We all want the best for our babies, and eating a balanced and nutritious diet during pregnancy helps to give them an optimal start to life.
If you’re trying for a baby, you should already be thinking about your diet, as eating healthily and becoming conscious about what you put into your body before you conceive is the best way to prepare your body for all the changes it will experience once you’re pregnant. Before conception and the first three months of pregnancy is when your baby will benefit most from a healthy diet. A steady supply of vitamins, minerals, protein, and other nutrients is crucial to your baby’s development, and it will help you to form a healthy placenta. Your healthy diet also supplies your baby with good stores of nutrients, such as iron, that will be necessary for his first few months after his birth. Moms-to-be are often overwhelmed by all the information that can be found on diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and this is where a wealth of myths about what you can and can’t eat and strange food cravings come into play.
You don’t have to eat for two
Generally, the average woman only needs about 300 extra calories a day when she conceives (for example, a large banana). However, if you’re under or overweight when you conceive, speak to your doctor about weight gain during pregnancy.
Weight gain is expected (and normal)
There’s no getting away from the fact that if you’re pregnant you will gain weight. Don’t diet during pregnancy because you risk depriving your baby of the nutrients he needs to develop properly.
Avoid the following foods
- Raw or undercooked meat or poultry due to the risk of toxoplasmosis or salmonella. This is especially important with poultry and products made from minced meat.
- Raw or lightly cooked eggs due to the risk of salmonella. Eggs should be cooked until both the white and yolk are solid. Also, avoid raw eggs in foods like homemade mayonnaise or chocolate mousse. Shop-bought mayonnaise should be fine.
- Unpasteurised milk, due to a risk of listeria.
- Avoid all types of pâté, including vegetable. This is because pâté can cause listeria.
- Avoid liver and liver products – high levels of retinol (vitamin A) in liver can build up and may harm your unborn baby.
- Cheeses such as Brie and Camembert, or other types that have a similar rind. You should also avoid blue-veined cheeses such as Stilton, Danish Blue, and Dolce Latte due to the risk of listeria. You can however have lots of other cheeses such as mozzarella and Parmesan.
- It was previously advised that pregnant moms avoid eating peanuts if there was an allergy history in the immediate family, such as asthma, hayfever, eczema, food allergies, etc. However, this advice was changed in August 2009, because it isn’t clear from the latest research if eating peanuts during pregnancy affects the chances of a baby developing a peanut allergy.
- Avoid raw fish when you’re pregnant.
- Eat no more than two portions a week of oily fish like mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna, trout, or fresh sardines. This is because these types of fish contain low levels of pollutants that can build up in the body over time.
- It’s best to stop drinking alcohol altogether.
8 Tips to ease morning sickness
One of the most common early signs of pregnancy is morning sickness. The exact cause is unknown, but the high levels of hormones coursing around a woman’s body in the first three months are believed to play a major role. This normally passes after three months. Often women find they’re too sick to eat. If you ate a balanced diet and were well-nourished beforehand, don’t worry too much about this.
These tips may help:
- Eat small meals every two hours or so based on starchy carbohydrates. These are slow-burning foods that will prevent your blood sugar from dipping and help to ease nausea.
- One of the biggest dangers associated with morning sickness is dehydration, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids like water, fruit juice, milk or herbal tea – peppermint, ginger or camomile herbal teas can be soothing.
- Ginger is thought to reduce the nerve stimulation to the brain that prompts nausea and vomiting – try ginger biscuits or ginger tea.
- Don’t get up on an empty stomach. Having a plain biscuit and a warm drink before you get out of bed can help overcome morning sickness.
- Get lots of sleep – try resting whenever possible.
- Avoid fatty foods as these can be difficult to digest.
- Try to get some fresh air before eating. It’s a good idea to go for a walk, as gentle exercise can help to relieve nausea, and will build up an appetite.
- It’s best to avoid alcohol altogether.