eating for two
Nutrition

Eating for two

Pregnant and confused about what to eat? Consultant dietitian Sarah Keogh gives us the lowdown on your prenatal diet necessities.

One of the most confusing topics for pregnant women is the question of what to eat. There are more old wives’ tales, myths, dos, don’ts and conflicting advice here than in almost any other area of diet.

We take a look at what you need to eat, what you need to avoid and some of the supplements that are worth taking while you are pregnant.

To start with, you don’t really need to start eating for two, although you do need to make sure you eat enough to gain the right amount of weight. Most women need to gain between one and a half and two stones (9-12kg) over the nine months. But, don’t worry, your body can usually manage this without you having to do anything special!

What to include?

  •  Carbs are foods like bread, pasta, potatoes, rice and breakfast cereals. These are foods that your body likes to use for fuel and if you choose the wholegrain or high fibre varieties, they are a great source of fibre as well. Try to have some carbs at every meal although they should not be more than about one third of your plate – even foods like pasta and rice.
  •  Protein foods help your baby to grow strong healthy muscles and we need a little more of these foods especially in the last few months of pregnancy. Protein is found in all types of meat, chicken and turkey, fish, beans , eggs and nuts. You need protein foods twice a day.
  •  Fruit and vegetables. These are rich in vitamin C as well as fibre and antioxidants. You and your baby need five servings of fruit and vegetables every day or more (that’s five altogether not five of each!). One serving of fruit is one apple or orange, two plums or kiwis, one cup of berries. One serving of vegetables is three dessertspoons of cooked vegetables or salad.
  •  Milk, cheese and yoghurt are all good places to get calcium. Your growing baby needs lots of calcium to help their bones to be strong and healthy. You need to have three servings of milk cheese or yoghurt every day. One serving is 200ml of milk, one pot of yoghurt or about 30g of hard (not soft) cheese. Try milk over your breakfast cereal, a yoghurt at lunchtime and a glass of milk with dinner.
  •  Fats. Our bodies do need some fat but we need to choose healthy types and too many fatty foods can lead to a lot of extra weight by the end of your pregnancy. Try olive oil or rapeseed oil for cooking or if you like salads. Nuts, seeds and oil-rich fish like salmon are other places to get healthy fats. Try to use less butter and cream and be careful of foods that are high in fat like biscuits, cakes and fried foods. Try to grill, bake or boil foods instead of using the frying pan.

Foods and supplements to include

  •  Folic acid: You need to continue to take 400mcg of folic acid every day until you are three months pregnant. This helps to prevent problems like spina bifida.
  •  Fish: Oil-rich fish is very good for your baby. It is a source of DHA, an important omega-3 fat that your baby’s brain needs. Try to have oil-rich fish at least once a week. Go for salmon, trout, mackerel, herring or sardines.
  •  Iron-rich foods: You need lots of iron during pregnancy and it is best to get this from food if you can. Red meat is a great source of iron and you will also find iron in chickpeas, lentils, chicken and turkey legs, and eggs. Lots of breakfast cereals are fortified with iron and green vegetables like spinach are also a good place to pick up iron. Think about having foods that are high in iron at least twice a day.

Foods to avoid

  • Vitamin A: Too much vitamin A can be harmful to your baby, especially in the first few months. This is why you need to avoid foods like liver and paté as well as supplements that contain vitamin A.
  • Undercooked foods: Food poisoning during pregnancy can harm your baby so you need to be very careful about the foods you eat. Avoid foods that are undercooked like raw fish (sushi), rare steaks, eggs with a runny yolk and chicken that is even a little pink in the middle. If you eat shellfish, make sure it is very well cooked and from a reputable supplier. Homemade mayonnaise has raw egg so it is best to choose a bought mayonnaise instead.
  • Swordfish, shark and marlin: These are three fish that have large amounts of mercury. Too much mercury can harm your baby’s nervous system so you need to avoid these fish during pregnancy. You also need to limit tuna to one fresh tuna steak or two tins of tuna per week. All other fish are safe to eat and enjoy!
  • Alcohol: It is best to stop drinking alcohol altogether as soon as you know or suspect you might be pregnant.
  • Caffeine: Too much caffeine can affect how your baby grows so you need to limit coffee and tea. Try to stay under 200mg of caffeine per day. One cup (½ a mug) of tea has between 40mg and 110mg of caffeine depending on how strong you like your tea. Instant coffee can have up to 120mg of caffeine in one small cup. Remember there is also caffeine in cola drinks, chocolate and energy drinks. Try using decaffeinated tea and coffee instead.

Don’t worry about trying to get everything right straight away, but if you do need to make some changes, start to work on one thing and go from there. You will often find that you appetite increases by the end of your pregnancy so it will be easier to fit in all the food you need! For more information check out the Best Practice for Infant Feeding Guidelines from the FSAI.

More like this:

Pregnancy weight gain
Maximum nutrition, minimum fuss
Super supplements 

ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
MUST READ

ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….