Nutrition and Wellbeing During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can be an overwhelming time, with so many changes happening to your body and your life all at once. If you’re wondering about how NUTRITION fits in during pregnancy and what foods you should ideally be eating and avoiding The Baby Show & Registered Nutritionist Charlotte Stirling-Reed are here to help!
Ideally, we’d all be eating a well-balanced diet during pregnancy (with some added extras, see below) and getting in plenty of energy, nutrients and fluids every day…but sometimes it just doesn’t work out like that and some pregnancies can be tricky, so avoid pressure on yourself and just do your best when it comes to feeding yourself.
When it comes to well-being during pregnancy, here are some of Charlotte’s tips for taking care of yourself:
- Do what you can, but also listen to your body and rest when you need to rest
- Extra pressure and stress won’t help, remember that people grow babies in all kinds of environments and your best is enough.
- Rope in family, partners and friends to help where you can. If you’re struggling, ask for help. If people can offer company, make meals, take you out for fresh air or help you with childcare or housework whilst you rest it’s all a big bonus.
- Don’t be nervous to stay active, activity can help with many of the symptoms of pregnancy and can help you build an appetite too
- Carry water around with you, or have jugs dotted in a few rooms to help you remember to drink plenty
- Try and prep meals in advance so you have foods and snacks ready to go when you need them the most
- Do what’s easy - snacking more or using freezer options is fine, just try to choose healthier options as and when possible
- Make double when doing meal prep so you have something extra for tomorrow
- Put your feet up, rest is all part of the pregnancy journey, so take those moments for yourself when you can
- Find a midwife who helps you so you have a great little support network – they are there to support you through your pregnancy as much as possible.
What to eat when pregnant
When you’re pregnant, not much about your diet needs to change. However, it is recommended to:
- Eat a “balanced diet”, containing food from each of the main food groups (see below)
- Take additional supplements
- Avoid certain foods that have the potential to pose harm to you or your baby
- Keep fluid intakes up as your body needs extra fluid for growing a new baby
- Avoid dieting or unnecessarily restrictive diets
As a general rule, a healthy balanced diet focus on:
- Eating 5 or MORE portions of fruits and vegetables a day
- Including plenty of wholegrains each day
- Including around 2-3 portions of dairy or dairy alternatives each day
- Including 2-3 portions of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins each day
- Have 2 portions of fish in your diet each week, one of which should be oily fish
- Including 6-8+ glasses of fluid a day during pregnancy – you may need more during the later stages too
Supplements to take during pregnancy
Current advice in the UK is that anyone pregnant should take the following supplements:
- 400mcg folic acid daily for the first 12 weeks (and from the time you decide to start trying for a baby too)
- 10mcg vitamin D daily throughout pregnancy
There are no recommendations as a general rule that everyone should take a multivitamin when pregnant, as simply having a balanced and varied diet should be enough to provide all of the nutrients you need. If you are struggling with symptoms such as sickness and nausea, or you don’t eat certain foods and are worried about your intake, a multivitamin can be helpful as a bit of a safeguard, but not as a replacement for food and a balanced diet.
It’s important to talk to your GP, midwife or pharmacist BEFORE taking multiple supplements, or if you’re taking other medications, to ensure there are no unintended side effects or that they don’t contain components that you should avoid during pregnancy.
Foods to avoid
During pregnancy, I MUCH prefer to focus on all the foods you CAN eat whilst you’re pregnant and encourage people to include as much variety as they can enjoy. If you have some favourite foods you’re craving, go for it, but remember how many delicious foods are out there which help to make up a balanced diet e.g. different fruits and vegetables such as peas, melon, bananas and whole grains such as oats, bread and pasta as well as protein and iron-rich foods you might enjoy such as peanut butter and chicken. There is so much choice!
Make a list of some of the foods you’re enjoying during each stage of your pregnancy – trying to think about balance all the while - and ask your family/partner to add those to the shopping list regularly as you go through your pregnancy. This list might change, but hopefully, it’ll help you to focus on having plenty of variety in your diet, regularly.
Whilst I prefer to focus on the foods that we CAN eat, some foods are recommended to be avoided during pregnancy. As per NHS guidelines, those are:
- Certain types of cheeses - such as soft cheeses with white rinds (brie and camembert) or soft blue-veined cheeses (gorgonzola and Roquefort), unless cooked
- Raw or partially cooked eggs - UNLESS they are stamped with the British Lion Stamp.
- Pate, liver and supplements with added vitamin A (including cod liver oil)
- Raw, undercooked and (sometimes) cold cured meats
- Shark, swordfish, marlin and raw shellfish. Additionally, only eat a maximum of two tuna steaks or four cans of tuna a week and have no more than two portions of oily fish a week too.
- Unpasteurised dairy
- Liquorice root herb
- Stick to <200mg a day of caffeine
The NHS website has more information on this, including more on why these foods should be avoided.
Charlotte also has a detailed and comprehensive blog on Nutrition During Pregnancy, so check that out for more.