been physically unwell with morning sickness.
I hope you can see that these are foods that are easy to incorporate into your everyday diet to keep you and your baby well nourished. Here’s some recipe suggestions to help you along the way:
Porridge topped with raspberries and sliced banana and some nuts
Wholemeal toast scrambled egg, spinach and mushrooms with a glass of juice
Yoghurt with muesli and fruit
Soup with wholemeal bread
Beans on toast with a poached egg
Baked potato topped with tuna or a tasty salad with avocado
Leftovers from the night before
Spaghetti Bolognese – make with half lentils and half mince to increase the nutrition
Cottage pie – as above you can substitute half the mince or meat substitute and bulk out with lots of chopped vegetables.
A varied diet can give you most of the nutrients you need but you will still need to supplement with folic acid through to 12 weeks of pregnancy and 10 mcg vitamin D throughout, to ensure you are in the best health for you and your growing baby.
I hope you’ve found my round up useful. If you’d like to know more about achieving a healthy, balanced diet for both you and your family, why not join my brand spanking new Facebook Group Happy. Healthy. Nourished. to be kept up to date with all things food, health and family friendly recipes. Click here to find out what to eat once your baby arrives.