Eating a balanced diet during pregnancy is important for the health of you and your baby and will help ensure your breastmilk is in tip top shape when you start breastfeeding.
However, this does not mean ‘eating for two’. Your pregnant body is even more efficient at making use of the energy you get from the food you eat, and you need no extra calories until the seventh month of your pregnancy. From then until you give birth, you only need an extra 200 calories a day.
Healthy eating during pregnancy, and eating little and often is a good rule to follow, this will help if you are experiencing pregnancy sickness or heartburn and will also ensure you and your baby are as fit and healthy as possible when you start breastfeeding, to ensure your baby is given the best start in life.
What to eat when pregnant
- At least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily
- Protein foods, such as fish, poultry, eggs, soya and pulses
- Plenty of carbohydrates (bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals)
- Milk and other dairy products (low fat, if possible) for calcium
- Green leafy vegetables, meat and pulses for iron
What not to eat when pregnant
- Soft cheese with a mouldy rind, such as Brie and Camembert, blue cheese, or any kind of pate, including vegetable pate (as these can contain the dangerous bacteria listeria)
- More than two portions of oily fish (e.g. fresh tuna, sardines, mackerel, trout) a week (these contain high levels of mercury, which can damage your baby’s developing nervous system)
- Marlin, shark or swordfish, or more than four cans of tuna per week (these also contain high levels of mercury)
- Liver or liver products, e.g. pate or sausage (these contain large amounts of Vitamin A, which can be harmful to your unborn baby)
- Raw shellfish, to avoid the risk of food poisoning
Can I drink alcohol when pregnant?
Alcohol passes into the bloodstream of your unborn baby through the placenta and too much alcohol can seriously harm him. Try to avoid drinking alcohol if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Drinking can affect your ability to conceive. If you must drink while pregnant, NHS advice is to have no more than one or two units once or twice a week.
Can I have caffeine when pregnant?
High caffeine intake can result in a low birth weight baby, or even miscarriage. NHS guidance is to have no more than 200mg a day. Remember that chocolate, cola and energy drinks contain caffeine, as well as tea and coffee. A can of cola contains roughly 40mg of caffeine, and a 50g bar of dark chocolate around 50mg. Milk chocolate contains about half as much caffeine as dark chocolate.
There’s been lots of studies into the reasons why women have food cravings while pregnant, but it still remains somewhat a mystery! So we are none the wiser why some women will dig into a giant jar of pickles or have a nibble on a bar of soap.
What we do know to some degree, is it maybe caused by the hormonal changes within your body, and the cravings could take any form. There is also the theory that cravings are a way of your body telling you what your body needs. For example, if the mother is craving a Big Mac and a plate of fries this maybe because her body needs more protein, sodium, or potassium.
Studies have also shown that women tend to go for the same types of food with the most popular being sweet foods, then salty foods and 3rd spicy foods.
Whatever your craving try and balance it out in order to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
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