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Food choices for a healthy pregnancy

4 mins to read Oct 28, 2017

Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much food, but it should mean making your food work twice as hard. Make every calorie count by choosing nutrient-dense foods, in other words get more bang for your calorie buck. By choosing a variety of food from all food groups, you can be assured of a well-balanced diet. But what if you have no appetite some days or occasionally feel nauseous? Remember, a quality diet over several days is what counts, not meal by meal.

What’s the right plan for me?
These food group guidelines, are an easy way to get started on a healthy pregnancy diet. Of course, your beginning weight, height, age, stage of pregnancy and the number of children you are carrying will determine how many calories and how much food you will need. 
Typically a woman doesn't need extra calories during the first 3 months of pregnancy. But she will need about 300 extra calories during the second trimester and 450 extra calories during the third trimester.

Nutritional recommendations during pregnancy

Fruits and/or vegetables5/day minimum
  • At every meal
  • Raw, cooked, plain or processed
  • Fresh, frozen or canned.

During pregnancy, make sure that they are carefully washed to eliminate any soil traces, and avoid unpasteurised juices.

Breads, cereals, potatoes, rice and pastaAt each meal
  • Choose wholegrain foods
  • Choose a variety of carbohydrates: rice, pasta, semolina, wheat, corn, potatoes, dry beans, chick peas etc.
Milk and dairy products3/day
  • Go for variety
  • Choose unflavoured products & the best sources of calcium with the least fat and salt: milk, yoghurts etc.

During pregnancy, only eat pasteurised dairy products. Cheese: melted or with the rind removed.

Meat, fish and eggs1-2/day
  • Try to eat a smaller portion than that of the side dishes (vegetable, pasta, rice etc.)
  • Meat: try to eat a variety of different meats and choose the least fatty cuts. 
  • Fish: at least twice a week, either fresh, frozen or canned.
During pregnancy:
  • Fish: at least twice a week, including at least one fish rich in fat and try a variety of different fish.
  • Avoid cold cuts and liver.
  • Avoid fish that contain high levels of mercury (shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish), smoked fish and seafood, and fish from contaminated rivers. 360g/week of low- mercury, fish or seafood (salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, Pollack and catfish) are safe. 
  • Avoid raw meet, smoked meat or marinated and cold cuts (unless they are well cooked).
  • When cooking meat and fish, check the temperature to ensure the meat is well done.
Fats and oilsLimit consumption
  • Try to eat a variety of vegetable oils (olive oil, rapeseed oil etc.)
  • Limit animal fats (butter, cream, etc.)
SweetsLimit consumption
  • Try to limit sugary drinks (sodas, sugary fruit drinks & nectars)
  • Limit foods with a high fat & sugar content (pastries, pudding, ice cream, chocolate bars, etc.)
DrinksLimit consumption
  • During & in-between meals, tap water or bottled water. 
  • Try to limit sugary drinks (sodas, sugary fruit drinks & nectars)
  • Limit caffeine intake to 200 mg per day.

During pregnancy and breastfeeding: No alcoholic drinks & no caffeinated beverages.

SaltLimit consumption
  • Use iodised salt. 
  • Try to limit addition of salt while cooking, and do not add salt before tasting.
  • Limit salty foods: chips, salty appetisers.
Physical activitiesAt least 30 minutes’ walk everyday
  • During pregnancy, maintain your normal physical activity, except those which represent a risk of falling or injury. Avoid competitions. 

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, do not begin any new physical activity. 

Healthy fats, in moderation, are good for you. Choose unsaturated fats such as olive oil and nuts, seeds, avocado and salmon for their omega-3 fatty acids.

What is in your plate?

Here is a quick reference table which summarizes what these key nutrients do and in which foods to find them

ProteinImportant for growth and developmentMeat, fish, eggs, cheese, beans
CarbohydratesSupplies energyPasta, rice, bread, potatoes, vegetables, fruits
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)Important for brain and eye developmentFish, supplements
ProbioticsGut immuty, allergy preventionProbiotic product, such as probiotic yogurt, supplement
Folic acidPrevents from neural tube defectsDark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, nuts, wholemeal
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)Important for muscle function and growthMeat, potatoes, wholemeal products
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)Important for metabolismDairy products, meat, fish, eggs, wholemeal products
Vitamin B12Important for maturation of central nervous systemFish, meat, poultry, dairy
Vitamin CImportant for immune system, collagen synthesisCitrus fruit, peppers, tomatoes
Vitamin A Important for growth and visual functionCarrots, spinach (as beta-carotene)
Vitamin DBuilding bonesFish, eggs yolks
Vitamin EMuscles, antioxidantWheat germ oil, wholemeal products
Minerals & trace elements  
CalciumImportant for bone and teeth formationMilk, cheese, dairy products, broccoli
MagnesiumRegulates energy metabolism, nerve transmission, muscular contractionNuts, seed, wholemeal, vegetables
IronImportant for increase in blood volumeMeat, spinach, lentils
IodineGrowth metabolismFish, iodized salt
SeleniumAntioxidantMeat, fish, egg, lentils, aspargus
ZincGrowth, immune systemMeat, dairy products, fish