As pregnancy cravings set in during your first trimester, it can be easy to let your healthy meals slip. However, despite eating for two, many women suffer nutritional deficiencies throughout their pregnancy.

But does your diet affect your baby? Well, good nutrition during pregnancy is vital for healthy fetal development, but it’s not always as simple as eating salads and drinking green smoothies. 

If you want to support your body and your baby’s development, we’re here to run through the do’s and don’t of nutrition during pregnancy. 

Read on for a simple guide to staying healthy while you’re pregnant.  

How Does My Diet Affect My Baby?

A balanced and nutritious diet helps with a fetus’ brain development, birth weight and reduces the risk of congenital disabilities. Conversely, a nutritionally bankrupt diet contributes to a baby failing to grow adequately in the womb. 

Balanced diets include all the key macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and foods high in micronutrient content. 

However, there’s no need to do meticulous meal planning and tracking, simply making sure you’re getting a range of plant foods in every meal will do wonders for the nutritional status of both you and your baby. 

Remember, your baby is growing and developing at pace, and their only source of nutrition is from you. Pregnancy is a perfect time to embrace weight gain; you need to eat more than you did before, and your body will flood with ghrelin, a hormone that makes you more hungry. 

As long as you’re supporting yourself and your baby’s growth, there’s no shame in eating more than you usually would. If your body tells you that it’s a burger with fries that you need, go for it – just try and have it with some healthy greens. 

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy (and Some Great Alternatives)

There’s a vast amount of information available about what you should and shouldn’t eat during pregnancy, but it can feel overwhelming. Here we’ve summarised some of the main food groups you should be careful with. 

However, you should always refer to the NHS pregnancy diet guidance and talk to your healthcare provider about your dietary plans.

Dairy and Poultry 

Mould ripened, and soft blue cheeses are not advised during pregnancy (including brie, camembert, chevre, gorgonzola and Roquefort). These cheeses are made from raw, unpasteurised milk that often contains the Listeria bacteria.

Listeria is particularly harmful during pregnancy as it can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and preterm labour. Instead, stick to the cheddar, parmesan and pasteurised soft cheeses (mozzarella, feta, cream cheese etc.) If you have a burning craving for unpasteurised cheeses, make sure they’re cooked thoroughly until steaming hot. 

Eggs are a great source of nutrition, but make sure they’re cooked thoroughly and stick to British Lion eggs as they have less chance of containing the Salmonella bacteria. 

Meat and Fish

You should also avoid raw or undercooked meat, liver products, pate and game meat. The good news is that you can feast on cooked meats as long as you’re still keeping your diet balanced. Although slim, there’s a chance of getting toxoplasmosis from raw meats, which may cause miscarriage. Liver products contain high vitamin A levels, and game meats can contain lead shots; both can impact an unborn baby’s development.

If you’re eating fish, there are strict guidelines during pregnancy. Some fish can contain harmful bacteria, viruses, pollutants and mercury. A maximum of two tuna steaks and two portions of oily fish are recommended per week. However, you should check out the NHS website or ask your healthcare provider for more information about eating fish while you’re pregnant. 

Caffeine, Alcohol and Supplements 

You should limit your caffeine intake to 200mg per day (around two cups of instant coffee or tea) as it can slow the baby’s development. You can drink herbal tea instead, but limit yourself to four cups a day. 

Alcohol consumption is dangerous during pregnancy, and it’s best to take a T-total approach; however, if you are planning to drink small amounts of alcohol, you should first discuss this with your healthcare provider. 

When your planning to get pregnant or become pregnant, you should take 400 micrograms of folic acid and a vitamin D supplement each day until you reach 12 weeks. This significantly reduces the chances of complications in the first trimester. Your healthcare provider will give you responsible advice and which supplements to buy and when to take them. 

Supporting Your Baby After the Birth

Nutrition is likely to be the last thing on your mind following birth. However, if you can plan ahead, it’ll do wonders for you and your baby. 

Breastfeeding is the very best way you can help your baby grow and develop a functioning immune system. Your breast milk will be individually tailored to your baby’s needs. However, this also means you still need to eat a healthy, balanced (alcohol-free) diet as your nutritional status will impact your breast milk. Also, a varied, healthy diet will give you that boost of energy that every new parent will agree is needed. 

If breast milk is unavailable or in short supply, the World Health Organization recommends that donor breast milk products are the next best option. However, it can be challenging to get donor milk, and some parents resort to buying unregulated breast milk online. This is not recommended, and there is a risk of passing on bacteria, infections and diseases to your baby. 

If you’re buying breast milk, make sure it meets the Food Standards Agency guidelines, is processed and transported in sanitary conditions and is from a reputable company. 

Take-Home Message

That’s the basics of nutrition during pregnancy, it can feel overwhelming, but there’s a wealth of support, information and guidance available to help you. Just make sure you get your advice from a qualified professional.

It’s important that you try your best to stay healthy during pregnancy, but remember that being mindful of your diet consistently is more important than striving for perfection and then bingeing – sometimes everyone needs a treat, and that doesn’t change because you’re pregnant. 

If you found this article helpful, why not check out our other articles for more informative articles about looking after you and your little one?