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A healthy diet for pregnant women

Should pregnant women eat for two people? Read on to find out.   2013-01-15

It’s been confirmed, you are pregnant and overjoyed with the prospect of becoming a mother. However it is often commented that pregnant women should eat for two people, this old wives tale or myth is totally untrue and has no truthful basis whatsoever.

Nevertheless what is imperative during pregnancy is that a woman needs to supply excellent nutrition for both herself and the growing baby. Therefore it is not the quantity of food consumed by the mother but the quality. A diet rich in nutrients and vitamins is essential.

The rule of thumb is that a pregnant woman requires around 2500 calories, i.e. an extra 300 calories (Kilocalories/KCals) per day, and the diet should be well-balanced and include a little of everything on a daily basis from all the food groups:

  • Fruit - particularly beneficial are mangoes as these also contain Vitamins A & C and potassium.
  • Vegetables principally avocadoes, broccoli, spinach and carrots.
  • Dairy products, meat, fish, eggs, fat and carbohydrates.

Although a diverse diet will assist in providing you with all the vitamins and minerals required for a healthy pregnancy it is advised by the NHS that supplements are to be taken throughout pregnancy.

1. Vitamin D: the suggested dose is 10 micrograms daily. This essential vitamin maintains healthy bones and ensures that your baby has sufficient Vitamin D for the first few months of life. Inadequate amounts of this vitamin can result in softening of the bones and the consequence of this can be rickets. If you are pregnant during the summer months get outdoors and enjoy some sunlight on your skin - the easiest, cheapest and most effective source of vitamin D.

2. Folic Acid: the optimal dose is 400 micrograms each day up until you are 12 weeks pregnant. Found in brown rice and all green leafy vegetables. This is a crucial vitamin as it can thwart birth defects for example Spina Bifida.

3. Many pregnant women feel very tired during pregnancy a possible sign of anaemia resulting from a deficiency of iron in the blood. This can be rectified by eating foods high in iron content such as lean meat, green leafy vegetables, nuts and dried fruit. However if your blood iron levels remain low despite eating all the above, your GP may advise you to take an iron supplement tablet. Taking any form of iron supplement may cause constipation, and therefore to avoid this, eat plenty of fibre-laden foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholemeal bread and cereal. Prunes must be included in this list, as must drinking 2 to 3 litres of water per day. During pregnancy regular exercise needs to be maintained as this will help to get the intestines moving, recommended is 20-30 minutes swimming or vigorous walking two to three times per week.

4.  Tomatoes, citrus fruits, peppers, blackcurrants and potatoes are all rich in Vitamin C which assists in the absorption of iron.

5.  To ensure that baby has strong bones and teeth, eating foods rich in calcium is imperative. High levels of this essential nutrient are particularly to be found in products such as tinned sardines as these contain edible bones. Other good sources are watercress, broccoli and curly kale.

At this juncture it is crucial to discuss the foods which should be steered clear of during pregnancy. All foods which have large levels of vitamin A such as liver should be avoided as they may cause damage to the embryo. This list also includes blue-veined and unpasteurised cheeses and pate due to the potential risk of infectious diseases such as listeria.

In conclusion, pregnancy should be time when a woman feels most beautiful as hair has more volume and fingernails grow both longer and stronger, and skin truly glows. Therefore, fully enjoy carrying this new life as pregnancy is truly a wonderful life changing experience.