What to eat during pregnancy? The top foods you need to eat and avoid
During the first trimester of pregnancy many hormonal changes are taking place, which can affect your appetite. Every woman is different, so you may find your appetite increasing, or you could feel queasy and have little desire to eat anything, or you might have pregnancy cravings, or want to eat foods you disliked prior to becoming pregnant.
During the second and third trimester, as your bump grows, you may start to feel uncomfortable eating a big meal, so eating smaller portions more often may work better for you.
You need to eat a wide variety of foods in pregnancy so your baby can have access to the vitamins, minerals and nutrients necessary for optimal development and growth. It’s important to ensure that you have enough folic acid for your baby to prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Ideally, all women should take a supplement when trying to conceive and during pregnancy, as well as eating a diet rich in folic acid, such as granary bread, brown rice and leafy green vegetables.
It can be hard to know which are the best foods to eat when pregnant. A mixture of proteins, carbohydrates, fibre and healthy fats should be the basis of a balanced diet for you and your baby.
The amino acids contained in protein are essential for cell growth in yours and your baby’s body during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimester when your baby is growing rapidly.
Good sources of protein are found in: cheese, yoghurt, tofu, meat (lean is better, so remove any excess fat), fish, beans, pulses, eggs and nuts.
Approximately one third of your diet should be made up of carbohydrates during pregnancy. They provide a slow release of glucose when broken down by your body to give you energy throughout the day.
Good sources of carbohydrates are found in: pasta, rice, potatoes, bananas, quinoa, beans and bread. Try to choose the wholegrain options, which increase your fibre intake and give you a slower, more lasting energy release.
During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone is released in higher amounts and this can make your digestive system a little more sluggish. You can avoid feeling constipated and uncomfortable by increasing your fibre intake.
Eating foods rich in fibre is the most effective way to relieve and help to prevent constipation, as well as undertaking pregnancy massage.
Our Fantastic Skin Elastic is perfect to use to encourage positive bowel movements and decrease constipation when pregnant.
Soluble fibre is broken down by bacteria in your gut, which makes your bowel movement softer and easier to pass. Foods such as oats, barley, pulses and soft fruits like raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and oranges all contain plenty of soluble fibre. Try making your favourites into a delicious smoothie with ice in the hot summer months.
Foods which contain insoluble fibre pass through the gut largely unchanged but help to keep your digestive system moving. Rice, wheat, corn and rye - as well as fruit and vegetables that include the skins and pips - are a good source of insoluble fibre.
Healthy fats (unsaturated fats)
Eating healthy fats in pregnancy is a useful source of vitamin E, which helps to reduce dryness and maintain skin health.
Good sources of healthy fats and omega 3 oils are found in oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, although current advice from the NHS is to limit your intake to two portions a week, as they contain low levels of mercury. Avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds, yoghurt and dark chocolate also contain healthy sources of fats.
Many women develop anaemia in pregnancy, which is a lack of iron in their red blood cells. Feeling tired, shortness of breath and looking pale can all be signs that you are anaemic. If you have your blood tested and you are diagnosed with anaemia, you will be offered iron tablets.
To help build your iron levels up, eat plenty of red meats, nuts, eggs, lentils, pulses, strawberries and green leafy vegetables (you also need to eat or drink vitamin C with these to help your body to extract the iron).
Foods to avoid in pregnancy, a quick checklist:
- Marlin, shark and swordfish should be avoided as they contain higher levels of mercury
- Liver, and pâté containing liver, as it contains too much Vitamin A during pregnancy
- Undercooked meats - cook meat thoroughly to kill any bacteria
- Cheese and dairy produce should be pasteurised, check the label or packaging for this information
- Always wash pre-packaged vegetables and salad items as they can breed listeria
- Tea, coffee, cola and other caffeinated drinks should be limited