Eat a healthy, varied diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Include whole grains, nuts (in moderation and avoid altogether if there is nut allergy on either side of the family), seeds, pulses, eggs and fish. If possible buy organic to avoid toxic substances such as herbicides and pesticides.
Include essential (1-2 times a week) and linseeds (flax) which can be ground up and added to cereals or used as cold pressed oils on salads.
What to eat
- Choose minimally processed, nutrient dense foods. Try switching to whole-grain breads, crackers pastas and rices. Use semi-skimmed rather than fully skimmed. Eat high quality protein from organic lean meat and poultry, pulses (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans), organic eggs and fish.
- Eat generous servings of at least 5 different fruits and vegetables daily (3 veg/2 fruit).
- Eat two portions of oily fish weekly or use supplements (check first with a nutritional therapist or health provider).
- Ensure you are getting plenty of folic acid from strawberries, kiwi, fresh orange juice, sweetcorn, broccoli and other green veg. and whole-grains.
- Ensure you are getting plenty of iron from meat (especially red), fish (especially pilchards), figs, dried fruits, cashew and pine nuts, spinach, pulses and whole-grains. Consume vitamin C containing foods (most fruits and their juices, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables) with plant sources of iron to increase the body’s absorption of the iron. Wait ½ an hour after a meal before drinking tea and coffee.
- Ensure calcium intake is high; good sources include sesame seeds, tofu, figs, canned fish and dairy.
- Eat plenty of high fibre whole-grains, fruits and vegetables to avoid constipation.
- Try eating small frequent meals to help control nausea and heartburn.What to avoid
- There is so much conflicting advice about alcohol in pregnancy. Many women find it easier to avoid altogether. Recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) say alcohol should be avoided during the first trimester to reduce the risk of miscarriage. If women choose to drink after the first three months then Nice says they should drink no more than one or two units, once or twice a week (published 26 March 2008)
- Caffeine is should be limited to about one cup a day; remember that both tea and chocolate also contain caffeine. Energy drinks and many pain-killers and cold and flu remedies may also contain caffeine in their ingredients.
- Liver, liver pate and supplements containing retinol should be avoided. Consumption of high amounts of retinol (the form of vitamin A in animal products) is associated with an increased risk of birth defects (at a level 4 times the RNI). Also avoid cod liver oil supplements.
- Shark, swordfish and marlin contain high levels of mercury and should be avoided. For the same reason limit tuna consumption to 2 fresh steaks a week or 1-2 medium sized cans a week.
- Blue cheeses including Stilton and Roquefort and other cheeses made with mould (Brie, Cambert). This is to reduce risk of contracting listeria. Other cheeses, including cheddar and feta, are fine.
- Eating raw and undercooked eggs increases the risk of contracting salmonella.
During pregnancy metabolic rate decreases to conserve energy, therefore the average woman will not need additional calories during the first 6 months of pregnancy. An extra 200 calories daily may be required during the final 3 months.