What are the pregnancy eating rules?
Figuring out what you can and can't eat while pregnant can feel like a minefield. We ask expert nutritionist Emma Wight-Boycott some questions to help sort the fact from the fiction.
What are the main food groups to eat to stay healthy when pregnant?
Eating real whole food that are rich in nutrients and low in preservatives is the best gift you can give your unborn baby during pregnancy. It's been proven that our mental state, stress and nutritional status can influence not only the birthweight of our babies but also their ongoing health. Try to incorporate home cooked fibrous green vegetables that will keep you regular and are high in nutrients such a Folic acid.
What are the absolute 'no nos' to eat while pregnant?
Cheese and dairy products are often a confusing topic in pregnancy, which are OK and which should be avoided. Here is a list of what's what:
Cheeses which are SAFE to eat in pregnancy
Austrian smoked, Babybel, Caerphilly, Cheddar, Cheshire, Derby, Double Gloucester, Edam, Emmental, English goat's cheddar, feta, Gouda, Gruyere, Halloumi, Havarti, Jarlsberg, Lancashire, Manchego, Orkney, paneer, Parmesan, Pecorino (hard), Provolone, Red Leicester.
Soft and processed cheeses:
Boursin, cottage cheese, cream cheese, feta, goat's cheese without a white rind, mascarpone, mozzarella, Philadelphia, processed cheese (such as cheese spread), Quark, ricotta.
Yoghurts (all varieties), probiotic drinks, fromage frais, soured cream and crème fraîche - any variety, including natural, flavoured and biologically active - are all safe to eat.
Cheeses to AVOID in pregnancy
Mould-ripened soft cheeses:
Brie, Blue Brie, Cambozola, Camembert, Chaumes, chèvre (goats cheese with a white rind), Pont L'Eveque, Taleggio, Vacherin-Fribourgeois
Bergader, Bleu d'Auvergne, Blue Wensleydale, Shropshire Blue, Danish Blue, Dolcelatte, Gorgonzola, Roncal, Roquefort, Stilton, tomme, Wensleydale (blue).
Soft, unpasteurised cheese, including goat and sheep's cheeses:
Chabichou, Pyramide, Torta del Cesar.
You should always avoid raw or semi cooked meat and anything that contains raw eggs during pregnancy.
What pregnancy food myths can you dispel?
Eating for 2! We need 200 extra calories per day of pregnancy which is only a handful of extra food per meal if its vegetables, or one treat per day. Mayonnaise is fine if shop bought as the egg whites have been treated and aren't raw. Most seafood is fine, just not bottom dwellers. Unpasteurised cheese would be very unlikely to harm your baby and in France they still eat it! Its not recommended here but if you accidentally eat something don't fret. If you do get food poisoning ride it out, take some probiotics and drink plenty of fluids. I spent a week in hospital with an unknown food poisoning at 28 weeks with my first son and all was fine.
Its important to have enough rest though if you do get sick. Many people seem to be afraid of nuts but they are actually a wonderful source of healthy fats and minerals for babies development. (Peanuts are not nuts though, they are mouldy legumes). Almonds, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts.
What foods can help improve your energy levels?
Reduce the foods that are devoid of nutrients and will rob you of energy such as pastries, doughnuts etc and replace these with dark chocolate or cocoa and coconut oil based chocolates for a treat. Nuts and seeds are great as snacks to keep you going throughout the day.
Would you advise eating 'little and often' or sticking to main meals?
As early pregnancy can cause nausea or sickness I recommend small meals or snacks regularly. Many women also find that later on when their bump gets bigger and presses on their internal organs they feel ill if they eat too much at once so are better off sticking to smaller meals.
What are the latest guidelines about drinking alcohol in pregnancy?
Fetal alcohol syndrome is a serious illness and many countries have set their guidelines at no alcohol. However this is generally due to people not being sensible and knowing the serving size of alcoholic beverages. If you'd rather not bother with learning what a serving size is or feel you cannot stop if you start then do not drink at all. If you enjoy having a small glass of red wine on occasion then I've not seen any evidence of this being harmful.
If you are craving something, does this mean you are deficient in something?
Cravings can be a sign of deficiency, or they can be a sign that we are eating too much of that food. As a general rule of thumb we crave healthy things if we need them and we crave unhealthy things when we are out of balance. Chocolate cravings can be a sign of magnesium deficiency so taking a Magnesium supplement can help with this. Likewise Sugar cravings can signify chromium deficiency. Magnesium is a good supplement to take in the last few weeks leading up to birth as it can reduce the intensity of labour pain.
What would you say to a newly pregnant woman about her diet over the coming nine months?
Be aware of what you are eating. When you eat Imagine that what you are eating is to feed your child out of the womb. This helps you to make healthier choices. Do allow yourself some treats too. Pregnancy is a wonderful yet highly emotionally charged time of our lives so enjoy it, enjoy eating and stay healthy with lots of rest.
If you decide to breastfeed try lactation cookies. Not only are they tasty but will increase your milk supply.