5 Tips for eating healthy while pregnant

Need a little help figuring out what exactly is safe to eat and what you should be steering clear from while you’re expecting? Check out these tips to get started eating healthy while pregnant.

Pregnant mum eating with her daughter at dinning table

Try our tips below to start your prenatal journey on the best (and healthiest) foot forward:

Tip #1: Eat the rainbow

Be sure to integrate as many fruits and vegetables as possible into your diet. This is one of the simplest ways to ensure you’re eating healthy while pregnant! Eating the rainbow – or a variety of colours from all sorts of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables – this means generous portions of green leafy veg, carrots, broccoli, oranges, apples, blueberries, bananas, strawberries, tomatoes, as well as red, green, yellow, and orange peppers/capsicum, to name (quite) a few! Try and include fruits and veggies in all meals and snacks. Try a side of fresh fruit with breakfast and be sure that your helping of vegetables is the largest one on your plate during lunch and dinner. Pregnant women need more protein, folic acid, and iron than those who are not expecting, and it’s also important to ensure you’re getting the daily recommended amount of great-for-you nutrients and minerals like calcium, Vitamin C, and Vitamin D. Many of these essential vitamins and minerals are found in fruit and vegetables. Eating the recommended portions of fruit and vegetables a day can give you all of those ultra-important things, so pack your plate with them and enjoy!

Tip #2: Foods and drinks to limit or avoid during pregnancy

Eating well in pregnancy is important, however certain foods and drinks may be harmful for your growing baby and should be avoided. Your midwife or doctor will discuss these with you in more detail.

There are many reasons why certain foods are unsafe for pregnant women, they may contain higher levels of minerals and vitamins, are eaten raw, uncooked, or unpasteurised. These foods may contain harmful bacteria and may result in ‘food poisoning’ and are best avoided.

Here are some of the foods that you need to avoid:

  • Raw or rare (uncooked or undercooked) seafood or shellfish, like oysters or sushi
  • Raw or rare (uncooked or undercooked) meats
  • Unpasteurised juices, milks and milk products
  • Soft cheeses, such as brie, goat cheese, feta and blue veined cheeses
  • Raw eggs and raw egg products such as soft boiled / poached eggs, and homemade dressings e.g. egg mayonnaise, mousse and some desserts
  • Patés – all types
  • Store bought deli / ready meal salads and stir fry e.g. egg noodles
  • Untreated water (non-drinkable water)
  • Caffeine is found in many drinks and some are particularly high in caffeine such as coffee, teas, cola and energy drinks. It is advisable to limit or avoid caffeine during pregnancy and to further discuss with your healthcare provider the recommended daily amount that you can take.
  • All alcohol: wine, spirits, hard cider, beers, and alcopops should be avoided during pregnancy.

Keeping safe: thoroughly wash your fruit and vegetables, cook foods thoroughly, e.g. they are piping hot all the way through. This is especially important for pre-packed and ready meals, meats and fish and any left-overs which you reheat. Read the labels and check for and avoid unpasteurised ingredients.

Tip #3: Don't go too long between meals and snacks

This doesn’t mean go crazy with unhealthy snacks, like bowls of ice cream, bags of chips, and other goodies, unfortunately which you might be craving! Rather, try and have healthy foods (think almonds, walnuts, full fat yogurt, cheese, or low-sugar granola or protein bars) nearby to stay satiated for those moments of need! It’s incredibly important to keep yourself and your growing baby fed and hydrated, because your body is working extra hard to provide all the nutrients your little one needs to develop. And, though it may seem counterintuitive, keeping your stomach from becoming too empty can also ward off nausea, fatigue, and other symptoms of morning sickness.

Tip #4: Be careful with fish

It can be difficult remembering what’s healthy while pregnant and what foods are generally advised against. Fish is one of those foods where certain types are excellent for you and your growing baby – and highly recommended – while other types can be harmful and should be strictly avoided.

In general, fish is a great source of protein and healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids. Certain fish may have higher levels of minerals and chemical elements such as mercury which can be harmful to your baby, fish such as shark, marlin, sword fish should be avoided.

Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna (fresh or canned), and trout are rich in omega fats, and are recommended as part of your balanced diet. Speak with your doctor or midwife about the recommended weekly amount of fish that you should try and keep to during your pregnancy.

Tip #5: Get the right amount of calories each day

Though mums-to-be need an increased average amount of calories each day, it doesn’t necessarily mean “eating for two” (unfortunately!). Be sure to eat smarter by selecting healthy, filling, nutrient-dense foods full of vitamins, fibre, minerals, and healthy fats. According to scientific guidance, pregnant women are encouraged to eat a well-balanced diet

If you have any questions about what you should or shouldn’t be eating while expecting, be sure to contact your healthcare provider. Having an open dialogue and staying in communication with them throughout your pregnancy can ensure peace of mind as questions arise.

References

1 Crawley, H. Eating well for a Healthy pregnancy 2017 First Steps Nutrition https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59f75004f09ca48694070f3b/t/5a55fdb253450a0fe1bc703b/1515584964573/Eating_Well_for_a_healthy_Pregnancy_2017.pdf

2 Moore K et al The developing human 2020 https://mymedicallibrary.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/the-developing-human-edition-8th.pdf https://www.epa.gov/fish-tech/epa-fda-advice-about-eating-fish-and-shellfish

3 James J. Maternal caffeine consumption and pregnancy outcomes: a narrative review with implications for advice to mothers and mothers-to- be BMJ EBM: first published as 10.1136/bmjebm-2020-111432 on 25 August 2020 https://ebm.bmj.com/content/26/3/114