To maintain a healthy weight when you are having a baby depends on both the amount and the type of food you eat before you become pregnant and during your pregnancy.
Being overweight carries risks for you and your baby.
The more overweight you are, the greater the risks. Being underweight increases the risk of your baby not growing as well as he or she should.
Simply being at a correct weight for your height does not necessarily mean that you are eating healthily.
Some foods are best avoided if you are planning to become pregnant or if you are already pregnant, as they may contain substances that could affect your unborn baby’s development.
What’s a healthy diet for pregnant women?
- Your meals should contain starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, choosing wholemeal (These foods are filling without containing too many calories)
- Eat at least five portions of different fruits and vegetables every day rather than foods that are higher in fat and calories
- Eat a low-fat diet. Eat as little fried food as possible and avoid drinks that are high in added sugars, and other foods such as sweets, cakes and biscuits that have a high fat or sugar content
- Eat fibre-rich foods such as oats, beans, lentils, grains and seeds, as well as wholegrain bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta.
- Eat some protein every day; choose lean meat, and try to eat two portions of fish a week. Lentils, beans and tofu are also a good source of protein
- Eat dairy foods for calcium but choose low-fat varieties such as skimmed milk or low-fat yogurt
- Watch the amount of food that you eat. (Do not ‘eat for two’!)
- Always eat breakfast
- If you must have coffee, limit yourself to 1-2 cups of coffee per day.
What vitamins do pregnant women need?
You need extra vitamins during pregnancy as they’re needed for growth and development of the fetus/baby. There are 13 important vitamins: vitamins A, C, D, E and K and the vitamin B series.
Apart from vitamin D, which we get from sunlight, most vitamins come from our diet. It is quite common for people to be low in vitamin D and folic acid (vitamin B9). These vitamins are important in pregnancy and you can boost your levels by taking vitamin supplements.
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins and helps to reduce the risk of your baby having spina bifida or Neural Tube Defects. Taking extra folic acid may also reduce the risk of heart or limb defects and some childhood brain tumours. The recommended daily dose is 400 micrograms (μg). Ideally, you should start taking extra folic acid before you conceive and continue to take it until you reach your 13th week of pregnancy.
All pregnant women are advised to take vitamin D when pregnant and breastfeeding. This is because it is common for people to have low levels of vitamin D.