Useful facts and questions on healthy eating during pregnancy

Q. What's the most important food to eat during pregnancy?

A. It's important to try to eat a wide variety of foods including:

  • Plenty of fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, dried or a glass of juice). Aim for at least five portions each day. Dark green leaves are a good source of iron

  • Plenty of starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes - try to stick to wholegrain options. A cereal fortified with iron is a good idea 

  • Foods rich in protein such as lean meat and chicken, fish (aim for at least two servings of fish a week, including one of oily fish), eggs and pulses (peas, beans and lentils) 

  • Calcium-rich foods  such as milk, cheese and yoghurt – be sure  to avoid unpasteurised and blue cheeses. 

  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat fish at least twice a week including some oily fish or include a DHA-rich supplement in your diet

Q. What should I avoid or cut back on?

A. You should avoid:

  • Liver and liver products like paté as well as supplements with liver - all of which contain vitamin A. Having too much of this vitamin may harm your unborn baby 
  • Shark, swordfish and marlin. This is because of the levels of mercury in these fish. At high levels, mercury can harm an unborn baby's developing nervous system 
  • Soft cheeses such as Camembert, Brie and others that have a similar rind, as well as blue cheeses 
  • Patés including vegetable patés that may contain listeria bacteria
  • Raw eggs or foods containing raw or partially cooked eggs to avoid salmonella
  • Raw or undercooked meat and raw shellfish 
  • Undercooked ready meals

You should cut back on:

  • Cakes, biscuits, chocolate and fizzy drinks which are high in sugar, and saturated and trans fats 
  • Fish - you should eat no more than two portions of oily fish a week 
  • Smoked meat, fish and cheese which contain a lot of salt and salted products like crisps and nuts

Q. What extra vitamins and minerals do I need?

A. If possible take folic acid (400 micrograms daily) for three months before you conceive and then for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to protect against neural tube defect. Pregnant and nursing women should consume and additional 100-200mg of DHA daily over and above the 250 mg DHA+EPA recommended for adult cardiovascular health. If you are concerned you are not getting enough nutrients through your normal diet, ask your doctor about alternative ways to increase your intake of these essential nutrients.

Only take the following supplements if your doctor says so:

·         A multivitamin containing at least 10mcg of vitamin D a day

·         Iron supplements

Q. How much weight should I expect to put on during my pregnancy?

A. Different women gain different amounts of weight but it shouldn't be more than 10-12 kilograms or 22-28 pounds over the whole of the pregnancy. Too much weight gain can affect your health and increase your blood pressure. But equally, it's important that you don't try to diet when you're pregnant. If you're concerned about your weight talk to your doctor.

The opinions, statements and viewpoints expressed by the various authors on this web site are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Martek Biosciences or policies of Martek Biosciences.