A healthy diet is important particularly if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Eating healthy foods in pregnancy will help the baby to grow and will also keep you well.
Should you be eating for two when you're pregnant?
Eating for two: Myth or Fact
When you are pregnant, you will need to eat a little more. More does not mean eating double the quantity of food. All it means is that you will have to eat a little more during your meals or have a snack in between your meals to make up the extra calories. Most women need an extra 300 calories, but this could vary depending on their activity level. You may speak to a dietitian, who will be able to guide you on the amount to eat.
Taking care of what you eat, will help you maintain a healthy weight gain during your pregnancy and prevent complications during pregnancy. Most women gain between 10 and 12.5kg depending of their pre-pregnancy weight.
Quality vs Quantity
The source of the extra calories should come from nutritious food to help you meet the increased requirements for some vitamins and minerals. However, this does not mean that you need to change your diet. Continue with your usual meals but if your diet is poor, it is important to speak with a dietitian, who can help you determine the areas you can improve on. The extra calories should be from nutrient-rich food, to provide you with the vitamins and minerals needed for the growth and development of the baby. Make every bite count.
It is alright to enjoy the occasional snack, so long as it does not displace the other nutritious food in your diet. If possible, try to find alternatives to help you reduce your intake of high-calorie snacks.
|Number of Servings/Day
|Example of 1 Serving
|Brown Rice and Wholemeal Bread
Meat and Others
Of which diary foods and calcium-rich foods
Take antenatal supplements
Antenatal supplements usually contain more folic acid, iron and calcium compared to a general multivitamin. In addition, they do not contain vitamin A as large amounts of vitamin A can be harmful to the foetus.
Folic acid should be taken before and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This vitamin is especially important in reducing the risk of having a baby born with a spinal cord problem such as spina bifida.
During the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, the requirements for iron and calcium increases. As diet alone is not enough, an antenatal supplement can help. Speak to your doctor to determine the formulation that best suits your needs.
Avoid foods and drinks which can be harmful to the pregnancy
For a safe pregnancy, it would be advisable to steer clear of the following food and beverages which might harm your baby.
Avoid foods with large amounts of vitamin A such as:
- liver and liver products such as liver pâté and cod liver oil supplements
- vitamin tablets or supplements which contain vitamin A.
Avoid foods which may expose you to listeria infection
Listeria is a bacterium (germ) which in pregnant women can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or infections in the baby after birth.
Foods which are most at risk of carrying listeria are:
- Undercooked meats and eggs as in some pre-cooked meats and pre-prepared meals. Make sure all meat foods are cooked until piping hot. Eggs should be cooked until both the white and yolk are solid.
- Soft cheeses such as brie. (Hard cheeses and processed cottage cheese are safe.)
- Shellfish and raw fish.
- Unpasteurised milk especially goat's milk which is often unpasteurised, and goat's milk products such as cheeses are often made from unpasteurised milk.
Avoid too much caffeine
You should limit the amount of caffeine to no more than 300mg per day. Having a lot of caffeine increases the risk of having a baby with low birth weight, and increases the risk of miscarriage. The main sources of caffeine are coffee, tea, chocolate and cola. Each of these roughly has 300mg of caffeine:
- One cup of brewed coffee has about 100mg caffeine
- One cup of instant coffee has about 100mg caffeine
- One cup of tea has about 50mg caffeine
- One 50g chocolate bar has about 50mg caffeine
- One can of cola has up to 80mg caffeine
Check the label on medicines for quantities of caffeine.
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
Heavy or frequent drinking can seriously harm the baby's development.
If you have one or two drinks of alcohol (one or two units), once or twice a week, it is unlikely to harm your unborn baby. However, the amount of alcohol that is safe in pregnancy is not definitely known.
A unit of alcohol is 10ml (1cl) by volume (8g by weight) of pure alcohol. This is about equal to:
- a half-pint of normal strength beer, cider or lager
- a pub measure of spirits (25ml) or of fortified wine such as sherry (50ml)
- a small glass (125ml) of wine containing 8% alcohol by volume.
Note: Using the above rough guide, it is easy to underestimate how much alcohol that you drink. This is because many beers are now strong, and wines are often served in 175ml glasses. Many wines are also stronger than standard (some contain 12-14% alcohol by volume).
When pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, ideally you should:
- eat a healthy balanced diet
- include foods rich in calcium, folate and iron
- avoid certain foods and drinks which can be harmful to the pregnancy
- watch your weight gain and aim to lose weight before becoming pregnant if you are obese
- cut back on drinking if you drink alcohol
- take folic acid supplements.
* rice bowl ** 250ml mug *** 250ml cup +10 inch plate
++ While 3 eggs are equivalent in protein content to other items listed under the Meat and Others group, egg yolks are high in cholesterol. Thus, eat no more than 4 egg yolks per week.
- 4 ways to manage your weight gain during pregnancy
- 6 foods you must keep off the menu
- Do's and don'ts in pregnancy
- Here's what a healthy daily meal plan looks like
- Important nutrients: what should you eat more of?
Health Promotion Board