Diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Diet can be a tough thing to figure out just for yourself, let alone when you’ve got two people to take care of- you and your unborn baby. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will enable your baby to develop and grow properly. There is no one-size-fits-all diet, but there are a few general guidelines which may help you to get a grip on your nutrition. Nutrition advice for pregnant women also extends to breastfeeding women as their babies are still dependant on their mother’s nutrition.
Please note that there is no need to eat for two, most nutritionists agree that you will have to eat only around 300 extra calories when you’re pregnant!
Some things don't change from your regular diet when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. There are a few pillars of nutrition that still remain the same as in your regular diet when you are pregnant:
Everyone should eat at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. They provide vitamins and minerals essential to your own health and your baby’s proper development. The best way to go about it is to make sure that you have at least a third of your plate filled with fruit and/or vegetables at every meal. Did you ever wonder what is actually one portion of fruit or veg? According to NHS it is 80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit or vegetables or 30g of dried fruit. Remember that one portion of fruit juice is just 150 ml (not even a full glass) and that white potatoes don’t count towards your 5-a-day.
Although they don’t count towards your 5-a-day, they still remain an important part of your diet. Starches, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, oats etc. should make over a third of your whole calorie intake! Starchy foods are the main source of energy as well as calcium, iron and B vitamins.They are also a great source of fibre - especially if you choose the wholegrain type! Most people don’t eat enough of fibre which is essential to proper gut health because it lets waste products move through the gut more easily .
Eat some protein foods every day, it is an important building block for your baby’s internal organs such as heart and brain. Sources of protein include:
beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat (but avoid liver) and nuts. Protein requirements for pregnant women range around 40-70 grams daily and this is dependent on your weight. You can choose from a variety of sources- 1/2 cup of cottage cheese (12g of protein), 1 cup canned black beans (15g of protein), 1/2 roasted chicken breast (27g of protein) and many many others.
Dairy foods are an important part a diet as they contain calcium and other vitamins. Choose the low fat variety when possible as dairy often contains saturated fat which is the main cause of heart disease. You can also opt for dairy alternatives made from soya, coconut etc.- just make sure that they are fortified with calcium and vitamins.
It is important to drink enough fluids during the day. According to https://www.babycentre.co.uk your daily intake while pregnant should be around 1.5 litres of water a day. This amount should go up with your baby’s growth, changes in climate and in your level of activity. Also remember that alcohol is not recommended to drink during pregnancy -especially in the 1st trimester- as it increases the risk of miscarriage. Caffeine should also be excluded from your diet or limited to around 200 mg a day, which is either two cups of tea or 2 cups of instant coffee.
If you want to know more about diet during pregnancy have a look at:
There are some foods you should avoid while pregnant as they can make you feel unwell or harm the baby. Pay attention to these as it is better to be safe than sorry.
-You should avoid having sea food and oily fish, such as salmon, more than twice a week as they may contain high levels of Mercury which can be harmful to the baby.
-Eating raw or undercooked eggs may pose a danger of salmonella. Although salmonella would probably not be harmful to your child, it can cause vomiting and/or diarrhoea.
-Don’t eat mouldy cheeses (such as brie) or blue cheeses (for example gorgonzola). These kinds of cheese create an ideal environment for the development of harmful bacteria, such as listeria. Although getting infected with listeria is extremely rare, it’s crucial to avoid it while pregnancy as it can even cause a miscarriage.
-Eating raw or undercooked meat might be risky in pregnancy as they pose a risk of toxoplasmosis. The parasite causing the infection (toxoplasmosis) is found, for example: in raw or undercooked meat, untreated water and unpasteurised goats’ milk. Cook all meat thoroughly so that no pink or red spots are left and make sure to wash all utensils that you used to handle raw meat- and don’t forget to wash your hands after! Although toxoplasmosis has no symptoms- if you feel you might have been at risk contact your GP or midwife because a treatment for toxoplasmosis is available.
