Important Nutrients for a Healthy Pregnancy

Folate

As well as taking a daily 400mcg folic acid supplement, you can boost your folate intake by choosing foods such as:

Fortified breakfast cereals
√ Wholemeal and wholegrain breads and rolls
√ Green vegetables – cabbage, broccoli, spinach, spring greens, kale, okra, asparagus and fresh peas
√ Avocado
√ Pulses – chickpeas, black-eyed beans and lentils

Folate is easily lost during cooking, so steam vegetables or cook in only a little water for a short time to retain as much goodness as possible.

Iron

Good sources of iron can be split into two categories –

Meat-based (haem iron):
lean red meat such as beef (e.g. pastrami) and lamb

Plant-based (non-haem iron):
eggs
√ baked beans and other pulses such as kidney beans and lima beans
√ soyabeans and tofu
√ green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli
√ dried apricots, figs, prunes and raisins
√ wholegrain cereals and oatmeal

The body doesn’t absorb iron from non-meat foods as easily as it does from meat sources. However, you can enhance iron absorption by including a source of vitamin C with your meal (see below).

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is essential for forming and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. It’s found in only a few foods, including:

√ Fortified margarines and reduced-fat spreads
√ Oily fish
√ Red meat

A small amount is also found in wholemilk and eggs.

Calcium

Requirements of this essential mineral double during pregnancy, and are particularly high during the last ten weeks when calcium is being laid down in the baby’s bones. The body adapts to absorb more calcium from the diet so it’s important to eat sufficient calcium-containing foods. Good sources include:

√ Milk and dairy foods such as cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais.
√ Green vegetables
√ Canned fish with soft, edible bones (salmon, sardines and pilchards)
√ Dried apricots
√ Sesame seeds
√ Cashew nuts
√ Tofu
Fortified orange juice
√ Fortified soya milk

Long chain omega 3 fatty acids

These fatty acids are important for the healthy growth and development of the baby’s brain and spinal column. The richest source is oily fish:
Mackerel
Salmon (fresh and canned)
Trout
Sardines
Pilchards
Herring

Fresh tuna (canned tuna does not count)

Vitamin C

Vitamin C will help the body absorb and effectively use iron and other nutrients from food. Good sources include:

Citrus fruits (oranges, tangerines, grapefruit and lemons),
Berries such as blackcurrants, strawberries and goji berries
Kiwi fruit
Peppers
Tomatoes
Green leafy vegetables such as watercress, rocket and spinach

Beta-carotene

Good sources of this form of vitamin A include:

Red, yellow and orange peppers
Mango
Carrots
Sweet potatoes
Apricots
Melon
Tomatoes
Watercress

Foods to avoid:

X Liver and liver products, such as paté and liver sausage
X Soft cheeses
X Shellfish
X Shark, swordfish and marlin
X Undercooked meats
X Undercooked eggs