Eating for two

There are certain nutrients to pay extra attention to when you’re expecting a baby, as well as some foods that you should avoid.

During pregnancy you don't need to eat twice as much, but you do need extra energy and nutrients and there are also some foods to avoid. The Irish Nutrition Dietetic Institute (INDI) advises that you need to eat regular meals with a variety of foods. What you eat is as important as how much you eat.

What’s best to eat

The following nutrients are particularly important when you're expecting: folic acid, iron and vitamin C, calcium and vitamin D, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega 3 is mainly found in oily fish, white fish and some vegetable oils. It is recommended that pregnant women should take folic acid up until the 2-week mark and also if they are planning a pregnancy.

Omega 3 is mainly found in oily fish, white fish and some vegetable oils.

You can also source folic acid in your diet through folates. Good sources are green vegetables, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, beans and peas.

Some fruits, such as oranges are very good. Yeast or malt extract are also great. lron is important to help make the extra blood needed by you and your baby.

Vitamin C is also important and it helps your body use the iron from food. Good sources of iron include red meat, pork, chicken and fish. Other non-meat sources of iron are eggs; breakfast cereals with added iron; beans, peas and lentils dried fruit, such as prunes and green vegetables.

Women should also avoid fish such as shark, marlin and swordfish during pregnancy. Because these are predatory fish, they can technically have large amounts of mercury or dioxins from the sea.

One good way to combine vitamin C and iron is to try drinking a glass of orange juice with cereal or a boiled egg.

This helps your body make the most of the iron in these foods. You can make sure you include calcium by having milk as a drink or on cereal milk based drinks, such as milk shakes soups made with milk sauces made with milk or with natural yogurt added cheese as a snack or in a sandwich or cheese added to savoury dishes, such as pizza.

There are some things to be aware of with fish, however (see below). Talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any medical conditions, such as diabetes, or if you follow a special diet or have had a baby recently. You may also need to talk to a dietitian.

Foods to watch out for

Salmonella can cause food poisoning so during pregnancy women need to be careful that they don't eat raw or partially cooked eggs. Foods to stay clear of would include:

  • Homemade mayonnaise
  • Homemade mousse
  • Tiramisu
  • Homemade ice creams
  • Raw shellfish such as oysters
  • Raw and undercooked meats and chicken
  • Cured meats
  • Smoked salmon
  • Sushi
  • Rare steak

Listeria is a bacteria that is found in some foods. Women who are pregnant  should avoid:

  • All types of paté
  • Soft—ripened cheeses such as Brie
  • Camembert, certain goat cheeses and blue cheeses
  • Unpasteurised dairy products

Women should also avoid fish such as shark, marlin and swordfish during pregnancy. Because these are predatory fish, they can technically have large amounts of mercury or dioxins from the sea.

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