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Healthy pregnancy diet do’s and don’ts

What a mother eats during pregnancy is the main source of nutrients for the baby in her womb. Dieticians and experts suggest that diet during pregnancy should be rich in nutrients to support the baby’s growth and development. A healthy pregnancy diet must be balanced for the special needs of expectant mothers, and while some foods are recommended, others should be limited. 

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Vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy pregnancy 

A pregnant woman needs more calcium, folic acid, iron and protein than a woman who is not expecting. Therefore, a healthy pregnancy diet should be rich in these vitamins and minerals, and come from organic sources, if possible. 

Calcium 

This mineral is used to build a baby’s bones and teeth, and its deficiency in a pregnant woman’s diet might cause the child to draw it from the mother’s body, which weakens her teeth and bones.   

Food sources: An excellent source of calcium is milk, yoghurt and cheese. If you are allergic to dairy, eat green vegetables, beans and almonds. You can also take calcium in the form of tablets, which are often also fortified with vitamin D, another nutrient that works with calcium to develop a baby’s bones and teeth.

Folic acid

Also known as folate, folic acid is a B vitamin that is crucial in helping to prevent birth defects in the baby’s brain and spinal cord. During pregnancy, a woman’s need for folic acid increases 2- or even 4-fold, which makes it the most important vitamin in the pregnancy menu. Women should supplement folic acid even before getting pregnant.

Food sources: Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, lettuce, asparagus, fortified cereals, bread, pasta, beans and citrus fruits. 

Iron

Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron a day, which is double the amount needed by women who are not expecting. Iron helps make more blood to supply the baby with oxygen. Getting too little iron during pregnancy can lead to anaemia, a condition that results in fatigue and an increased risk of infections to mothers.

Food sources: The best source of iron is lean red meat, but it can be replaced with other products such as eggs, beans and green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and sorrel.

Protein

More protein is needed during pregnancy, but most women don’t have problems getting enough protein-rich foods in their diets. Protein helps build the fetus’s body, including the brain and heart, which is why a good, balanced diet rich in protein is recommended. 

Food sources: Lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, peas, eggs, nuts and tofu are the best food sources to get protein from during pregnancy. The wise choice is to choose the best quality of protein sources, such as organic products. 

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Foods to eat during pregnancy

A balanced diet during pregnancy should, first and foremost, contain good quality protein products, complex carbohydrates and unsaturated fats. However, your nutrition needs will differ depending on the trimester you’re in now. 

Foods to eat during the first trimester

At the beginning of pregnancy, you should choose healthy, fresh and natural food and avoid things that could harm you both, such as food heavy in preservatives. Taking additional vitamins and minerals in the form of tablets (except folic acid) is inadvisable during the first three months of pregnancy. Excess of some vitamins (e.g. vitamin A) can even be harmful to the developing fetus. Of course, you should give up alcohol completely.

Pregnancy foods to eat after the first trimester

A growing fetus needs nutrients and this applies primarily to protein, which is the basic building block of tissues. A pregnant woman’s overall caloric demand also increases after the first trimester, and usually, a woman in this stage of pregnancy needs about 3000 kcal, only 700 kcal more than before pregnancy. This is because the body can now make better use of food, so eat for two, not for one, and be careful of overeating during your pregnancy. 

Best pregnancy food choices

Diet during pregnancy is focused on keeping the mother healthy and maximizing the healthy development of the baby. Pregnant women are encouraged to eat a balanced diet that consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy products – all of which are rich in the nutrients most needed at this time. 

Foods to avoid during pregnancy

In addition to the foods that are particularly recommended, there are many foods that a pregnant woman should avoid because they could harm her or her child. Don’t eat the following during pregnancy:

  • Raw or undercooked meat (tartare, rare beef steak) can be a source of Toxoplasma infection.
  • Feta cheese, camembert blue and soft cheeses can contain bacteria of the genus Listeria, which can cause serious illness in pregnant women.
  • Raw seafood and fish (sushi, oysters) since they can be infected with dangerous bacteria or parasites.
  • Coffee, strong tea and cola contain caffeine, which overstimulates the mother and child and can lead to arrhythmias.
  • Raw eggs and unpasteurized milk are products that can sometimes be infected with salmonella.
  • Alcohol disturbs the healthy development of the baby and may lead to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

For any other specific pregnancy diet do’s and don’t, we recommend that you talk to your lead doctor or a dietician. Diet and diet advice might be slightly different for expectant mothers who are vegetarian, overweight, obese or have diabetes.

Prioritizing the mother and baby’s health 

Pacific Prime UK, a division of Pacific Prime, has over 20 years of experience in providing international private health insurance for expatriates around the world. We also advise our clients in choosing family health insurance and, of course, maternity health insurance in the UK.  We have also recently released a Maternity Insurance Guide, available for a free download. 

All of the plans we offer can be international in nature and allow access to the best private clinics and hospitals in the UK and worldwide. For more information on plans and pricing, please contact our advisors directly for a free consultation and plan comparison.

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elwira

Content Creator at Pacific Prime UK
Elwira Skrybus is a content writer at Pacific Prime. In her everyday work, she utilises her previous social media and branding experience to create informative articles, guides, and reports to help our readers simplify the sometimes-puzzling world of international health insurance.

When she isn’t writing, you are most likely to find Elwira in search of the perfect plant-based burger or enjoying Hong Kong’s great outdoors either at the beach or on a boat - the closer to the sea, the better!