It is a well-known fact that a woman’s nutritional status before and during pregnancy greatly influences the growth and development of her baby and forms the foundations for her child’s later health.

Eating a healthy diet and adopting an active lifestyle before and during pregnancy are the best gifts you can give to your unborn child. After all, your baby is completely dependent on YOU to supply all the nutrients needed for the best possible growth and development.

Now that I’m pregnant, should I go on any special diet?

Nope, there’s no need for any special diet. You just have to ensure that you eat a variety of different foods every day so that you get the right balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. In doing so, you’ll be replenishing your nutritional reserves on a daily basis, thus protecting your baby and yourself from any nutrient deficiencies.

Keep in mind that pregnancy is no free card for a calorie spending spree. Forget the old saying encouraging women to ‘eat for two’ when pregnant. Control your servings and simply colour your plate with various foods. Including red, yellow and green fruit and vegetables, brown bread/rice/pasta, white low-fat dairy product and brownish lean meat cuts will ensure an intake of a variety of nutrients (see the Eatwell Guide below).

How can I make eating healthier and easier?

Get organised. Schedule three main meals, with breakfast within 1 hour of waking up, and at least 1 or 2 snacks (not high fat/high sugar ones: go for a piece of fresh fruit, raw vegetable sticks and a hummus dip, some low fat yoghurt or a few whole grain crackers). Eating every 3-4 hours will help keep your blood sugar levels in check, preventing hunger pangs and you’ll feel more energetic.

Follow the Eatwell Guide for portion sizes

To keep it simple, just try to have, at each meal:

  • Some whole grain carbohydrates: 1/3 of your plate for energy, fibre and vitamins (whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice, a small baked potato with the skin on, oats, breakfast cereals with no added sugar, millet). Refined carbs like white bread or cornflakes are less nutritious and not as fulfilling as they are rapidly digested.
  • Fruits and vegetables: 1/3 of your plate for vitamins and antioxidants (aim for 1 fresh fruit and 2 vegetables of different colours e.g.: some carrot sticks and broccoli florets).
  • 60 to 100grams of lean protein: 1/9 of your plate for iron (lean cuts of meat and skinless chicken with all visible fats trimmed, small fish, eggs, legumes such as lentils and beans, tofu, nuts).
  • Some healthy fats: Choose extra virgin olive oil or any vegetable oils except palm oil and coconut oil. Margarines made from olive, sunflower and canola oils are healthier than butter.
  • A low-fat dairy product or substitute: Choose skimmed milk and low fat yoghurt, calcium fortified soya milk.
  • 250ml (1 glass) of water: Aim for at least 6 to 8 glasses per day.

How much weight should I gain over my whole pregnancy?

There are currently no guidelines in the UK for ideal weight gain during pregnancy. However, the British Dietetic Association recommends the ‘One, two, three’ rule:

  • Overweight pregnant women should gain about one stone (6kg),
  • Normal weight women should put on about two stones (12kg),
  • Underweight pregnant women should gain about three stones (19kg).

Can I drink coffee?

Yes, you can. But try to limit the caffeine to no more than 200mg a day (2 cups of instant coffee) since excess caffeine intake can result in low birth weight babies and may even cause miscarriages.

Other sources of caffeine: tea, chocolate, soft drinks, energy drinks.

Why not try decaffeinated tea and coffee, fruit juice or water and avoid energy and soft drinks which are devoid of any nutrient?

What about alcohol?

Alcohol and pregnancy don’t mix! There is NO safe amount or safe time to drink alcohol during pregnancy.

If you drink alcohol while you are pregnant, you are at risk of giving birth to a baby with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FASD describes a range of disabilities (physical, social, mental, emotional) that may affect people whose birth mothers drank alcohol while they were pregnant.

Drinking alcohol may deplete your nutrient stores and trigger consumption of foods high in fat and sugar.

If you have any questions or are worried about anything, don’t hesitate to contact your OBGYN, registered dietitian or any health care assistant.