Do's and Don'ts
The do's and don'ts of nutrition in pregnancy.
It is important to eat a variety of foods during pregnancy to ensure your diet is healthy.
Try to make sure your diet includes:
- Five portions of fruit and vegetables a day (fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or fruit juice formats all count).
- Potatoes, bread and pasta (wholegrain options if possible) to keep energy levels up.
- Lean meat, chicken, white fish, eggs (make sure the eggs are well cooked), beans and lentils for protein.
- Two portions of fish a week, including one of oily fish (e.g. mackerel or salmon) – Oily fish contains essential fatty acids such as omega-3.
- Dairy foods such as milk, some types of cheese (such as chedder, parmesan and cottage cheese) and yoghurts - these contain calcium for building bones. Use low fat varieties where possible.
During pregnancy your defences against stomach bugs and food poisoning can be lower than usual so make sure you avoid:
- Cheese that is ripened by moulds, such as Camembert, Brie or chevre (a goat's cheese) and any soft blue cheese or unpasteurised cheese as these may contain the bacteria, listeria that can harm the baby.
- All types of Pâté, including vegetable pate, as this can also contain listeria.
- Raw or partially cooked eggs or any foods based on raw eggs (e.g. ice cream or mayonnaise) to avoid salmonella food poisioning.
- Raw fish, shellfish and raw meat - always make sure food is well cooked.
- Other foods that should be avoided because of their content:
- Liver products because it contains a lot of vitamin A. You do need some vitamin A but too much can harm the baby. But you can take beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body, and does not have the safety issues of other forms of vitamin A.
- Deep sea fish such as shark, swordfish or marlin and have no more than two tuna steaks or four cans of tuna a week, as these contain mercury which can harm the baby's nervous system.
- It important that you are consuming enough liquid during your pregnancy aim to drink plenty (approximately one litre) of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free drinks a day.
- Caffeine consumption should be reduced because a high caffeine intake has been linked to an increased risk of low birth weight babies and miscarriage. You should try not to have more than 200mg a day (e.g. two mugs of instant coffee or two mugs of tea).
Before you become pregnant
- The Department of Health recommends that women trying for a baby shouldn't drink alcohol at all. Regularly drinking more than the daily recommended units increases your risk of a number of health problems and reduces your chance of getting pregnant. Cutting out alcohol helps you to prepare for a healthy pregnancy.
Drinking during pregnancy
- The advice on drinking during pregnancy can be confusing. The Department of Health recommends pregnant women shouldn't drink alcohol at all throughout their entire pregnancy. Furthermore, some studies suggest that one or two units of alcohol a week during pregnancy is OK.
- The safest choice is still not to drink at all. Cut out the alcohol and you improve your chance of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. If you do choose to drink however, you should limit yourself to one or two units of alcohol, once or twice a week. Any more than this amount may harm your developing baby.