Having a balanced diet during pregnancy is important for the health of you and your baby, and eating healthy, nutritious foods when pregnant will help your baby be more open to them when they start solids 6 months after birth.
However, this does not mean ‘eating for two’. Your pregnant body is even more efficient at making use of the energy you get from the food you eat, and you need no extra calories until the seventh month of pregnancy. From then until you give birth, you only need an extra 200 calories a day.
Healthy eating during pregnancy and eating little and often is a good rule to follow, and this will help if you are experiencing pregnancy sickness or heartburn. A balanced diet will also ensure you and your baby are as fit and healthy as possible when you start breastfeeding, to ensure your baby is given the best start in life.
Pregnancy diet plan
Building a pregnancy diet plan will help you keep track of your nutrients and ensure you’re eating everything your body needs. When building a healthy diet plan for your pregnancy, you need to focus on foods that give you a high amount of nutritional value essential for your body even when you’re not pregnant. These are:
- Vitamins and minerals
- Fibre and fluids
- Healthy fat
What to eat when pregnant
Now that you know what a healthy diet for pregnancy consists of, let’s explore the types of foods will be able to give you that nutritional value.
- At least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily – here are 8 ways you can eat more fruits and vegetables during pregnancy
- Protein foods such as fish, poultry, eggs, soya, and pulses
- Carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals etc.
- Milk and other dairy products (low fat, if possible) for calcium
- Green leafy vegetables, meat, and pulses for iron
What not to eat when pregnant
- Soft cheese with a mouldy rind, such as Brie and Camembert, blue cheese, or any kind of pate, including vegetable pate (as these can contain the dangerous bacteria listeria)
- More than two portions of oily fish (e.g. fresh tuna, sardines, mackerel, trout) a week (these contain high levels of mercury, which can damage your baby’s developing nervous system)
- Marlin, shark, or swordfish, or more than four cans of tuna per week (these also contain high levels of mercury)
- Liver or liver products, e.g. pate or sausage (these contain large amounts of Vitamin A, which can be harmful to your unborn baby)
- Raw shellfish, to avoid the risk of food poisoning
- Deli meat can also contain listeria, so it’s best to avoid deli meat all together OR heat the meal before you eat it
Alcohol during pregnancy
Alcohol passes into the bloodstream of your unborn baby through the placenta and too much alcohol can seriously harm him. Try to avoid drinking alcohol if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Drinking can also affect your ability to conceive. However, if you must drink while pregnant, NHS advice is to have no more than one or two units once or twice a week.
How much caffeine can you have when pregnant
High caffeine intake can result in a low birth weight baby, or even miscarriage. NHS guidance is to have no more than 200 mg a day. Remember that chocolate, cola, and energy drinks contain caffeine, as well as tea and coffee. A can of cola contains roughly 40mg of caffeine, and a 50g bar of dark chocolate around 50mg. Milk chocolate contains about half as much caffeine as dark chocolate.
There’s been lots of studies into the reasons women have food cravings while pregnant, but it still remains somewhat a mystery! So, we are none the wiser why some women will dig into a giant jar of pickles or have a nibble on a bar of soap.
What we do know is that they are to some degree caused by the hormonal changes within your body, and the cravings could take any form. There is also the theory that cravings are a way of your body telling you what your body needs. For example, if the mother is craving a Big Mac and a plate of fries, it may be her body needs more protein, sodium, or potassium. Read our nutritional guide to learn about all the essential nutrients needed when pregnant.
Studies have also shown that women tend to go for the same types of food with the most popular being sweet foods, then salty foods and 3rd spicy foods. Whatever your craving, try and balance it out in order to maintain a healthy pregnancy diet.
Healthy snacks in pregnancy
It’s natural to get hungry in between meals, and it’s very easy to opt for sugary and fatty snacks that may not be the best option for you and your baby. Instead, opt for healthy snacks such as:
- Fruit salads
- Dried fruit
- Fruited tea cake
- Bakes beans
- Baked potato
- Lentil soup
- Fresh juice
- Milked drinks