What are you looking for?

Pregnancy

Staying Healthy

What to eat when pregnant

What to eat when pregnant

Mention pregnancy and food in the same sentence, and the old 'eating for two' phrase will nearly spring to mind.

But it's actually a bit more complicated than that.

Those 40 (or so) weeks a mum-to-be carries her child for are split into three trimesters, each one requiring different dietary tweaks as your babies needs change.

Then there's the list of foods which are, sadly, off-limits for a number of reasons until the baby arrives.

Step forward Catherine Jeans , a nutritional therapist and mum based in Norwich.

Sharing her trimester-by-trimester advice, Catherine has shared her wisdom about how to get the most out of your diet when pregnant.

Catherine advises thinking about your diet before you try to conceive (Image: Catherine Jeans)

 

Foods mums-to-be should avoid

Your midwife should provide you with a comprehensive and up-to-date list and your dating appointment.

The NHS also offer helpful guidelines which include:

1. Soft cheeses with white rinds

These cheeses are only safe to eat in pregnancy if they've been cooked.

2. Soft blue cheeses

Cheese such as Danish blue, gorgonzola and roquefort are only safe to eat in pregnancy if they've been cooked because of the risk of listeria.

 

3. Unpasteurised soft cheeses

 

4. All pâté should be avoided

This is also includes vegetable pâté.

5. Raw eggs* or undercooked eggs

N.b. Lion Code eggs are considered very low risk for salmonella, and safe for pregnant women to eat raw or partially cooked.

So you can eat raw hen eggs or food containing lightly cooked hen eggs (such as soft boiled eggs, mousses, soufflés and fresh mayonnaise) provided that the eggs are produced under the Lion Code.

6. Shark, swordfish and marlin

 

7. Limit tuna to no more than two fresh steaks or four medium cans of tinned tuna a week because it also has high levels of mercury.

 

8. Raw or undercooked meat

And it's also best to be cautious with cold cured meats in pregnancy.

9. Liver and other foods containing vitamin A

 

...and what you SHOULD eat

1. What to eat in your first trimester

  • Oats: These are good for blood sugar balance and full of nutrients - just avoid sachets as these are fast releasing energy foods. If you tend to be in a rush in the mornings, soak them overnight.

  • Folic acid: Get your greens! A supplement should be taken 3 months prior to conception. Eat green, leafy veg like broccoli and kale to ensure you get enough.

  • Vitamin D: Again, take a supplement of this. The Department of Health recommends this to pregnant women as we can't absorb calcium (which the baby needs) without it.

Leafy greens are good in the first trimester (Image: PA)

 

2. What to eat in your second trimester

  • This is a time of skeletal development for your baby, so vitamin D. You can also get this through oily fish and some fortified nut milks - not just dairy.

  • Keep that bowel moving! Hormonal changes and your growing baby can cause constipation. Incorporate whole grains and plenty of veg into your diet.

  • Broccoli - a great source of calcium and magnesium for bone health.

  • In week 16 an expectant mum's iron levels are usually checked. Increase your iron intake with lean, read meat, greens, nuts and pulses.

  • Herbs - such as a big handful of fresh parsley are good too.

Keep up with the nuts and pulses in your second trimester (Image: Westend61)

 

3. What to eat in your third trimester

  • The biggest amount of brain development happens now, so focus on your omega-3 fatty acids. Otherwise, they take from ours - hence the term 'baby brain'!

  • Oily fish contains a lot of omega-3, but limit how much tuna you eat to once every fortnight or so.

  • Try mackerel and sardines twice a week.

  • Zinc deficiency is linked to an increased risk of post natal depression, so include a little red meat and plenty of whole grains. Pumpkin seeds and pecans are in particular a good source. Also ensure there's around 20mg of zinc in your pregnancy supplement.

Boost your baby's brain development with some of these (Image: Getty Images)

 

4. Eating with morning sickness

If morning sickness occurs, even if the last thing you feel like doing is eating, make sure you do so little and often.

Try 5 small plates of food a day with some whole grains and protein.

Do look at items with ginger in, but avoid those with too much sugar in. Nairn's do a good ginger biscuit and ginger tea can help relieve nausea.

It's important to keep a good blood sugar balance. But watch out for quick-fix, convenience foods like cakes or sweets which can cause an insulin spike which is followed by low blood sugar again which can lead to nausea.

A little bit of what you fancy does you good, but try to avoid empty calories and sugary snacks

 

5. But what if I'm not confident in the kitchen?

Look for an opportunity to add goodness to each meal.

If you love pasta and tomato sauce, use wholemeal pasta and throw in a handful of peas or some courgette.

You don't have to be a whizz. Just by adding one portion of veg to each meal or switching to wholegrain, you'll make a big difference.

You don't have to be a whizz in the kitchen to give your body what it needs when pregnant (Image: Digital Vision)

 

Note, the early stages is a time for carbs.

While your baby gains weight the most rapidly during the last trimester, it is during the initial stages when it experiences the most rapid development.

There's a lot of blood going to the uterus, and the body is increasing its blood supply. As it adapts, the mum-to-be may feel drained.

So slow-release carbohydrates, such as whole grains, are essential.

Also keep up the protein with dishes such as casseroles- or any slow-cooked food, eggs and hummus.

Carbohydrates of bread, pasta, rice and potatoes

Stock up on carbs in the early stages (Image: Getty)

 

And debunking the 'eating for two' myth.

The common misconception is you can 'eat for two' for nine months.

It's really only the last trimester when expectant mums should up their calorific intake, as this is when the baby really puts weight on.

Pregnant woman eating salad

Be careful of certain foods too (Image: Getty Images)

 

 

Super helpful! We found out about all of this here

 

You may also like: "Healthy Start to Life Starts in the Womb" Read more

Your Journey

Baby Name Finder

Baby Name Finder

Pregnancy week by week
Pregnancy Week 22
At 22 weeks, your baby is about the size of a papaya

week 22

Find Out More