Advice on healthy eating during pregnancy with information on essential vitamins, diet supplements and health foods you should be eating.
The nine months of a pregnancy can seem a daunting experience; changes in body shape, mood swings and general day-to-day activities all amount to an intense and sometimes testing time. Snacking away on whatever takes your fancy may seem a great idea, but eating healthily during this time can be one of the most beneficial things you can do to help you and your unborn to stay fit, healthy and happy.
"Pregnancy is one of the most nutritionally demanding periods of a woman's life" says Susan Borra from the International Food Information Council. "An adequate supply of nutrients, including protein, calcium, vitamin D, iron, and folic acid is essential to support tremendous foetal growth and organ development. Pregnant women need to choose nutrient-dense foods to assure an adequate nutrient intake without overdoing on calories."
To ensure a healthy diet for mother and child, it is recommended that pregnant women stick to diet rich in protein, fibre, calcium and iron. In general it is recommended that you intake at least five portions of fruit or vegetables a day, this being even more important to follow whilst pregnant to ensure fibre levels are kept high. To maintain high calcium levels, diets should be rich in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurts; this combined with lean red meat and chicken along with a high intake of foods such as rice and pasta which have a high starch content, will ensure the best possible diet for mother and child.
Fish is another important source of nutrients however whilst pregnant it is best to stay clear of eating marlin, shark or swordfish and to limit the amount of tuna you intake to no more than 2 steaks a week. Tuna has been shown to include high levels of methylmercury, which could affect the nervous system of unborn children so it is best to keep a relatively low intake of this particular fish whilst pregnant.
Two major concerns regarding nutrition during pregnancy centre around the lack of both folic acid and iron in women's diets.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of the nutrient 'folate' which is regularly used in vitamin supplements. Folate can be found in foods such as leafy dark-green vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits and juices. To ensure a high intake of folic acid, a vitamin known to reduce the risk of spina bifida, it is recommended that pregnant women take 400 micrograms of a folic acid multivitamin every day until they are 12 weeks pregnant.
To ensure a mother's iron levels are high, foods rich in vitamin C that help your body absorb iron such as fruit, vegetables and juices are important to eat on a regular basis; as well foods that will help your body maintain these iron levels, such as pulses, red meat, bread and fortified breakfast cereals.
Try to avoid unpasteurised cheeses such as soft and blue veined varieties for example Brie, Camembert Stilton and Danish Blue, as well as raw or lightly cooked meat and liver. Soft boiled eggs and foods where raw eggs are used should also be given a wide birth, including homemade mayonnaise.
Being pregnant shouldn't deprive you of the foods you enjoy but by sticking to a diet dense in protein, fibre, calcium and iron, you can give your child the best possible balance of nutrients whilst they are growing and developing. Keeping you and your body healthy and happy during pregnancy gives your child the best possible start to their life, leaving you both smiling on the inside and out.
Author : Elizabeth Stansfield
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