It’s important to be eating a good diet during your pregnancy This is for two very good reasons.
- To nurture your growing baby, and ensure they get all the nutrients they need for their healthy development.
- To nurture yourself, because your baby takes what they need from you during your pregnancy.
Include the foods below in your diet daily to ensure you both get all the nutrients you need.
- These are foods such as a wide variety of vegetables, pulses, beans, oats and grains (for example, quinoa), and are the body’s preferred source of energy.
- Keep processed carbs like white bread and sugary treats to a minimum, as these can spike your blood sugar levels, leading to energy dips and mood swings
Protein is essential for growth and repair. Good sources include:
- Meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, tofu and tempeh.
- Eggs are a great source of protein, and it’s no longer necessary to hard boil them, as per previous health advice for pregnant women. This was because of worries about salmonella, a type of food poisoning that can make pregnant women very poorly.
- As long as the eggs you buy have the red British Lion stamp, which means they’ve been produced under the British Lion Code Of Practice, it’s fine to eat them soft-boiled or scrambled.
- Include a portion of protein at every meal to help keep you satiated and fuller for longer.
- Our bodies can’t make essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6, so we need to make sure we get them from our diet. Both are used for energy, and omega 3 is essential for healthy brain development and growth.
- Good sources of omega 3 include oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines (no more two portions a week is recommended for pregnant women), nuts and seeds.
- Good sources of omega 6 fatty acids include olive oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds and almonds.
- Avocados contain both so include in your diet where you can.
Fresh fruit and vegetables
- As well as apples, bananas and citrus fruits, eat low-sugar options such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries (use frozen in smoothies, for example).
- These are full of antioxidants, which help the body repair damage from environmental toxins, for example.
- Eating plenty of dark leafy greens, salad veggies and good snacking options such as peppers, carrots and cucumber will ensure you’re getting a good range of vitamins and minerals plus plenty of fibre.
5 foods to avoid during pregnancy
There are certain foods that can make you or your baby very unwell, or that may increase the risk of miscarriage.
Here’s what to keep out of your diet while you’re pregnant:
- Unpasteurised dairy and mould-ripened cheeses such as brie, camembert and some types of goat’s cheese. They may contain a bacteria called listeriosis, which can harm your growing baby and increase the risk of miscarriage.
- Fish that are potentially high in mercury, such as swordfish and tuna. Mercury is a heavy metal and may harm your baby’s developing nervous system if ingested in high levels
- Undercooked, raw or shellfish. These can cause infections and food poisoning, including norovirus, salmonella and listeria.
- If you want to eat sushi, you should try and consume wild raw fish that has been frozen first. This kills off harmful bacteria. Sushi made with farmed fish is considered fine.
- Cured meats, such as salami, prosciutto and pepperoni. These aren’t cooked, just cured, with means they may contain a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, which can increase the risk of miscarriage. It’s important to avoid raw meat for the same reason.
- Pate or liver. These are very high in vitamin A, which can be harmful to your baby. Too much vitamin A can cause birth defects.
Caffeine during pregnancy
- Being pregnant means you’ll need to keep an eye on your caffeine intake. It’s absorbed by the body very easily, and passes through the placenta to the baby. High levels can build up.
- Organisations such as the NHS and Royal College of Midwives recommend that pregnant women consume no more than 200mg of caffeine a day. High caffeine intake during pregnancy has been shown to restrict the growth of babies still in the womb and result in low birth weight.
What does 200mg caffeine per day look like?
The NHS has these guidelines:
- Cup of tea: 75mg
- Mug of instant coffee: 100mg
- Cup of filter coffee: 140mg
- Can of cola: 40mg
- 50g bar of milk chocolate: less than 10mg
- 50g bar of dark chocolate: less than 25mg.
It’s easy to see how quickly you can reach 200mg.
The charity says: ‘This indicates that limits that national health bodies consider to be ‘completely safe’ should be reconsidered.’
Easy ways to keep your caffeine levels low during pregnancy include switching to decaf versions of your favourite hot drinks and swapping fizzy drinks for sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, or a squeeze of lemon or lime.
If you’re really worried about the effects of caffeine, it might be helpful to cut down your intake to well below 200mg or cut it out altogether.
Drinking alcohol whilst pregnant
- All professional health bodies, from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to the NHS, agree that drinking alcohol during pregnancy is not recommended.
- This is because alcohol passes from your blood through the placenta to your baby, which can be harmful.
- Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birthweight.
- If you drink a lot of alcohol during your pregnancy, your baby is at risk of a condition called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Symptoms of FAS include:
- Poor growth
- Distinct facial features
- Learning and behavioural problems.
The most important time to reduce or avoid alcohol completely is the first trimester.
After this, small amounts don’t appear to be harmful. The advice for this period of pregnancy is that women are advised to not drink more than one to two units. This should be no more than once or twice a week.
If you’re worried that you drank alcohol before you knew you were pregnant, or need help to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, speak with your Peppy healthcare practitioner or your midwife.
Anything you tell your healthcare team is completely confidential. Our priority is the health and wellbeing of you and your baby. Please do ask for help if you need it.