Starting a family is such an exciting and incredibly special time, and whilst its always important to look after your health and well-being, it’s even more so when you are thinking about having a baby!
One of the best ways that you can do this is by making sure that you eat a healthy balanced diet, including all the three food groups and a range of vitamins and minerals. This will give you and your baby all the nutrients you need to grow.
🔎 Lean protein such as chicken, fish, eggs, beans and pulses and small amounts of red meat.
🔎 Five or more portions of fruit and vegetables each day, a portion is around 80g. Dark green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and kale are great sources of folate (folic acid).
🔎 Unsaturated fats which are found in oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocado and olive oils.
🔎 Wholegrains and starchy carbohydrates including bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals and grains. These provide us with a vital source of energy and fibre.
🔎 Try to limit high sugar/high salt/high fat foods that have been processed. For example, crisps, chocolate, biscuits and ready meals. These contain a lot of sugar/salt/fat which we know is bad for our health if we have too much too often.
🔎 Drink at least 2 litres of fluids each day. This can include water, dilute squash, tea and coffee.
Whilst throughout most of our lives we can get all the nutrients we need from our diet, there are some circumstances when we need a bit of extra help!
When trying to conceive (and may be pregnant) it is important to take a supplement containing folic acid, you can get these from most chemists or supermarkets in the pregnancy section or from your GP. The recommended amount is 400 micrograms a day and this should be taken before you are pregnant until 12 weeks into your pregnancy. Some multivitamins will have the right amount of folic acid for you but be careful that they don’t contain vitamin A, as too much of this can harm your baby. In addition to folic acid, it’s necessary to take a vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms each day as in the U.K. we often don’t get enough from the sunlight and our diets.
The above advice still stands during pregnancy but there are a few things that you can do to make sure you and your baby have a healthy pregnancy.
Eating plenty of fibre which is found in fruit and vegetables and wholegrain carbohydrates such as brown bread, rice and oats/cereals will help to relieve constipation and keep your digestive system on top form. The saying ‘eating for two’ is a myth, although you will find that you are hungrier than usual and need to eat a bit more to keep your energy levels up. Just make sure that you are having regular meals including breakfast, lunch and dinner and snacks in between.
There are some foods which it’s recommended you avoid during pregnancy due to the risk of bacteria making you or your baby poorly, these include; raw or partially cooked eggs, unpasteurized dairy products (including soft cheese and blue cheese), all types of pate and raw or under-cooked meats. You should also avoid eating liver or liver based products as they are high in vitamin A and too much of this could harm your baby. Whilst its not necessary to cut caffeine out completely, don’t have more than 200mg a day which is the equivalent of two mugs of instant coffee. Caffeine is also in chocolate, tea, green tea, energy drinks and fizzy drinks like coke.
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If you are breastfeeding then you may find that you are extra thirsty, so be sure to drink 2 litres plus a day of fluids, mainly water, dilute squash or milk. As you are feeding your baby as well as yourself you can feel hungrier than usual so plan in healthy snacks throughout the day to keep your energy levels constant. Avoid having too much caffeine and don’t drink alcohol when breastfeeding as this can pass through to your baby. The only exception to this is if you only drink a small amount and wait 2/3 hours before breastfeeding.
Although oily fish is a great source of unsaturated fats and protein, when pregnant and breastfeeding we shouldn’t have more than 2 portions a week. A portion is around 140g.
When your baby arrives, the last thing on your mind will be trying to get your five a day! It’s important to give yourself time to settle into your new routine and let your body recover from birth. Gaining weight during pregnancy is completely normal and your body will change as it grows a beautiful baby so be kind to yourself and don’t feel under pressure to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight and/or lifestyle too soon. There’s no right or wrong with this, do what feels right to you!
No matter where you are in your journey to starting a family, if you have any concerns or questions then don’t hesitate to speak to your GP or other health professional as they are there to help you through all stages.