We’re all pretty aware of the benefits of healthy eating in general, and we know that healthy eating becomes more important when you’re pregnant. But there are often so many different people telling you different versions of how to eat well during pregnancy, that you might become confused about what you should and shouldn’t be eating.
You do need to eat a balanced and varied diet during your pregnancy. Every nutrient in your food is important, but there are some that are more important for your developing baby.
- Folic Acid – You need 400 micrograms per day during the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy, and it can be found in foods such as leafy greens and breakfast cereals. You may need to take a Folic acid supplement in order to make sure you’re getting enough.
- Iron – If you do not get enough iron, you may feel tired or even suffer with anaemia. If your blood iron levels get low, your midwife might advise you to take a supplement, but in terms of what you can do to try and keep your levels high enough, iron rich foods like lean meat and leafy greens are great ways to add more iron into your diet.
- Calcium – Calcium helps your baby develop healthy bones, teeth, nerves, and muscles – so it’s incredibly important! You’ll find calcium in foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is one of the vitamins that helps keep you and your immune system strong and healthy. Our bodies make Vitamin D naturally when we get enough sun, but given the climate we live in, it’s not always possible for us to get enough. Everyone should take a Vitamin D supplement from October to March, but you may need to continue taking it during the summer months while you’re pregnant – talk to your midwife about whether this is necessary for you.
You can also find Vitamin D in foods like oily fish, red meat and eggs.
- DHA – DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid. It helps encourage healthy brain and eye development for your baby. DHA can be found in oily fish, vegetable oils and some seeds and nuts. If you don’t eat much fish, you may need to take a supplement.
- Iodine – Iodine helps brain and nervous system development. You need to get 200 micrograms per day during pregnancy, which you can find in foods such as fish.
The recommended calorie intake for a woman when she’s not pregnant is 2,000 calories. This doesn’t change until towards the end of your pregnancy, so there is no need to eat for two – this is a common myth! The NHS recommends that you increase your calorie intake by 200 calories in the final three months of your pregnancy.
During pregnancy, you might experience intense cravings for particular foods. Many women do, and they often wonder if it’s OK to indulge these cravings. For the most part, it is. As long as you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet then food cravings can be incorporated as part of a varied diet along with the other nutrients you need.
If you’re craving non-food items, speak to your doctor or midwife, as this can be a sign of not getting enough vitamins.