Pregnancy, although wonderful and miraculous, can also be incredibly overwhelming – especially when it comes to what we can eat and what we should avoid. Not only do morning sickness, cravings and food aversions impact our diets, but all of a sudden we are told that we ‘can’ and ‘can not’ eat certain foods.
Healthy eating during pregnancy is essential for the proper growth and development of your baby and the nutrition your baby receives while it’s in the womb can have positive influences on how they develop and grow for the rest of their lives! There isn’t a magic formula of foods that are ideal for pregnancy and it’s important to remember that we are all individual and can make our own choices. It’s all about eating a variety of nourishing, nutrient dense foods to support the growth and development of your beautiful baby as well as support you during your pregnancy.
Now that I’m heading towards the end of my first pregnancy, I’m fully aware of how challenging navigating the world of nutrition during pregnancy can be! So, I thought I’d share the recommended foods to eat as well as avoid during those precious 9 months.
FOODS THAT ARE SAFE:
- ‘SAFE’ CHEESES: Hard cheeses such as cheddar, parmesan and stilton. The following cheeses are OK too as long as they are made with pasteurised milk: Mozzarella, feta, ricotta, goat’s cheese and processed cheeses.
- DAIRY: Supermarket bought milk, yogurt and cream (make sure that any dairy produce is pasteurised).
- FISH: There is evidence to show that children of mothers who eat fish during pregnancy have better social and communication skills! Limit portions of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines and trout) to two portions a week as well as tuna.
- FIBRE: Constipation and stomach issues are so common during pregnancy but these symptoms can be managed and even prevented by eating plenty of foods rich in fibre every day. These include fruit (especially prunes, figs and citrus fruits), vegetables, beans, lentils seeds and whole grains.
- IRON RICH FOODS: Iron is so important during pregnancy as your baby draws upon it which leaves 1/3 of women suffering with anaemia in the 3rdtrimester! Iron rich foods include red meat, pulses, eggs, green vegetables and fortified cereals. Vitamin C can also help with the absorption of iron so make sure you’re getting plenty of it alongside those iron rich foods.
- IODINE: This is such an important mineral during pregnancy as it is needed for the production of the thyroid hormone which is essential for the growth and development of your baby. Good sources include seafood, seaweed, eggs, fortified bread, dairy and meat.
- FOLATE: Folate (or folic acid) helps to protect your baby against neural tube defects which is why a folic acid supplement of 400 micrograms is recommended during conception and the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in addition to a healthy diet. Great food sources of folate include green, leafy vegetables, pulses, wholegrains, fortified cereals, asparagus, chickpeas, broccoli, lentils, spinach and Brussel sprouts.
- VITAMIN A: Although your requirements do increase during pregnancy, having too much has been linked to birth defects which is why it’s not recommended as a supplement. Instead, make sure you’re eating Vitamin A rich foods to ensure you’re meeting your daily requirements. These include: orange & yellow vegetables, leafy green vegetables, milk, fish, eggs, tomatoes & fruits.
- VITAMIN D: This is so important to make sure that both mother and baby are absorbing calcium properly (essential for the developing bones of the baby and to protect the mum’s bones too!). Although you do get some Vitamin D from the sun, you may find it in many pre-natal vitamins. Dietary sources include oily fish and fortified foods such as margarine and breakfast cereals.
FOODS TO AVOID:
- ALCOHOL: This is a controversial one as there are many differing opinions around this topic but the recommendations are to avoid it completely. Alcohol can pass across the placenta to the baby and impair development.
- CAFFEINE: Limit caffeine to 200mg a day. An excess consumption of caffeine has been linked to a higher risk of low birth weight and an increased risk of miscarriage.
- PROCESSED MEATS: This includes cold deli meats and ready-to-eat meats such as ham, luncheon meats, salami etc.
- RAW OR UNCOOKED MEAT: Meat needs to be prepared and cooked properly to avoid food poisoning and toxoplasmosis. It’s particularly important to make sure there is no trace of pink when cooking poultry, pork, burgers and sausages.
- PATÉ, MEAT SPREADS, SMOKED SEAFOOD (IE SMOKED SALMON)
- SOFT CHEESES: Avoid soft cheeses with a white mouldy rind such as brie, camembert & goats cheese with a white rind. Soft blue-veined cheeses should also be avoided such as gorgonzola of Danish blue (these can harbour listeria and are dangerous to your unborn baby).
- UNPASTURISED MILK: Pasteurisation is a heat treatment used to kill bacteria and unpasteurised produce can cause food poisoning. This also means avoiding soft-serve ice-cream.
- RAW OR UNDERCOOKED EGGS: This includes products containing raw eggs like mayonnaise, aioli, dessert mousses, cake/pancake batter etc. However, eggs that are produced under ‘British Lion Code of Practice’ are safe to eat raw or partially cooked.
- FISH: Limit oily fish such as salmon, sardines, trout and mackerel to 2 portions per week. Tuna should also be limited to 2 portions per week as it contains mercury which can be toxic in larger doses. Shark, swordfish and marlin should be avoided completely due to the high mercury content.
- RAW SHELLFISH: This should be avoided completely as it may contain bacteria and viruses that can cause food poisoning.
- RAW SEAFOOD: Chilled or raw seafood should be avoided such as raw oysters, sashimi, sushi as well as pre-prepared cooked & chilled prawns or smoked salmon.
- FISH OIL SUPPLEMENTS: Make sure that any fish oil supplements you choose to take do not exceed the recommended levels of Vitamin A during pregnancy.
- PRE-PREPARED & PACKAGED FRUITS AND VEG: Any fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly.