Finding out you are pregnant is such an exciting, amazing, nerve-raking, scary, and emotional time, in addition to a whole range of other emotions. It comes with a huge sense of responsibility that what you eat/drink/do/experience is inevitably going to affect your baby (whether positive or negative). Your baby is 100% dependent on you for all of it’s nutrients to build his or her bones, organs, blood, skin (no pressure huh?!). That’s why it’s so important to make sure you eat healthily during pregnancy. Different countries and cultures have their own advice on what you should or should’t eat and drink, most of it pretty common sense and basic (such as alcohol and foods that might make you sick). To make things a little more confusing and add to your stress, advice changes from country to country. But don’t despair, I have made list for you considering all the different advice out there, so that you can have a bit more of a definitive list. Most importantly, I have included a range of foods that you should eat! Instead of only a list of what you should avoid.
You’ll still have to use your common sense when it comes to certain foods, because it is sometimes dependent on freshness/storage/method of preparation/hygiene and that varies from place to place.
All raw, undercooked or unpasteurised animal products (such as raw eggs, meat, fish, milk, shellfish)
Mould-ripened soft cheeses (those with the white rind such as brie, camembert and chevre)
Liver and liver products (pate, haggis, liver sausages)
Shark, marlin, sworfish
Caffeinated energy drinks
Artificial sweeteners, colours and flavourings
Hydrogenated fats (such as margarine, hydrogenated palm/corn/soy oils)
Processed, refined, and deep fried foods (crisps, chips, hot dogs/bangers, fake cheeses, breakfast cereals, granola bars, pre-prepared ready meals, sweets, fizzy drinks…. the list goes on)
CONTROVERSIAL (exercise caution)
Uncooked cold meat cuts (parma ham, prociutto, pepperoni, salami, etc). These are mostly processed and high in salt and preservatives, so I’d avoid anyway, but they can also contain harmful bacteria.
Shellfish and smoked fish (oysters, prawns, lobster, mussels, smoked salmon, etc). The current NHS advice does not say to avoid these, but some other countries do. Shellfish is high in iodine, zinc and other important minerals for pregnancy, so my advice is to only eat if you know it is very fresh and well cooked.
Sushi: I know this belongs in the raw fish section so avoid, but, some restaurants freeze their fish beforehand, which kills most of the possible parasites. So be sure to only choose a restaurant that you trust follows this process properly, and avoid otherwise, or choose the vegetarian options.
Caffeine intake (coffee, green & black teas, cola, dark chocolate). Have 1-2 cups per day max.
Sugar (sugary drinks, sweets, cakes, biscuits, syrups, breakfast cereals, sweetened yogurts, etc). It isn’t good for you and can lead to gestational diabetes.
Fish: limit to 2 portions of oily fish a week (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, herring, anchovies) due to their high content of mercury and other pollutants. Do have the two portions per week though, the omega 3 content has many benefits for your baby’s brain development! You can have non-oily fish on top of that.
Filtered or mineral water (not a food I know, but you should be drinking at least 2 litres or 8 cups per day)
Vegetables (all colours, shapes, textures, fresh, raw, frozen, cooked)
Fruit (this belongs in the limit section if you have gestational diabetes, but for everyone else fruit is high in vitamins, minerals, fibre and carbohydrates that are perfect when you need energy). Fresh, stewed or dried, they’re all good. Make sure you eat a wide variety of fruit rather than just stick to the usual apples and bananas.
Nuts & seeds (high in protein, healthy fats, and minerals). Best eat them raw after soaking in water for a few hours to get the most nutritional benefits.
Beans and pulses (high in fibre, vitamins, minerals and protein). Soak and cook, and use immediately or freeze to use later.
Organic meat & fish (high in protein, they are the building blocks for your baby and will keep you satisfied and energetic for longer). Choose organic to limit your intake of residual hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful chemicals.
Whole grains (rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals) they actually provide some nutritional benefits as opposed to white flour products which contain calories but nothing else. Excellent examples include rye, barley, brown/red/wild rice, whole oats, millet, bulgur, spelt, quinoa).
Fermented Vegetables and natural yogurt (unsweetened). They are full of good bacteria to keep your immune system and gut healthy. Your immune system usually lowers during pregnancy which makes you more susceptible to infections, especially thrush. Fermented veggies will help keep that good bacteria healthy so you stay well too. Regularly eat things like raw sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass, miso, natural yogurt, kefir, coconut yogurt, etc. Ensure you don’t heat these too much so that the good bacteria is killed off, and if you are buying them ensure the label says they are raw and unpasteurised.