As well as impacting your own short term and long term health, good nutrition before and during pregnancy is important for the growth and development of your baby and forms the foundations of their later health.
What supplements are needed in pregnancy?
If you are pregnant you will require higher amounts of some nutrients, compared to non-pregnant women. These nutrients are: thiamine, riboflavin, folate, vitamins A, C and D, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, iodine and essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.
All but two nutrients – folate/folic acid and vitamin D – can be consumed in sufficient quantities by eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Therefore it is recommended that you take folic acid before and during the first trimester of pregnancy and take vitamin D throughout pregnancy.
Some pregnant women are entitled to free vitamin tablets containing both these vitamins under the Healthy Start scheme (www.healthystart.nhs.uk)
What should I be eating?
During the first six months of pregnancy you do not need to eat extra food but you may need to change the foods you are eating to make sure you and your baby are getting all the nutrients you need. Base your diet on a combination of the five food groups below:
1. Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
- Base each meal and some snacks on these foods
- Use wholegrain varieties to increase fibre intake if you have a tendency towards constipation
2. Fruit and vegetables
- Include one or more of these at each meal and aim for at least five servings per day
- You can use fresh, frozen, tinned and dried fruit and vegetables
3. Milk, cheese and yogurt
- Include three serving per day
- Opt for low fat varieties if you were overweight before pregnancy
(Note: Non diary milks such as those based on soya, nuts, rice and other foods do not provide the same level of nutrients as cows’/goats’ milk and cannot be counted towards the three servings of milk, cheese and yogurt)
4. Meat, fish, eggs, nuts and pulses
- Include two servings per day or three for vegetarians
- Include fish twice a week – one of which should be oily
5. Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar
- Thinly spread butter, fat spreads, jam and honey and only use cream, mayonnaise and oils sparingly
- Cut back on other foods high in fat and/or sugar that provide few nutrients
- Swap crisps and similar packet snacks, chocolate and confectionary with more nutritious snacks such as nuts, fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, crackers or toast/bread with a spread
- Have about six to eight drinks per day (1 ½ -2 litres) – more may be needed in hot weather or after physical activity
- Limit caffeine intake in drinks and food to less than 200mg per day (four small cups of tea or two mugs of instant coffee)
- It is safest not to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. If you choose to drink alcohol in the second and third trimester limit to a maximum of one or two units of alcohol one per week (1 unit is 125ml glass of wine, 25ml measure of spirits, half a pint of beer).
- Do not smoke during pregnancy