Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important at any time, but it’s particularly important if you’re pregnant or trying for a baby. Eating healthily will help your baby’s growth and development.
The basic healthy eating tips stay the same in pregnancy. Base your meals on starchy foods (choosing whole grain bread, pasta, rice etc when you can) and lots of different fruits and vegetables. Eat moderate amounts of dairy foods, such as milk, yoghurt and cheese and moderate amounts of lean meat, fish and/or other sources of protein such as eggs and pulses (e.g. beans, peas and lentils). You should only eat very small amounts of foods and drinks that are high in fat and sugar.
Should I be eating for two?
Although you might feel hungrier during your pregnancy you don’t need any extra energy in the first 24 weeks. However, in the last 12 weeks you do need a little bit more energy – about 200kcal per day. These healthy snack ideas all contain roughly 200kcal:
- 1 slice wholemeal toast with peanut butter or low fat cheese spread and tomato/avocado
- Bowl of porridge with semi skimmed milk and a tablespoon of raisins
- Low fat yoghurt with fruit salad or berries and seeds
- Houmous with half a pitta bread, carrot and red pepper sticks
- Small handful unsalted mixed nuts
- Bowl of wholegrain cereal with semi skimmed milk
- Banana smoothie (1 banana, semi skimmed milk and low fat yoghurt)
For more healthy snack ideas visit our recipe pages
What vitamins and minerals do I need?
It’s usually best to get your vitamins and minerals from food, but when you’re pregnant you’ll need to take some supplements as well to make sure you get everything you need. If you receive certain benefits you might be able to get free vitamins through the Healthy Start scheme – visit their website or ask your midwife or health visitor for more details.
Folic acid supplements – recommended to lower the risk of neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain, spine and spinal cord). Take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. You should take this when you’re trying for a baby, as well as in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy when the baby’s spine is developing.
You should also try to eat more foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid). Foods high in folate include green veg (broccoli, Brussel sprouts, spinach, kale, cabbage), peas, chickpeas. yeast extract, brown rice, oranges and bananas.
Vitamin D – important for the growth and development of your baby’s bones, as well as helping keep your bones healthy too. Take 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day throughout your pregnancy. You should continue taking this if you breastfeed*.
Your skin produces enough vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight, but the sun in the UK is only strong enough in the summer months. National surveys also show that many women of childbearing age have low vitamin D status. You can get some vitamin D from food but sources are limited; sources include oily fish, margarine and eggs.
*For more information on breastfeeding and support available in Dudley borough visit www.dudleybabies.co.uk
Other important vitamins and minerals
Vitamin C – protects cells and helps keep them healthy. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and blackcurrants.
Calcium – vital for your baby’s bones and teeth. Calcium is found in lots of foods, including dairy products (or dairy-alternatives fortified with calcium), fish with edible bones, breakfast cereals, dried fruit, bread, tofu, almonds and green leafy veg.
Iron – prevents tiredness and anaemia. You can get iron from lean meat, leafy green veg, dried fruit and nuts. Many breakfast cereals have iron added to them as well.
Omega 3 fatty acids – important for your baby’s brain and eye development. The best source is oily fish, but stick to 1-2 portions per week – low levels of pollutants can build up if you eat more than this. If you don’t eat oily fish look out for products fortified with omega 3 such as eggs. If you decide to take an omega 3 supplement check it doesn’t also contain vitamin A (see below).
Vitamin A – be careful not to take vitamin A (retinol) supplements, or any supplements containing vitamin A (e.g. fish oil or multivitamins) as too much could harm your baby.
Is there anything else I should do?
Most of all make sure you relax and enjoy your pregnancy! Also, remember that healthy eating is important all the time, not just when you’re pregnant. Why not use this opportunity to make healthy lifestyle changes you can stick to for the long term? For more information on a healthy diet in pregnancy visit NHS Choices