-Cured meats may also be risky, as it has never been cooked and may still contain some raw parts. If you still want two enjoy your cured meats freeze them first for at least 4 days before consuming as this will also kill the harmful parasites, the same way as cooking would.
-You should also avoid eating game, as it might have been shot with lead palettes and therefore contain high levels of lead.
-Avoid eating liver as it contains a lot of vitamin A and an access of vitamin A can be harmful to your unborn baby. You should also avoid any multivitamins or fish oil supplements because they may contain too much vitamin A.
Dietary advice for Vegetarian and Vegan mums-to-be and important nutrients everyone should pay attention to!
There are not that many changes to be made when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding from your regular vegetarian or vegan diet but it’s best that you pay special attention to some aspects of your diet. Although this advice is specifically for vegetarians and vegans, if you are not one of them you can still learn some important information about nutrition and vitamins crucial for a child’s development. A pregnant woman needs more of certain nutrients than a non-pregnant woman because the baby is taking the nutrients and using them as building blocks for itself.
-Folic acid (vitamin B9)- is known to prevent birth defects in baby’s brain and spinal cord. Food sources are: leafy green vegetables, breads, beans and citrus fruits. Although there are many sources, it’s usually hard to get enough folate in the diet for a pregnant woman, that’s why most physicians would recommend taking a pre-natal supplement containing folic acid.
-Calcium- an essential nutrient which most people associate with dairy foods. Even if you eat dairy as a vegetarian or an omnivore it shouldn’t be the only source of calcium in your diet. Calcium rich plant-foods include: kale, sesame seeds, beans, broccoli, tofu and many more. Also- nowadays a lot of foods are fortified with calcium, such as nut milks and breakfast cereals.
-Iron- sometimes vegetarians and vegans don’t get enough iron in their diet and even if they do- it is often not absorbed properly. Iron found in plants- called non-heme iron- is absorbed best when eaten with vitamin C so the safest bet is to consume all of your iron-rich foods with vitamin-C rich foods (or with a sprinkle of lemon juice). Iron-rich plant foods include: lentils, soybeans, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, cashews and many more.
-Vitamin D3- this vitamin is made by humans when they are exposed to sunlight. If you live in a colder climate you should consider getting a D3 vitamin supplement. It is also a good idea to take it in the winter time. There are also some foods that contain vitamin D3 such as mushrooms but make sure that they are advertised to have this vitamin as not all mushrooms contain it.
-Vitamin B12- it is recommended that all vegetarians and vegans take a supplement of vitamin B12 so if you are not already taking it please make sure you do when you are expecting a baby or breastfeeding. Also pay attention to the dosage- it has to be quite high. You don’t have to worry about taking too much of vitamin B12 as all access is excreted from the body with urine.
-DHA and EPA- long chain omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and seaweed. They are important for brain development (important during your child’s growing process). Those acids can also be converted from short-chained omega 3 fatty acids (found in flaxseeds and a number of other foods) but the conversion rate is different from person to person, can’t really be measured and is presumed to be quite low. Therefore it is recommended that every vegan and vegetarian mum-to-be takes a DHA/EPA supplement (you can find ones made directly out of algae plants).
Remember that a well chosen pre-natal multivitamin may cover all of the above needs.
To get more information about plant-based nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding and beyond, you can visit https://nutritionfacts.org .
Please make note that it’s a good idea to take some blood tests to see which vitamins or minerals you might be deficient in. This applies to vegetarians, vegans but also to omnivores. It is a common practice for pregnant women or even women who are just thinking of becoming pregnant in the near future to take a pre-natal multivitamin. This multivitamin contains all of the essential nutrients in specific doses, to make up for any small imperfections in your diet. Remember- supplement should be what it says on the tin- just supplementing an already healthy and balanced diet so if you decide to take one it should not take the your focus off of what you pick for your meals.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer any medical advice.
Please note that before making any changes to your diet you should consult your doctor first.