Pregnancy Nutrition: Everything you need to know

Being pregnant is an amazing gift and time in your life. It is a time where some women start to think more about their nutrition, reading what they can and can’t eat, but also a time where food and nutrition maybe the last thing on your mind, with food being a struggle to keep down.

This article is here to give you some recommended guidance for nutrition in pregnancy. However, it is important to point out that every pregnancy is different and although these are recommendations they may not be realistic for everyone so please do not feel guilty if you cannot do everything.

1. Daily supplements;

Folic Acid: Supplementing folic acid if you are preconception or newly pregnant can help decrease the risk of neural tube defect by 70%. It is recommended to be taken 4-6 weeks to ensure adequate concentrations before neurulation begins 3 weeks after conception.

How much should we be having?

  • Preconception = 400ug
  • During Pregnancy = 600ug

Folate can be obtained through your diet so don’t panic, however, many professional bodies recommend supplementing as well at this crucial time in fertility.

Food Sources of folate:

  • Legumes
  • Green leafy veg
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Fortified breads and cereals

Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your baby’s bones and teeth to grow properly and keeps your bones and teeth healthy too. Too little could cause rickets in your baby. Take a supplement with 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D every day all through your pregnancy.

Iron: Iron requirements are higher in pregnancy. Your body needs extra iron to ensure your baby has a sufficient blood supply and receives necessary oxygen and nutrients. I have a full blog on iron here.

2. Eating for two

In reality, this idea is not true. While a your nutrient needs are much higher during pregnancy, your total energy requirements increase only slightly.

During the last 12 weeks of pregnancy you will require more energy. In the UK it is recommended to increase your calories by around 200 a day.

200 calories in food:

  • 1 slice of toast with peanut butter or cheese
  • Bowl of cereal with milk
  • Banana milkshake with yogurt

This is also a time when eating large meals may not be comfortable so maybe try to have smaller meals and snacks more frequently.

3. Balancing your diet

If your ability to stomach food hasn’t changed then base your meals on wholegrain starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta or breakfast cereals and include:

  • 3 servings of milk, hard cheese or yogurt a day to help reach calcium and iodine requirements
  • at least 5 portions of vegetables and fruit (canned, fresh and dried all count)
  • Meat, fish, eggs, nuts or pulses for 2-3 meals a day to help reach your iron requirements

4. Try to eat fish twice a week

Long chain omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA found in oily fish (such as salmon, sardines and mackerel), are important for the development of your baby’s brain and eyes. Although there is no limit on white fish, oily fish should be limited to two 140g portions per week. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be very beneficial a baby’s development, so don’t give up eating oily fish. If you are not a fish eater then you may consider an omega 3 supplement however, ensure it is suitable for pregnancy.

5. Food Safety Tips

Thoroughly cook meat, fish and eggs that are not red lion stamped. It is advised to wash soil from vegetables and fruit as well as avoiding Vitamin A supplements.

Other foods to avoid are:

  • Liver/liver pate
  • Unpasteurised dairy products
  • Soft and blue cheeses
  • Swordfish, marlin and shark
  • Limit tuna to 3-4 small servings per week due to mercury levels

If you have any other questions then please get in touch or contact your health care professional.

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