Firstly, apologies that this post will only apply to a small number of you, but as pregnancy is currently a huge part of my life, I just had to write a post on it! I’ll try to keep it short anyway… I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert on the subject, but I wanted to share some useful websites and resources to help you eat extra well, and help bust some of those common pregnancy food myths…
So, if you are still reading, I guess this post does apply to you, in which case CONGRATULATIONS! You are going through the most incredible process of growing a new life inside of you – a true miracle of nature. Pregnancy is wonderful, but it can also be hard work, tiring, difficult and a big responsibility. One of the best ways to help yourself through these nine months, and keep yourself and your unborn baby on top form, is to eat well. Did you know, that from about halfway through your pregnancy, your baby is literally swallowing, and can taste, the food you are eating (through the amniotic fluid), so what you eat can actually give baby a taste for certain foods. Eating plenty of healthy food can only get your little one off to a good start in more ways than one!
How to eat when pregnant
Essentially a “pregnancy diet” is just a normal healthy diet! It doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult. There are of course, certain foods you should avoid, either because there is a risk they could make you ill, which is something you want to avoid in pregnancy because your immune system is lower, there is a risk of complications if you do get ill, and you have a second being that you want to keep well; or they contain substances which are potentially damaging to your unborn baby (e.g. alcohol and vitamin A).
There are loads of lists around of the foods you should avoid, but the NHS has a good, no nonsense one which explains WHY each item should be avoided.
A few key pieces of advice for eating in pregnancy:
- Eating for two does not mean eating double! Unless your doctor tells you to (perhaps if you are a bit underweight or are carrying multiples), you really don’t need to consume any more than normal until the third trimester, and even then you only need about 200 calories more a day – that’s not much; a banana and a handful of nuts for example.
- Eat lots of small meals rather than fewer large ones. This might seem like a pain, but it will help regulate blood sugar and energy levels, and as your baby gets bigger, and your digestive system gets more and more squashed, you will find it far more comfortable. It will also help reduce heartburn, nausea and constipation. I find it easiest to split meals into two. For breakfast for example, I have a smoothie first thing (which I usually make the night before) as I need something instant and easily digestible, then a couple of hours later (usually at my desk!) I’ll have something a bit more solid like a bowl of yogurt and oats or some toast and avocado.
- Avoid fatty foods. I know that sometimes it’s all you will crave, but as with larger meals, fatty food sits heavily on your system and is more difficult to digest so is more likely to give you digestive issues. Of course, these foods are also calorie laden which isn’t great if you are trying to limit excess additional weight!
- Focus on wholegrains and keep well hydrated to limit the risk of constipation. Prunes with natural yogurt for breakfast are also a great help. If you aren’t a fan of the taste, add a large spoonful of each to a smoothie with plenty of fruit instead.
- Avoid caffeine, as well as the increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight babies if you drink too much, remember that caffeine is a diuretic (i.e., it makes you need the toilet!) As one of the top daily annoyances of pregnancy is how often you need to go to the loo, help yourself out by sticking to caffeine free drinks!
- Don’t beat yourself up if you have the odd day where all you can eat is junk! You are going through a huge physical and emotional challenge and if a tub of Ben & Jerry’s helps you get through that, then don’t stress about it! I’m a healthy eater, I don’t generally have a sweet tooth and try to avoid refined sugar, but a few weeks ago, I managed to eat an entire full size Toblerone in a day. Yes really, guilty secret out, I felt so sick afterwards, but it happened and I hope it makes you feel better knowing it 😉 Just make sure that the majority of the time you are eating healthy, nutritious meals and nurturing both yourself and your baby.
Good luck for your pregnancy and do drop me a message on here or Instagram to let me know how you are getting on, and any top tips or questions you have for your pregnancy diet!
Some useful resources online:
- The NHS has plenty of no nonsense advice
- Super meal planners by trimester from Babycentre
- Part of the “What to Expect” series, this website has lots of straightforward info.
- Good article and recipe links from the BBC
- The Bounty guide includes a short piece on vegetarian and vegan diets through pregnancy
- There is a lovely, very simple infographic here from Positive Health and Wellness to remind you of the key things to remember when eating in pregnancy
Disclaimer: I am not a qualified doctor, nutritionist or dietician. This article is based on my own experience, I do not claim to have professional medical or nutritional knowledge and this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Please seek the advice of a healthcare professional if you have specific health concerns and always follow the advice of your doctor, midwife and other healthcare providers.