All around the world, pregnant women are bombarded with advice about what they should and should not eat during pregnancy. The latest scientific reports contradict the previous ones with old wives’ tales adding some interesting ideas into the mix.  

 

Did you know that in rural Nigeria, it is thought that eating snails can make your baby sluggish, and in Japan, that eating spicy food is thought to give your baby a short temper?     

 

We all know what we should not eat and drink during pregnancy (unpasteurised dairy products, sushi, alcohol), but how many of us know what we should be eating?  The following list contains food that everybody (not only expectant mum’s) should include in their daily diet:

 

  • Dairy

 

During pregnancy extra protein and calcium is needed to meet the needs of the growing foetus.  Dairy products contain two types of high quality protein, namely casein and whey and also calcium, high amounts of phosphorus, magnesium and zinc.  Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, contains more calcium than any other dairy product and some varieties contain probiotic bacteria, which supports digestive health.  Vegans or those avoiding dairy can get all their calcium needs from plant based milks and/or dark green, leafy vegetables.  

 

  • Eggs

           

Eggs contain high quality protein and fat and also choline which is essential for many processes in the body, including brain development and health.  A dietary survey showed that over 90% of people consumed less than the recommended amount of choline.  A boiled egg for breakfast would be a perfect choice with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.  

 

  • Dark green leafy vegetables

 

Vegetables such as spinach and broccoli contain many of the nutrients that pregnant women need.  These include fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron and potassium.  They are also rich in antioxidants which benefit the immune system and digestion and alleviate constipation due to their high fibre content.   

 

  • Oats

 

Oats are healthy, whole grain carbohydrates that contain fibre, B vitamins and iron.  Porridge for breakfast (perhaps with berries and pumpkin seeds), healthy flapjacks for a snack (with chopped up apricots and lemon rind) or a handful of oats to thicken up a soup or in a spaghetti bolognaise sauce are good ideas for eating more oats.  There is anecdotal claims that eating oatmeal or other foods made with oats can give your milk supply a boost once the baby is born.  People avoiding gluten can choose the gluten/wheat free varieties.       

 

  • Salmon

 

Salmon contains a powerful dose of omega 3 fatty acid.  A developing baby’s brain requires 50 to 70mg of omega 3 fatty acid each day between weeks 20 and 39 for optimal growth and development.  Salmon also contains vitamin D with low levels being linked with an increased risk of preeclampsia.  However, the recommendation is to only consume fish twice a week maximum, as  fish may contain mercury which in high levels may be damaging to the foetus.      

 

  • Avocados

 

Avocados are the wonder fruit of the moment.  But there is no getting away from the fact that they are a powerhouse of nutrients and healthy fats.  The healthy fats build the skin, brain and tissues of the foetus and the folate that it contains help prevent neural tube defects.  Potassium may help relieve leg cramps that so many pregnant women suffer from.  Did you know that avocados contain more potassium than bananas?  Try replacing butter with mashed avocados in sandwiches (the children will never know!) or eating avocado with lemon juice and black pepper.  

 

One thing we do know is how you nourish yourself prior to conception is just as important as your diet during pregnancy.  So start early by eating a well balanced diet to enjoy a healthy and happy pregnancy!

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