Pregnancy Tips

Eat and greet a healthy baby

Eat and greet a healthy baby

Myths abound surrounding diet in pregnancy – and contained in all the advice dished out to pregnant mums, there’s a lot of mumbo jumbo as well as sound scientific facts. For first time parents-to-be it can all feel a bit daunting but if you add some common sense into the mix and eat healthily, you can’t go far wrong.

Fish helps the development of the baby’s brain, but what if it contains mercury?  Should you avoid peanuts, but they can also help prevent nut allergies in children? Should you be eating for two – especially if you’re carrying twins or triplets and you are feeling particularly hungry! Questions, questions, questions – and there you are weighing up advice before you put anything in your mouth! Opinion may be divided but often familial or cultural traditions will play a part. Zulu women are given a herbal concoction containing milkweed, Korean mums-to-be sip seaweed soup while Senagalese women fill up on bone marrow broth.

But it’s a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle that’s critical if you’re pregnant or contemplating pregnancy which will help your baby grow and develop. One thing experts are universally agreed upon is the need to take a folic acid supplement, otherwise it’s best to get the vitamins and nutrients you and baby need from your food, hence the importance of a healthy diet.

You will probably find that you are more hungry than usual, but you do not need to "eat for 2" – even if you are expecting twins or triplets. Try to have a healthy breakfast every day, because this can help you to avoid snacking on foods that are high in fat and sugar. You should eat a varied diet from each food group which will probably mean changing the different foods you eat, rather than cutting out all your favourites.

Get your five a day from fruit and vegetables because they provide minerals and vitamins as well as help relieve constipation which can be an on-going issue for some women. The options include canned or frozen fruits and veg as well as fresh which can sometimes be expensive out of season. If constipation is a problem for you, drink plenty of liquids, especially water, when increasing fibre intake, or you can make your constipation worse. Sometimes hot tea, soups, or broth can help and dried fruits are handy for snacking.

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy and help you feel full as well as containing vitamins and fibre. The iron in prenatal vitamins and other foodstuffs can cause constipation during pregnancy so try to get more fibre than you did before you became pregnant. Beans, potatoes, cereals, pasta, rice, noodles, oats, yams and maize should make up a third of the food you eat. Try to avoid the refined rice and pasta and go for wholemeal or higher fibre options. One good tip is to leave the skin on potatoes - what’s not to like about a baked potato - and try to avoid chips – if you have a craving for them, go for oven chips with reduced salt and fat.

Protein is vital on a daily basis and can be found in beans, pulses, fish , eggs, lean meat, poultry and nuts. If you are cooking meat products, ensure that they are cooked all the way through with no pink meat or juices. Fish and shellfish can be a healthy part of a pregnancy diet because they contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and are high in protein and low in saturated fat Two portions of fish is the recommended intake per week with oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines at the top of the shopping list. The issue here is that fish can contain pollutants and micro plastics, so the advice is to limit intake. The general advice is also to avoid eating raw or partially cooked eggs in such dishes as souffle, mousse and mayonnaise which could carry the risk of salmonella.

Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, fromage frais and yoghurt are important in pregnancy because they contain calcium and other nutrients that you and your baby need, but preferably go for low fat or semi skinned alternatives and avoid unpasteurised cheeses.

Foods to avoid are those that are high in fat and sugar or both and this is sometimes hard with  so many of us addicted to sweet foods and drinks. These food stuffs increase your weight, the risk of tooth decay and can lead to higher cholesterol which in turn increase the chance of developing heart disease. And the list includes chocolate, spreads like butter, dressings, non vegetable oil, cream, crisps, biscuits, pastries, ice cream, cakes and fizzy drinks. This is a tough call but try to reduce those naughty items while adding small amounts of food which contain the unsaturated fat such as vegetable oils, and cutting down on saturated fats. The brain can be re-trained  and you can break those habits  so the next 10 months might be  the start of a completely new lifestyle. If you can get through the first three months you are almost guaranteed to have broken that habit of reaching for the can of coke or raspberry ripple ice cream.

If you get hungry between meals, try not to eat snacks that are high in fat and/or sugar choosing something healthier like raw vegetables, a handful of nuts, plain yoghurt with fruit, a milky drink or fresh fruit as an alternative. The foodstuffs to avoid include alcohol, certain herbs and vitamins, and caffeine – if you’re unsure always check with a doctor or your ante-natal team.

And finally, morning sickness – for some women nausea can be a major issue, resulting in chronic weight loss and necessitating medical intervention. For the majority though, nausea is unpleasant but usually doesn’t last beyond 3 months.

If you're feeling nauseous, eat small amounts of bland foods, like toast or crackers, throughout the day or foods made with ginger. To help combat nausea don’t take any pre-natal vitamins on an empty stomach, suck on a hard boiled sweet or eat a banana – a great source of energy, potassium and Vitamin B6 which helps combat feelings of nausea.

Whatever you do, don’t feel bad about treating yourself from time to time – it won’t do you any harm If your craving chocolate, or spicy foods, the cravings will usually let up after the first three months – if it’s a healthy craving, then indulge, if not find an alternative that is.