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Tips and truths about eating during pregnancy

eating well during pregnancyHere are some tips and truths about eating during pregnancy.

While there’s a lot of information on vitamins and minerals out there, the first ones to think about, as early as possible in your pregnancy or even beforehand, are folate and vitamin D.

Taking supplements of folate, a B vitamin, have been shown to reduce the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.

  • In the last few months of your pregnancy, precook and freeze as many meals (eg beef lasagne) as possible so that you have some nutritious food to eat once your baby is born. It’s important to eat well and drink plenty if you want to breastfeed.
  • Include sufficient iron-rich foods in your diet as many mothers are deficient in iron after the birth of their child and this could lead to anaemia, which will leave you feeling very run down and more prone to infection.
  • If you don’t already, plan your weekly menus ahead and order groceries online.
  • Pregnancy increases your requirement for a host of nutrients, but you do not require extra calories until the last trimester of pregnancy, and even then it is quite a small increase.
  • Risks of putting on too much weight – include a higher chance of having a larger baby and a more difficult labour.
  • Good food hygiene is critical during pregnancy. Pregnant woman are more susceptible to some types of food poisoning, and the risks are more serious.
  • Thirty minutes of light activity is recommended each day during pregnancy. However do not exercise too strenuously.

Food to avoid during pregnancy

  • Raw or undercooked meat or poultry due to risk of toxoplasmosis or salmonella. This is especially important with poultry and products made from minced meat. Make sure there is no pink meat.
  • Raw or lightly cooked eggs due to risk of salmonella. Eggs should be cooked until both the white and yolk are solid. Also avoid raw eggs in foods like home made mayonnaise or chocolate mousse. Shop-bought mayonnaise should be fine.
  • Unpasteurised milk e.g: sheep or goat’s milk due to risk of listeria
  • Avoid all types of pâté including vegetable due to risk of listeria.
  • Avoid liver and liver products – high level of retinol (vitamin A) in liver can build up and may harm your unborn baby
  • Cheeses such as brie and camembert or other types that have a similar rind. Blue-veined cheeses e.g. stilton, Danish blue, Dolce Latte due to risk of listeria. You can however have lots of other cheeses such as mozzarella and parmesan.
  • The Government used to advise that pregnant mums may wish to avoid eating peanuts if there was a history of allergy in the immediate family such as asthma, hayfever, eczema, food allergy etc. However this advice was changed in August 2009 because it isn’t clear from the latest research if eating peanuts at these times affects the chances of a baby developing a peanut allergy.
  • Avoid raw fish when you are pregnant.
  • Eat no more than two portions a week of oily fish like mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna, trout, fresh sardines. This is because these types of fish contain low levels of pollutants that can build up in the body over time.
  • It is best to stop drinking alcohol altogether, but if you do drink then try and restrict it to 1 or 2 units of alcohol once or twice a week.
  • Sprouts or sprouted seeds are occasionally linked to food poisoning outbreaks, so pregnant woman should avoid eating them raw. Only eat ones that have been cooked through until piping hot.
  • Limit your intake of oil-rich fish to no more than two portions a week. This includes fresh salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines, and tuna, and the canned versions of all but tuna (avoid eating shark, swordfish or marlin altogether).
  • Although liver is an excellent source of vitamin A, if taken in excess it can build up in the liver and cause serious harm to a growing baby. However, the form of vitamin A derived from fruits and vegetables like red peppers, sweet potato, mango and tomatoes known, as beta-carotene is very good for you.
  • High levels of caffeine can lead to low birth weight or even miscarriage, so cut right down. Current guidelines recommend mums to be to have no more than 3 cups of coffee a day. Remember that caffeine is also found in tea, energy drinks and cola so cut down on these too.
  • It is important to stay hydrated during pregnancy. This does not mean you have to drink 8 glasses of water every day, it can include juices or a cup of tea. Try adding slices of lemon or cucumber to your water to make it that bit more interesting.

Ease your morning sickness – have you tried…

  • Eating small, meals every two hours or so based on starchy carbohydrates, which are slow-burning foods that prevent your blood sugar dipping and help ease nausea.
  • Don’t get up on an empty stomach. Having a plain biscuit and a warm drink before you get out of bed can help overcome morning sickness.
  • Lots of sleep – try resting whenever possible
  • Avoid fatty foods as these can be difficult to digest.
  • Ginger is thought to reduce the nerve stimulation to the brain that prompts nausea and vomiting – try ginger beer, ginger biscuits or ginger tea.
  • Dehydration is the biggest danger of morning sickness so make sure that you drink plenty of fluids like water, fruit juice, milk or herbal tea – peppermint, ginger or camomile herbal teas can be soothing.
  • Try to get some fresh air before eating. It’s a good idea to go for a walk as gentle exercise can help relieve nausea and also helps to build up an appetite.
  • Acupressure wrist bands stimulate an acupressure point on your wrists, which can help relieve nausea. These are available from local pharmacies.

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