Healthy Mum, Healthy Baby
Foods to eat
Important foods to eat each day include:
- Fruit and vegetables: Try to eat at least five different portions
- Starchy foods: Particularly wholegrain foods such as whole meal bread and pasta
- Protein-rich foods: Such as lean meat, fish, eggs and pulses [beans and lentils], which are also good sources of iron
- Fibre-rich foods: Such as fruit, vegetables and wholegrains, which will help to prevent constipation
- Dairy foods: Such as yoghurt, milk and cheese, which contain calcium
- Oily fish: Such as salmon, mackerel or sardines
While it is fine to eat most foods in moderation, it is a good idea to cut down on unhealthy snacks such as biscuits, cakes and crisps to avoid gaining too much weight during pregnancy.
Important vitamins and minerals
A daily supplement of folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, and may also help to protect against placental failure. You should take a daily 400 mcg folic acid supplement from the time you decide to try to conceive until the 12th week of pregnancy.
Pregnant women are at increased risk of becoming deficient in iron, so it is important to include iron-rich foods in your diet.
Iron-rich foods include:
- red meat
- leafy green vegetables
- fortified cereals
As vitamin C aids the absorption of iron, try to couple iron-rich foods with fruit, vegetables or fruit juice. Avoid drinking tea or coffee at meal times as these drinks can make it more difficult for your body to absorb iron.
Foods and drinks to treat with caution
During pregnancy it is recommended that you avoid drinking alcohol altogether. However, if you do wish to have an occasional drink, it is advised that you have no more than one or two units of alcohol, once or twice per week.
High levels of caffeine can increase the risk of low birth weight, which can lead to difficulties in later life. It is recommended that you try to consume 200 mcg or less of caffeine per day.
This is the equivalent of:
- 2 mugs of tea [75mg each]
- 2 mugs of instant coffee [100mg each]
- 1 mug of filter coffee [140mg each]
- 5 cans of cola [up to 40mg each]
- 2 cans of 'energy' drink [up to 80mg each]
- 4 [50g] bars of plain chocolate [up to 50 mg each]
- 8 [50g] bars of milk chocolate [around 25 mg each]
In the past, pregnant women were advised to avoid eating peanuts if they had a family history of allergies, as it was thought that this may increase the risk of their child developing a peanut allergy. However, recent research has been unable to prove a link between eating peanuts during pregnancy and the development of allergies.
Next: Foods to avoid during pregnancy >>