As a young person you may still be growing yourself. Being pregnant puts even more demands on your body. It is therefore really important to eat regularly, and choose from a range of foods to ensure you get all the necessary nutrients. Your daily diet should include:
1. Fresh fruit and vegetables, especially citrus fruits and dark green vegetables, which contain folic acid which reduces the incidence of spinal cord defects in babies e.g. Spina Bifida. Folic acid is especially important in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. It is advisable to take a tablet that contains 400 micrograms of folic acid every day.
Fruit and vegetables in the diet also help to reduce the incidence of constipation which can be a problem especially as pregnancy progresses.
2. Your doctor will be checking the iron levels in your blood during the pregnancy. Red meat, chicken and fish, eggs, green vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage are all good sources of iron. It is also present in dried fruits such as prunes and apricots, breakfast cereals with added iron or pulses such as peas, beans and lentils. If your iron levels are low, you may need to take some iron tablets to make up the difference
Some foods, such as high fibre cereal, milk, tea, and coffee reduce your body’s ability to use iron. Try not to have these at the same time as you take iron tablets.
Vitamin C helps the absorption of iron in the body so it is important to include oranges, kiwis and green vegetables in you everyday diet. Using a juicer is an easy and healthy way to pack in your daily requirements of fruit and vegetables.
3. Milk and other dairy products such as yoghurt, fromage frais and cheese are foods that contain calcium. Calcium is important for healthy teeth and bone development. Choose lower fat options where possible, as they contain the same amount of calcium but prevent excess weight gain. Teenagers, pregnant & breastfeeding women need more calcium (5 servings daily) than other people.
Vitamin D helps your body use the calcium from food. Vitamin D is made in the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. Oily fish and egg yolks are also good sources of vitamin D.
4. Carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, grains, potatoes and cereals – each main meal should be based on one of these foods to give you the energy you need through the day.
5. Keep up fluid levels, with regular glasses of water or diluted fruit or vegetable juices through the day (at least 8-10 glasses a day). This will help keep you well-hydrated, which can prevent tiredness and headaches, and helps bladder and kidney health by ensuring regular visits to the loo.
6. Fish, especially oily fish which has high levels of essential fatty acids which are essential for the baby’s brain and eyes - e.g. mackerel, sardines, salmon (fresh or tinned).
7. Keep a supply of nutritious snacks such as brown breads, fresh and dried fruits, yogurts etc... It makes it easier to make healthy choices when you are prepared. This reduces the risk of snacking on high calorie low nutrition foods
8. As the pregnancy progresses small frequent meals are more easily digested than large portions.
- Cook meat thoroughly and wash all fruit and vegetables before eating to prevent an infection called toxoplasmosis, an organism that can affect your baby.
- Avoid soft unpastuerised cheeses such as brie or camembert, blue-veined cheeses such as stilton. All are associated with listeria (a very serious bacterial infection bacteria which can lead to premature birth and miscarriage).
- Avoid pâté, and whipped ice-cream for the same reason.
- Make sure all ready-made foods are piping hot throughout before eating, as they are also a listeria risk.
- Drink only pasteurised or UHT milk, which has had harmful germs destroyed.
- Only eat eggs if they're well cooked e.g. hard-boiled or scrambled, to avoid salmonella infection.
- Don't eat liver and liver products while pregnant, as they contain high levels of vitamin A, which can be harmful to your baby.
- Avoid peanuts and peanut products when pregnant or breastfeeding if you, the baby’s father, or the baby’s brother or sister, have a history of allergic diseases or conditions such as eczema, asthma and hay-fever.
- Limit your intake of coffee to no more than four cups a day. Remember cola drinks also contain caffeine. Switch to non-caffeine alternatives where possible.
- It is better to avoid alcohol as much as possible during your pregnancy, as it may be a risk to your baby
Weight in Pregnancy
The average weight gain during pregnancy is between 25-28lbs (11.5-12.5kgs) most of which takes place in the second half of the pregnancy. If you are overweight to begin with this should be less. If you are underweight it should be more. Your doctor midwife or dietitian will advise you on what is best if you are concerned.