Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy.
I say diet, but I should really refer to it as ‘nutrition’ as we are steered away from thinking about “diets” during pregnancy. Although it can be a minefield and a little scary at first, unless you currently live on crisps, chocolate, and fizzy pop, maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy need not be too much of a challenge.
So, I am going to share with you some of the information I picked up from the experts during my pregnancies.
First time round
When I found out I was pregnant, like many other first-time mums, I was paranoid about making sure we both got all the right nutrients. Conscious that the balance of vitamins and minerals is so important for our growing baby, I filled our living room with every book going. And hung on to every word the midwife told me about what to eat and what not to carry on munching my way through.
I can’t tell you how many nudges in the ribs my partner had, as I was trawling my way through the pages, and telling him what we should be eating and how we should be cooking it from now on!
But I’ve always been quite healthy anyway, so in reality there were only a few things I needed to tweak. And let's just say, eating during pregnancy number two wasn't quite so strict!
Choosing the right foods to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy
I was so excited to think that I could ‘eat for two’ though, as the myth would have us believe. But no!
In fact, I remember the midwife telling me around a quarter of pregnant women still use that as an excuseto fill up. Or else they don’t know that the truth is far different now.
The body has an amazing art of balancing out just what we need, as mums-to-be, and trickles the rest through to baby. It’s only when you reach around 6 months into your pregnancy, that you start to need around 200 extra calories a day.
So, go and put that extra slice of cake down right now!
A sensible and balanced eating pattern, a good variety of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, along with your daily dose of Folic Acid will keep you and your baby blossoming.
Fruit and vegetables – grabbing your ‘5-a-Day’will provide you with a fabulous mix of vitamins, minerals, and fibre (yes, the fibre is important, but I’ll not go into detail!) With so many choices you can really mix it up with fresh or frozen, dried or canned options, and juicing is a great way to combine a healthy blend of food types and flavours, too.
Handy hint: if you find it difficult to include all five portions, try blending spinach or kale into your juice. It’s a sneaky way to hide them, but they are the most beneficial of the leafy green vegetables, so definitely worth a try.
As a guide, around 80g of fresh, frozen, or canned is classed as one portion, and around 30g of dried.
Starchy Food (Carbs) - it is important to get the balance in your diet, so potatoes, bread, rice, cereals, and pasta will help fill any hunger pangs. Try to opt for wholegrain and high fibre versions where you can. Jacket potatoes have always been a firm favourite in our house and tick all the healthy eating boxes during pregnancy (just don’t smother them in fatty cheese and remember to be careful with mayonnaise of course!)
Protein is another essential. Meat, eggs, beans, nuts, and lentils if you can. Cook your meat and eggs thoroughly. And try to include at least two portions of fish per week as recommended – one should be oily fish such as salmon, sardines, or mackerel.
I have to say, because we live near the coast, we are surrounded by ‘fresh sea smells’ and trying to face more fish on my plate was a bit of a struggle. Still, I battled on as it was all in a good cause.
Dairy - milk, cheese, and yogurt all provide the necessary Calcium and other goodies your baby needs, even if you go for the recommended low fat and low sugar varieties. If you had seen our fridge at one point, you would have thought I had shares in a particular ‘light’ yogurt manufacturer!
Vegetarian or vegan? No need to worry, in fact your choices could already be an added benefit for if you are aiming for a healthy diet during pregnancy. Just be sure to take in enough iron, vitamin B12 and vitamin D which are often found in the food types you might not ordinarily eat.
Foods to avoid during pregnancy
If you have a healthy balanced diet already, then there are just a few specific food types to avoid:
- Liver; raw or undercooked meat; pate of all varieties; cured cold meats such as chorizo, salami, pepperoni.
- Some raw or partially cooked eggs, as often used in mayonnaise, mousse or souffle (those with a red lion logo have been produced under the British Lion Code of Practice, and will be safe to eat).
- Soft blue cheese; cheeses such as Brie, Camembert (mould-ripened with a white hardened coating); soft goats’ cheese.
- Unpasteurised milk (cow, goat, or sheep) or milk products.
- Raw shellfish; limit your intake of tuna though because of the high mercury levels.
Obviously, if you have certain medical conditions, then a healthy diet during pregnancy may be even more crucial for you, so please refer to your doctor or midwife for guidance.
Click here for more information on foods to avoid in pregnancy
Cravings are a real thing!
Yes, they are. The Jury is still out as to whether cravings are caused by hormonal changes, lacking in certain nutrients or food types, changes in taste and smell, or even just a belief passed down through the generations. But one thing is for sure – the struggle is real!
Thankfully, I avoided the pull towards pickles and soap. And a craving for coal is now seemingly a thing of the past. I consider myself quite lucky, in that all I was constantly crying out for was bacon crisps and chicken nuggets. Not just any type of chicken nuggets though. They had to be the ones from under the ‘golden arches’ if you know what I mean. Even more fortunate for my partner, he didn’t have to travel too far to bring them home. And even Lockdown didn't stop him going to the Drive-Thru!
I think he loved the excuse to escape for a while, to be honest. And to eat almost as many as me, of course!
So, there you have it. A healthy diet during pregnancy isn’t too bad. As for exercise during pregnancy? I think we’ll leave that for another day and go and grab a well-earned cuppa!
Thanks for being here, and stay safe,
With love from all at Team DB