Making good food choices during pregnancy is essential but often very challenging. Research by the British Nutrition Foundation (2013) has shown nutritional status before and during pregnancy can impact a child’s health later in life.
The recommended diet for pregnant women is similar to that of other adults. The focus should be on quality, not necessarily quantity. Choose wholegrain over refined carbohydrates, select lean sources of protein, eat vegetables and fruit with every meal and limit your intake of saturated and trans fats.
There are however, some key nutrients that have a significant effect on long-term and short-term health.
Government guidelines state women who may become pregnant up until the 12th week of pregnancy take a daily supplement of 400μg of folic acid. Folic acid cannot be stored in the body so it is important to include food sources on a daily basis.
Good food sources of folic acid include:
The vitamin D status of an infant is dependent on the maternal vitamin D status. Therefore a daily supplement of 10μg is recommended throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight on our skin. Just 10-15 minutes of daily sun exposure during the months from April – October is sufficient to maintain stores. Vitamin D is also found in some foods:
Iodine plays a key role in a baby’s brain development. The World Health Organisation recommends a daily intake of 250 μg for pregnant women.
Good food sources include:
Iron is an essential nutrient for pregnant women and plays multiple roles. Poor iron status is common and should be addressed before pregnancy as supplements can cause side effects such as constipation and abdominal discomfort. Good food sources include:
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for healthy development and functioning of the brain and nervous system. The average diet in the UK lacks sufficient intake of foods containing omega 3. Supplements are not recommend therefore include the following foods into you diet:
*Eat two portions of fish a week