Confused? What you should (and shouldn't) eat when you're pregnant
In a week when we found out that almost 70 percent of expectant mums are unsure of how many extra calories they should be consuming, HerFamily spoke to a dietician to get the low down.
Last year, a survey in conjunction with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists revealed that 63 percent of mums-to-be feel 'under pressure' from others to eat more than usual, with 14 percent of mums-to-be saying this pressure is constant.
HerFamily spoke to dietitian Orla Walsh, of the Dublin Nutrition Centre, to find out exactly what you should (and shouldn't) eat when you're expecting.
The wide variety of (often contradictory) rules, can make it really hard to know what to make you and bump for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but some of these tips may help to clear up the confusion...
Exactly how much should you eat every day when you're expecting?
You don’t need to go on a special diet just because you are pregnant. It's important to eat a variety of different foods so that the baby is getting a variety of different tastes and nutrients. Each food has only so much nutrition to offer you, so if you eat a variety of foods you'll take in a variety of nutrients.
For many, a multivitamin and multimineral is good to take during pregnancy, particularly for vitamin D, calcium, folic acid and iron. Make sure to purchase this from a pharmacy as you don't want the levels of nutrients to be too high and you want to take one specifically for pregnancy.
You will probably find that you are hungrier than usual but you don't need to "eat for two" – even if you are expecting twins or triplets.
What are the foods you should REALLY stay away from and why?
The main thing is food safety. Here are a few points to note:
- Wash fruit, vegetables and salads to remove all traces of soil (which may contain toxoplasma).
- Wash all surfaces and utensils, and your hands, after preparing raw meat.
- Make sure that raw foods are stored separately. This is to avoid other types of food poisoning from meat (such as salmonella, campylobacter and E.coli).
- Use a separate chopping board for raw meats.
- Heat ready meals until they're piping hot.
Foods you should avoid (unfortunately) include:
- Soft cheeses with white rinds, unless cooked, and soft blue cheeses, unless cooked. All hard cheeses are safe in pregnancy but watch portions to prevent excess weight gain. Aim for a matchbox-sized portion. Soft cheeses that are safe to eat in pregnancy, providing they're made from pasteurised milk, include cottage cheese, mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, paneer, ricotta, halloumi and goats' cheese.
- Pâté - all types.
- Avoid raw or partially cooked eggs to prevent the risk of salmonella. This includes homemade mayonnaise.
- Raw or undercooked meat. Be extra careful with cold cured meats and ready-to-eat meats from a deli.
- Liver can harm your unborn baby as it contains a lot of vitamin A.
- Vitamin and fish oil supplements, and you should avoid raw fish. You can eat most types of fish when you're pregnant. Do avoid shark, swordfish or marlin. Aim for oily fish once a week and feel free to enjoy white fish and shellfish. Smoked fish, which includes smoked salmon, is considered safe to eat in pregnancy.
- High levels of caffeine can result in babies having a low birth weight and can also cause miscarriage. Caffeine is naturally found in lots of foods such as coffee, tea (including green tea) and chocolate. It is also added to some soft drinks and energy drinks. Some cold and flu remedies also contain caffeine. You don't need to cut out caffeine completely, but try not to have more than 200mg a day. The approximate amount of caffeine found in food and drinks is:
- one mug of instant coffee: 100mg
- one mug of filter coffee: 140mg
- one mug of tea: 75mg
- one can of cola: 40mg
- one can of energy drink: 80mg
- one 50g bar of plain (dark) chocolate
- one 50g bar of milk chocolate
What is a safe amount of weight to gain when pregnant and any tips on staying at your ideal weight?
Generally one stone if overweight at conception (just the baby); 2 stone if normal weight at conception (BMI 20-25); and three stone if underweight or lower weight at conception.
Is there an ideal daily diet when you're pregnant?
- You should try to have lots of vegetables at lunch and dinner.
- Aim for a balanced snack (protein/dairy with a fruit/veg) if there is greater than a four-hour gap per meal.
- Make sure to have at least three portions of dairy or dairy alternatives each day but focus on including a variety of nutrient-rich wholefoods in your diet.
- And drink lots of water. Aim for a glass before each meal and snack.