pregnancy diet

Pregnancy Diet: What to eat and avoid

What is the ideal pregnancy diet? We look at the foods you should eat and what you should avoid during those all important nine months

Eating a healthy balanced diet is essential for the health and wellbeing of both mum and baby during pregnancy. Although the ‘eating for two’ myth has been debunked, women are often unsure of how many extra calories they need to consume during pregnancy.  In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advises that energy needs do not change in the first six months of pregnancy and that women only require around 200 extra calories per day in the last trimester of pregnancy.

Although women’s calorific requirements do not increase significantly during pregnancy there are certain foods that have been labelled ‘pregnancy superfoods’ because they provide fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants essential for both mother and baby during pregnancy.

Pregnancy superfoods

  1. Berries
    Full of nutrients including vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants. Antioxidants are important for both mother and baby’s immunity. Vitamin C helps with the mother’s absorption of iron, and fibre can help prevent constipation, a common problem in pregnancy.
  2. Yoghurt
    Rich in calcium and certain varieties are fortified with Vitamin D, essential for healthy bones in both mother and baby.
  3. Sweet potatoes
    Is an excellent source of beta-carotene, the form of Vitamin A found in vegetables. (Vitamin A is essential for the development of baby’s heart, eyes and brain. The intake of Vitamin A from animal sources needs to be limited during pregnancy as high levels can damage an unborn baby.  However, this is not the case for beta-carotene).
  4. Salmon
    Oily fish such as salmon needs to be limited during pregnancy but shouldn’t be avoided completely as they are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for the development of baby’s brain. The consumption of oily fish such as sardines, trout, fresh tuna and mackerel should be limited to two portions a week because they can contain high levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).
  5. Broccoli
    Is a good source of folate which is vital for the development of baby’s brain and spinal cord.
  6. Oats
    High in fibre and low in fat. Unlike some other carbohydrate rich foods oats release their energy slowly which maintains balance blood sugar levels.
  7. Pulses
    Beans, lentils and peas are a great source of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.
  8. Rapeseed oil
    Packed with heart healthy monounsaturated fats and has the lowest saturated fat content of all the oils. Also a great source of the antioxidant Vitamin E.
  9. Dried apricots
    A convenient snack and a good source of folic acid, iron and fibre.

Foods to limit or avoid

  • Unsafe cheeses
    Soft cheese with a white mouldy rind such as brie and camembert as well as soft blue veined cheeses such as gorgonzola or Danish blue.
  • Shark, swordfish and marlin should be avoided completely as they can contain unsafe levels of mercury.
  • Raw shellfish should be avoided completely as may contain bacteria and viruses that can cause food poisoning.
  • Eggs can contain bacteria called salmonella which may lead to food poisoning. For this reason, pregnant women need to ensure that eggs are well cooked and avoid products that contain raw eggs completely.

Foods to help with morning sickness

Did you know that 75% of all women experience morning sickness which can actually strike at any time of the day.  Morning sickness usually affects women in the first trimester but can continue throughout the pregnancy.  Here are some tips to help:

  1. Graze
    Eat little and often as having an empty stomach can make nausea worse.
  2. Water
    Sip water regularly throughout the day as vomiting can cause dehydration.
  3. Ginger
    Snecdotal evidence suggests that ginger can help with nausea. Try grating fresh ginger into warm water to make ginger tea or try some ginger cake (in moderation).
  4. Bland foods
    Strong aromas and flavours are more likely to induce nausea. Keep foods simple.

Read: Staying healthy during pregnancy

Ruth Kelly is a researcher and nutrition and wellness adviser.  She holds a Ph.D in science from the University of Limerick as well as an advanced diploma in nutrition and weight management which includes a certificate in pre and post-natal nutrition. She is a qualified stress management coach, bio-energy therapist and reiki master, you can find more information here