Eating for two?

In the last few years there is much more awareness about the need for pregnant women to be careful about what they eat and drink while carrying a baby. Organic food for babies is virtually the norm in the UK now, even in ready-made foods. Scientists believe that a baby is programmed for a lifetime of good or poor health in the first few months of its life according to the type and amount of nutrition they receive.

If babies are better off eating organic food, it makes sense to avoid pesticides during pregnancy as well to avoid chemicals passing through the placenta to the foetus.  Also see Natural Baby.

What to eat:

When you’re pregnant you need plenty of:

Fruit and vegetables – broccoli is high in calcium, green leafy vegetables contain folic acid and all fruit and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Wholegrains – such as brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholewheat pasta.

Protein – fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, pulses (beans or lentils), or soya products such as tofu.

What not to eat or drink

Research has shown that just 200mg (two cups) of caffeinated drinks – coffee, tea, hot chocolate – can cause miscarriage in the early part of pregnancy.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is planning on advising women to avoid caffeine altogether in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and some may suggest cutting it out for the whole of the nine months. Herbal teas make a good alternative.

The new study carried out by Dr De-Kun Li and colleagues looked at 1,063 women who were in the first couple of months of pregnancy. They asked them to keep diaries about their caffeine intake until the 20th week. Out of the group 172 women miscarried before 20 weeks and there was an obvious link with caffeine. There was an increased risk of miscarriage of 15 per cent in those women who drank 200mg (four cups) of caffeinated drinks (hot chocolate, coffee and tea) a day, and a 25 per cent greater risk if they drank more than that.

Other foods to avoid:

Raw or partially cooked eggs to avoid salmonella and this includes mayonnaise, salad dressings, mousses and ice cream made with raw eggs. It’s healthier to eat organic/free range eggs and much healthier for the chicken too

Soft cheeses like Brie, Camembert and chevre (type of goat’s cheese) as they are unpasteurised

Pate of any kind because it can cause listeria

Liver products – and supplements that contain too much Vitamin A, such as cod liver oil

Some types of fish – only shark, swordfish and marlin and no more than two tuna steaks a week or four medium sized cans due to mercury content

Raw or undercooked meat

Undercooked ready meals

Raw shellfish because it can contain harmful bacteria and viruses

Peanuts if you think your baby is at risk – for instance if someone else in the family has a peanut allergy

Sugar and fat – it’s easy to put on additional weight when you’re pregnant because you are eating for two but it’s harder to take off afterwards, so try to avoid too much saturated fat and sugar in cakes, biscuits, sweets

What not to drink:

Caffeine – due to research above it is important to either cut out or drastically reduce intake of coffee, cola, tea or coffee. Try herbal teas instead or coffee substitutes like Bambu.

Alcohol – many women get caught out with alcohol before they realise that they are pregnant. Current advice is to avoid alcohol entirely or just drink one or two units (small glass of wine) a week.

To find out about latest findings on food in pregnancy go to

Vitamins and Minerals:

Folic Acid: 400 mcg (microgram) supplement daily from the time you start trying for a baby until the 12th week of pregnancy, and eat plenty of dark green vegetables (cabbage, spinach, greens, chard). The reason for taking folic acid is that it is believed to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the baby, such as spina bifida.

Iron: You may need to ask your GP about iron supplements if you are deficient. Floradix is a good all round tonic, high in iron, which is derived from vegetables.

Vitamin D: It is advisable to take Vitamin D supplements because few people in Britain get enough sun for the body to make the amount we need for pregnancy.

You should not take Vitamin A in pregnancy

There are a number of good supplements that can be taken in pregnancy – see below:

Featured Products
Pregnancy Complex Viridian Nutrition 60 vege caps £13.50
Pregnancy Omega Oil Viridian Nutrition 200ml £12.25
Vital Essence (for each trimester) Zita West 4 weeks of tablets £24.50
Ante-Natal Forte (Pregnancy Formulation) Biocare 60 veg caps £12.30
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