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Healthy Pregnancy Eating

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Healthy Eating for Pregnancy

Fine tune your eating for the best for baby and you

As a pregnant woman, it's important to try and increase your intake of certain vitamins and minerals (such as folic acid and iron). You may also need to slightly increase your calorie intake as your pregnancy progresses.

If your diet isn't too healthy it's even more important to make the change to eating nutritious, well-balanced meals for your baby's sake. It is best to limit junk food, as it offers little more than empty calories,

Your body actually becomes more efficient when you're pregnant and makes even better use of the energy you obtain from the food you eat. The average woman does not need any extra calories for the first six months of pregnancy and only about 200 extra calories per day for the last three months.

However, your own appetite is the best indication of how much food you need to eat. You may find your appetite fluctuates during the course of your pregnancy.

The first few weeks of pregnancy may see your appetite falling away and you may not fancy eating proper meals especially if you feel nauseous.
Whereas during the middle part of your pregnancy your appetite may be the same as before you were pregnant or slightly increased.
It's only towards the end of your pregnancy that your appetite will probably increase, but if you suffer from heartburn or a full feeling after eating you may find it helpful to have small frequent meals.

The best rule to remember is to eat when you are hungry. Don't worry about your changing appetite as long as you are following the advice given about the type of food you need to eat and you are gaining weight at the appropriate rate, which your midwife or doctor will monitor.

Eat the right kinds of fish

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has recommended that pregnant women and children (under 16) don't eat shark, swordfish or marlin as these fishes may contain potentially unsafe levels of naturally occurring mercury.

They also advise that pregnant and breastfeeding women, and those who intend to become pregnant, should eat no more than four medium-size cans of tuna, or two fresh tuna steaks per week. This advice is based on two medium-size cans with a drained weight of 140g per can and fresh tuna steaks weighing about 140g when cooked or 170g raw.

However, fish contains proteins, minerals, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which your baby will miss out so don't give it up altogether.

The food you definately CAN'T eat and some others that aren't great for you

1. Raw seafood, such as oysters or sushi that has not been frozen before making (FSA n.d. b)
2. Soft cheeses with a white, "mouldy" rind, such as Brie and Camembert, and blue-veined cheeses like Stilton. These these cheeses could contain listeria, a bacteria that could harm your baby.
3. Pate, raw or undercooked meat, poultry, and eggs (cook all meat until there are no pink bits left and eggs until they are hard). All are possible sources of bacteria that can harm your unborn child.
4. Liver and liver products (pate, liver sausage) should be avoided, too, because they may contain large amounts of the retinol form of vitamin A, too much of which could be bad for your developing baby.
5. Many women choose to avoid or cut down on alcoholic drinks during pregnancy, too. Drinking too much alcohol can cause physical defects, learning disabilities, and emotional problems in children, so many experts recommend that you give up alcohol completely while you are pregnant. If you decide to drink during your pregnancy, it is recommended by the Food Standards Agency and other experts that you drink no more than one or two units of alcohol, no more than once or twice a week, and don't get drunk.
6. You might want to cut down on caffeine, too. This may be easy for women who are revolted by the stuff in their first trimester, but that doesn't happen for everyone. Drinking more than 200mg of caffeine a day might be linked to low birth weight. This could cause health problems for your baby after he is born and in later life. High levels of caffeine are also thought to increase your risk of miscarriage. In fact, one study has linked even low levels of caffeine to miscarriage. To be on the safe side stick to no more that two mugs of instant coffee, two cups of brewed coffee, four cups of tea or five cans of cola a day. Or, you may want to switch to decaffeinated hot drinks and colas, instead.

Make sure you take a suitable antenatal vitamin-mineral supplement

In an ideal world - free of morning sickness or food aversions - a well-balanced diet would be all an expectant mum ever needed. But in the real world, an antenatal vitamin-mineral supplement may be good insurance to help you meet your nutritional needs. Ask your doctor whether you should take a vitamin supplement.

Folic acid is one supplement that you really should take before you conceive and also for the first three months or so of pregnancy. A lack of this B vitamin has been linked with neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. The Department of Health recommends that women should take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid in a supplement from the time they start trying for a baby until the 12th week of pregnancy.

The Food Standards Agency recommends that you take a supplement containing 10mcg of vitamin D every day.

Later on in your pregnancy some women may need to take an iron supplement. Your iron levels will be checked during your pregnancy, and your doctor or midwife will advise you about your needs.

If you are a strict vegetarian, have a medical condition such as diabetes, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, or anaemia, or if you have a history of low-birthweight babies, talk to your doctor or midwife about special supplements you might need.

Remember, though, that more is not always better. Vitamin A supplements which contain retinol, the animal form of vitamin A, can be toxic to unborn babies in large quantities. The plant-based carotene type of vitamin A is safe in pregnancy. Megadoses of most vitamins and minerals could be harmful to your developing baby.

Gain weight gradually

Weight gain varies amongst individuals and depends on many factors. Women are no longer routinely weighed at antenatal clinics, as there is no evidence that a specific weight gain has any effect on your baby's health.

Average weight gain during pregnancy seems to be between 8kg (18lb)and 15kg (32lb). Concentrate on eating a healthy diet: plenty of carbohydrates, lots of fruits and vegetables, reasonable amounts of protein, and just a little in the way of fats and sugars.

When you put on weight may be as important as the amount you put on. Most women gain the least weight during the first trimester and steadily increase, with the greatest amount being put on over the third trimester, when the baby is growing the most.

Eat small meals every few hours

You may not be hungry but the chances are that your baby is so try to eat every four hours. And if morning (or all-day) sickness, food aversions, heartburn, or indigestion make eating a chore, you may find that eating five or six small meals, rather than the usual three larger ones, is easier on your body.

Remember, your developing baby needs regular sustenance, so try not to miss meals.

Occasional treats are OK

You don't have to give up all your favourite foods just because you're pregnant. But processed foods and snacks and sugar-packed desserts shouldn't be the mainstay of your diet, either. So as far as snacks are concerned, try a banana rather than luxury ice cream, or a frozen fruit sorbet instead of canned peaches in sugary syrup. But don't feel guilty if you fancy the occasional biscuit and make sure you enjoy every bite!

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