Healthy eating is especially important during pregnancy and breast feeding to ensure mum and baby are receiving adequate amounts of nutrients for optimal growth and development. There are some important nutrients, including some particular vitamins and minerals, that are needed in pregnancy and wherever possible these should be provided by a balanced diet. Using the EatWell Guide it is important to plan regular meals and include a variety of foods across the week. The following are our tops tips:
- Base meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, choosing wholegrain where possible
- Eat fibre-rich foods such as oats, beans, peas, lentils, grains, seeds, fruit and vegetables, as well as wholegrain bread and brown rice and pasta
- Start the day with breakfast as it is a good time include some starchy foods such as cereals or toast
- Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day, in place of foods higher in fat and calories
- Dairy – Include 2-3 times a day, yoghurt, milk, cheese, good source of calcium, protein
- Beans/Lentils/Eggs/Fish/Meat – 2-3 times a day, good source of iron, protein
- Limit intake of oil and spreads
- Eat as little as possible of fried food; drinks and confectionery high in added sugars (such as cakes, pastries and fizzy drinks); and other food high in fat and sugar (such as some take-away and fast foods)
There are two nutrients that all pregnant women should take as a supplement as it may be difficult to get enough from the diet: folic acid and vitamin D.
Folic Acid is important during pregnancy to help prevent Neural Tube Defects (NTD) such as Spina Bifida. All women of child bearing age planning on becoming pregnant are recommended to take 400 micrograms supplement of folic acid until the 12th week of pregnancy. Women with a family history of NTD or diabetes should speak to their GP as they may require a higher dose. Food sources of folic sources are:
- Brussel sprouts
- Liver (not during pregnancy)
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and teeth because it helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. The best source of vitamin D is Summer sunlight as there are few dietary sources. A 10 microgram supplement of vitamin D should be taken daily during pregnancy and breast feeding to ensure baby has sufficient vitamin D levels, e.g. Some pregnant women will be eligible to receive Healthy Start food vouchers and free
vitamins and should be strongly encouraged to sign up for the scheme.
Good food sources include:
- Oily Fish (e.g. herring, mackerel, salmon, pilchards, sardines)
- Margarine (added to all margarine in the UK)
- Some low-fat spreads and breakfast cereals may also have vitamin D added – check the label
The Wellbeing and Nutrition Team have recently launched their online Healthy Eating in Pregnancy training. If you are a healthcare professional working with pregnant mums and would like to expand your knowledge to support women to eat well in pregnancy contact the team to find out about the training.
By Edwina Revel