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Healthy eating in pregnancy

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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hi i have just found out I am pregnant today I'm about 4 weeks, I'm very worried as I have had a miscarriage about 16 weeks ago so I'm trying to eat as healthy as possible, but I'm unclear on what the best folic acid and vitamin tablets to take? there are so many to choose from!
by charlotte88 14th Oct 2010, 3:56pm
but sometimes i often vomit up the healthy foods i eat. how do i avoid that happening or what do i do after it happens?
by lola28 21st May 2010, 4:11pm
How does one cope with nutrition in the face of loss of appetite?
by maimulas 18th May 2010, 5:30pm
Folic acid is very safe in early stages of pregnancy you will need it up till 3 months have past has this is my second pregnancy and am 4weeks and it is important i take my folic acid to protect the baby from later problems
by claire89moores2010 14th May 2010, 4:46pm
hi guys,found out am pregnant like a week ago..i shud b around 5weeks or so,havnt gone to see a doc yet am intending to soonest.Can i buy the pregnacare tablets from the pharmacy or must i wait to be advised by the doc. Please advise
by Peachis 14th May 2010, 4:31pm
I have been taking folic acid the last 4/5 months, i just found out i am now 4 weeks pregnant and i am really excited, i am still taking Folic Acid, but should i also be taken Pregnancare????
by Shelleyxxx 14th May 2010, 3:57pm
As soon as i found out i was pregnant i've been taking 3 folic acid tablets a day. I am now about 11 weeks gone.. Or atleast i think so lol.. My mum told me it is very important and when the midwife spoke to me on the phone she was really pleased to know that i was already taking it ^^
by xoxCARAMYxox 15th Jun 2009, 9:34am
Folic acid is really important. i have been taking it since I found out I was pregnant. I am taking pregnacare also.!
Doctors and midwives have told reminded me to keep taking this right through pregnancy and also during breastfeeding. As I suffer really badly with morning sickness, I have started taking this at night so I know its staying down.

by ejh3940 28th Apr 2009, 10:17am
i am 6 weeks pregnant im only 18 but my doctor says folic acid is very important is this true?
by annastaly 20th Mar 2009, 9:13am
I am using Pregnancare. I am just 3 weeks pregnant but I heard that folic acid is really important. address that need? Does the one in pregnacare When am I supposed to start ante natal?
by Promise 3rd Feb 2009, 9:18am
Is it safe to take prenatals tablets now that am twenty wks pregnant.NB:I Take them before conception
by nikey 23rd Dec 2008, 9:17am
my doctors have gave me more than 12 weeks of tablets should i be worried ?
by davidcase 1st Dec 2008, 9:27am
Ive been taking Pronatal supplements since trying to conceive (I am now 16 weeks pregnant) The double one includes everything including Folic Acid and Omega 3 - My midwife was very happy with this!
by KatDay 23rd Oct 2008, 8:53am
Is it safe to take Folic Acid tablets, this is my second pregnancy, some 10 years later, and I wonder if things have changed since then!
by Chloegirl 18th Aug 2008, 9:16am