Healthy Eating During Pregnancy: Protecting yourself and your baby

Almost every4535874193_22914e87fd_o pregnant woman has heard the expression eating for two. This is for the most part a myth.

In the first trimester, a woman generally will be too tired, nauseous, or sick to think about eating. If you are not fighting off morning sickness, you may find that food doesn’t appeal to you or you may stomach only  certain foods.

The second trimester rolls around bringing with it your familiar appetite. Hurray, food looks great again! At this stage, you want to consume an extra 300 calories which is equivalent to a slice of bread with some cheese on it. Not that much and definitely not a second portion.

The third trimester may see your cravings increase slightly and with it your appetite. This is normal, you are working hard to help your baby lay down all that lovely fat it needs to survive in the big world. Your body will let you know what it craves and needs.

Throughout your pregnancy, listen to your body. Of course, there are some do’s and don’ts to help you along the way. As with everything in life, moderation will go a long way in helping you and your baby stay healthy.

Pregnancy and dieting

Pregnancy is not the time to go on a diet. Diets generally cause your body to reduce consumption of various vitamins, minerals, and supplements depending on the type of diet followed. During pregnancy, your body needs all the nutrients it can get to pass them onto your baby. If your diet is not rich in these vitamins and nutrients, your body will surrender some of its resources for your baby.  This can have health repercussions for mothers.

For example, calcium is needed to build strong healthy bones and teeth for your baby. If you are not consuming the required 1000mg of calcium per day, your baby will get the calcium from your calcium reserves in your bones. The result? You have less calcium and run a higher chance of getting osteoporosis later on in life.

You should continue to eat in the same way as you were eating before you fell pregnant unless your diet was high in processed foods, sugars, and fats. In this case, you should change your diet to be more nutritious and healthier.

Gaining weight in pregnancy is natural. In fact, a 10-12 kilogram weight gain is considered healthy during pregnancy. Most of the weight that a women gains during pregnancy is due to the growing baby, the amniotic fluid, water retention, the placenta and even enlargements of the breasts. Some women gain a lot of weight while other women gain a minimal amount. Each pregnancy is unique as is the mother-to-be.

The most important thing is that throughout your pregnancy, you give yourself and your baby the most nutritious and whole foods possible. Quality is king.

What to eat

This is the one million dollar question. To eat the most nutritious food, purchase organic, fresh fruits and vegetables. The canned sections of the supermarket are full of preservatives and chemicals that are hazardous to anyone’s health let alone that of your baby. Fresh is best.


Focus on eating a variety of foods ranging from your wholewheat complex carbohydrates (wholewheat bread, pasta, brown rice), nuts and legumes, fruits and vegetables, protein (dairy, eggs, fish, poultry). When you are shopping, think about what food has the best nutritional value.

Berries are amazing to eat while you are pregnant, providing a high dose of vitamin C while giving you the necessary antioxidants to keep your body toxin free.

Eating a wide variety of foods will also introduce your baby to various tastes. The theory is that when your baby is ready for solids, they will be more familiar with the flavors of different foods thus a bit more open to them.

By eating the right food, you are helping your baby develop as optimally as possible. This is not to say that you can never have a piece of chocolate or a packet of crisps. Eat those in moderation. There will be moments during your pregnancy when all you want is a good ol’ packet of crisps. Your cravings are there for a reason, listen to them. Your body is telling you it needs a specific vitamin or mineral.

What not to eat

Some foods are neither helpful to you nor to your baby, while others can cause more harm than good.

  • Alcohol should be avoided throughout your pregnancy. Recent health guidelines indicate that “no level of alcohol is safe to drink in pregnancy”. Alcohol consumption can cause retardation, birth defects, and other problems in your unborn child. Avoiding alcohol throughout your pregnancy and while you breastfeed is in your baby’s best interests. Within a year, you will be able to have your body back and do with it as you will.
  • Caffeine doesn’t need to be ruled out completely. However, you need to reduce your caffeine intake to a minimum. A small amount of chocolate, a cup of coffee a day, or two cups of tea. Try and consume as little caffeine as possible but don’t stress if you have some. Decaffeinated beverages are also an option.
  • Deli or cured meats (bresaola and ham), mould-ripened soft cheese (brie and Camembert), unpasteurised fresh cheese, like mozzarella, and pâtés, even vegetable ones, are all products that carry the potential of becoming infected with listeria, a bacteria that can be harmful to your baby.
  • Raw or undercooked meat consumption, such as eating steak tartare or a rare steak,
    increases the risk of being infected with toxoplasma parasite or salmonella, both of which can harm your baby.
  • Raw fish (sushi) or raw seafood (oysters) can increase the risk of being infected by parasites and bacteria which can lead to unpleasant outcomes during pregnancy.
  • Sharkswordfishking mackerel and tile fish should be avoided as they have large levels of mercury in them which is harmful to you and your baby. You can eat tuna; however, some traces of mercury are found in tuna too so eat a smaller portion of tuna.

Supplements and exercisepregnant exercisedefault

When it comes to supplements, your body will need extra calcium, iron, folic acid and other vitamins and minerals. Your doctor should be able to recommend good pregnancy vitamin supplements for you.

Make sure that your vitamin includes iron, folic acid, calcium, and omegas.  If you cant find a vitamin with these minerals, you will want to get them separately.  They all help in keeping your body going while ensuring that your baby develops properly. A lot of these minerals will be absorbed by your baby to grow a strong heart, brain, teeth and bones, and other necessary organs.

If you exercised before you fell pregnant, continue with your exercise routine keeping it moderate. If you didn’t exercise before becoming pregnant, you should wait until your second trimester when you can do pregnancy exercises until your due date. Pregnancy Pilates, light weight training, stretching, walking, swimming, and pregnancy programs are all good fitness options to help your body stay strong throughout your pregnancy.

Other Tips

If you are battling with morning sickness or nausea, the best foods to eat are dry foods such as crackers, toast, pretzels, etc… Some women find it helpful to eat a cracker when they wake up since it helps settle their nausea. Avoid fatty or greasy food as well as spicy food.

Constipation is part of being pregnant. In this case, increase your fruit, vegetables and water intake.

Heartburn is another unwelcome pregnancy companion. Eating small, frequent meals may help;  drinking milk before eating or sleeping might also be helpful. Tone down on the caffeine and spices during this time.

Whatever your pregnancy foe, listen to your body. Try something: if it works, stick to it. If it doest, try something else. Some of these suggestions may not work for you. Maybe eating spicy food helps. No matter what works for you, remember that it won’t be long before you will be holding your baby. In that moment, all your pregnancy woes will disappear as you will be delighted with your little bundle of joy!

UK Health Guidelines: