Healthy pregnancy diet & snack tips
Health and wellness have become the new trend lately, but honestly they should just be something you practice out of respect for your body. Especially if you’re a new mum. So, what does a healthy pregnancy diet look like? What are the best healthy pregnancy snacks? The Mix explains it all...
Contrary to the cliche of eating for two, it is not how much you eat (you only need on average 300 more calories a day when pregnant) but what you eat that matters. A healthy pregnancy diet should be rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. Raw green vegetables like spinach and lettuces are particularly helpful, because they contain folic acid and iron, as long as you remember to wash them well.
Healthy pregnancy diet essentials
There are a few crucial nutrients that play important roles in foetal development. These include:
- Calories: Proper weight gain on your part is needed to make sure your newborn is delivered at a healthy weight. Generally, it’s recommended that you add 200 to 300 calories per day for the last two thirds of pregnancy.
- Protein: Protein provides materials for the growing tissues, including the placenta, the mother’s blood and the baby. Ideally, for a healthy pregnancy diet you should be getting three good servings a day from a good source such as beans, pulses, chicken, cottage cheese (made with pasteurised milk), fish, or boiled eggs.
- Calcium: This mineral is needed for proper bone formation in the baby and to help preserve the mother’s bone strength. Drink a glass of milk a day as part of your healthy pregnancy snacks to keep levels topped up. Another snack idea might be some greek yoghurt with fresh fruit, or really just any dairy products that are related to milk.
- Iron: An iron supplement is recommended during pregnancy since it’s so difficult to get enough in your diet. You’ll need this extra iron to replenish red blood supply.
- Folic Acid: This is a B vitamin needed for proper cell division. Folic acid taken while trying to conceive and in early pregnancy can also help prevent certain birth defects of the brain and spine. Studies show a reduced risk of spina bifida by about 50 percent. This is important from the very beginning of your pregnancy, so try to include foods like orange juice and spinach in your diet ASAP.
- Fluids: You need extra fluid to feed your increased blood volume and for amniotic fluid. Drink at least six to eight glasses of liquid a day. Remember, food and drinks are equally important in life, but especially during pregnancy – you need both to stay healthy.
- Dried fruit and nuts: These make for great healthy pregnancy snacks as they’re high in fat (the healthy kind), vitamins, minerals and proteins. Try a trail mix, or you could even make your own. Maybe add in some dark chocolate, the possibilities are endless!
Foods to avoid whilst pregnant:
- Unsupervised use of vitamins: If you’re thinking of taking any food supplements it’s best to read-up or ask a professional about which ones can benefit you in your pregnancy. Large doses of vitamin A are particularly harmful to a developing foetus, which is why you should also avoid eating liver.
- Food you are allergic to: If you’re sensitive or allergic to certain foods it’s best to steer clear of them in pregnancy because your baby may also be sensitive or affected by your reaction to those foods.
- Unpasteurised dairy products and pates: they may carry the listeria bacterium which is a danger to the baby. This includes cheeses like brie, camembert and soft goats cheese.
- Caffeine: Keep your intake below 200mg per day, which is roughly equivalent to two coffees.
- Game meats: These can contain pieces of lead shot which, suffice to say, is not good for the baby. Try eating lean meat instead.
If you’re unsure about something, it’s best to contact a health professional to figure out what’s what.
Other things to avoid whilst pregnant:
- Alcohol: As no one really knows exactly how much vino is safe to drink when pregnant it is best to avoid it. Alcohol can cause birth defects in the baby. It can also, in larger quantities, cause miscarriage.
- Smoking: Babies born to smokers may be smaller than other babies, premature or more prone to infections. Cigarette smoke has also been recognised as one of the causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (also called Cot Death). On top of all that, asthma, throat and ear infections are common amongst children whose parents smoke. But we recognise that quitting is hard. If you would like help to stop smoking you can contact Quitline on 0800 00 22 00. Alternatively, you can check out this article for some advice.
- Medicine: Avoid all medicines that are not essential. Consult your doctor to check the drugs you may be taking are safe during pregnancy.
- X-rays: Avoid X-rays including dental X-rays.
- Important checks: Are you immune to German Measles (Rubella)? Are you up-to-date on your vaccinations? See your doctor about all the basic checks before you get too busy.
- Some STIs can affect your fertility or be passed on to your baby: If you or your partner think that you might be at risk from an STI (including HIV) go to your local sexual health clinic.
Eating organic food whilst pregnant
Eating healthily may seem like the obvious thing to do when you’re pregnant, but looking out for hidden dangers in certain foods is also important. Why not try eating organic food? On average, organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C and essential minerals, such as calcium and iron, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants. You can also be sure of avoiding any potentially harmful pesticide residues.
But it’s important to note that this is not essential. If you’re not in a position to buy organic, don’t beat yourself up about it. Although organic is slightly more nutrient-dense, in the long-run the difference between organic and regular food is negligible. Your baby won’t suffer just because you bought Tesco eggs instead of Waitrose. As long as you are taking care of yourself and being conscious of what you put in your body, the life growing inside of you will thrive – and hopefully so will you.
By Nishika Melwani
Updated on 30-Oct-2021
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