Following a healthy lifestyle before, during and after pregnancy has lots of benefits for both you and your developing baby and is a wonderful investment in your baby’s future health.
A healthy diet ensures you have a good store of nutrients to meet the demands of your developing baby, and keeps you healthy and well. Healthy eating during pregnancy may also protect your baby against disease in later life.To make sure you get all the vitamins and minerals that you and your baby need, you should aim for a diet that includes a range of healthy foods.
Breastfeeding gives your baby the best possible start in life. There are many benefits for both mothers and babies beyond the tailor-made nutrition breastmilk provides. There is lots of support available for breastfeeding and it’s a good idea to check out what you can access in your local area before your baby is born. Further information can be found on www.breastfeeding.ie.
Important things to focus on
Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
These are rich in vitamins and minerals which help baby to grow in a healthy way; they also include fibre to help your gut work well and vitamin C to help in iron absorption.
Wholegrain starchy foods for energy - bread, crackers, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, potatoes, couscous, noodles
Dairy products for healthy bones, muscles and blood pressure- milk, cheese & yogurt
These foods are rich in calcium which is needed to help control your blood pressure and for your baby’s bone development and muscle function.
Oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines for essential fatty acids.
These fish contain the omega 3 ‘DHA’ and ‘EPA’ fish oils which aid your baby’s brain and eye development and are a good dietary source of vitamin D, protein and iron.
Protein foods for growth and development of cells -lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, peas, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Try to include red meat3 times a week- this is a rich source of iron which is needed for healthy blood development and will help prevent anaemia in pregnancy Chicken and fish also contain iron in smaller amounts. Eggs and beans contain a different type of iron which is not as easy for your body to absorb, but is still useful, especially if you are vegetarian.
Beans, peas and lentils are great vegetable protein sources and can be included in dishes as a healthy alternative to meat – you don’t need to be vegetarian to eat them.
Limit fatty or sugary foods and drinks
These foods are high in calories and low in nutrients, and can lead to excess weight gain which is unhealthy for both you and your baby.
To help prevent neural tube defects (NTD) like spina bifida you should take a 400µg folic acid supplement daily before stopping contraception and up to the 12th week of pregnancy to help the development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord.
The main sources of high quality iron are meat, poultry, and fish. Another type of iron is present in eggs, beans, chickpeas, lentils dark green leafy vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals. Eating fruit or vegetables rich in Vitamin C at the same time as these foods will boost iron absorption. For example, add berries to breakfast cereal or tomatoes to an egg sandwich.
For more information on foods to avoid or limit, food hygiene and food safety, please see the other INDI factsheets in the ‘Women’s Health’ section.
Further Information / Useful Links:
HSE publication: Healthy Eating in Pregnancy http://www.irishhealth.com/clin/documents/healthy_eating_for_pregnancy.pdf
HSE antenatal hub: www.whatsupmum.ie
HSE breastfeeding hub: www.breastfeeding.ie
INDI Food Safety and Hygiene in Pregnancy factsheet
INDI Planning a Pregnancyfactsheet
INDI Frequently Asked Questions about food in Pregnancyfactsheet
Updated by Fiona Dunlevy MINDI, Sinead Curran MINDI & Orna O Brien MINDI January 2016.
Review date: December 2018.
© 2016 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.
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