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Eating for you and your baby

Mother Nurture considers that one of the key components in ensuring a stress and trouble free pregnancy is making sure that you eat properly. If you're pregnant, you might feel like you need to become a nutrition expert overnight. After all, what you eat and drink — and what you avoid — influences your baby's development. Some choices are logical, such as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and eliminating alcohol from your diet. But don’t get confused because if you stick to the basics and include a variety of foods from the four main food groups you won’t go far wrong:

 

Fruits and vegetables. You can buy these fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or juiced. Aim for five to six portions a day.
Starchy foods. These are your carbohydrates. These include bread, pasta, rice and potatoes. Try to choose wholegrain options.
Foods rich in protein. These include lean meat and chicken, fish, eggs and pulses (such as beans and lentils). Try to aim for at least two portions of fish a week, including of oily fish.
Dairy foods. These include milk, cheese and yoghurt, which contain calcium.

We are often asked whether it is safe to eat fish. Research tells us that Seafood is a great source of protein and iron which are crucial nutrients for your baby's growth and development. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids in many fish can promote your baby's brain development. But some types of seafood, particularly large predatory fish such as shark, some tuna and swordfish may contain high levels of mercury. You have probably seen this in the press or heard about it from other people. Although the mercury in seafood isn't of concern for most adults, special precautions apply if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant. If you regularly eat fish high in mercury, the substance can accumulate in your bloodstream over time. In turn, too much mercury in your bloodstream could damage your baby's developing brain and nervous system.


So how much seafood can I safely eat? The USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) say pregnant women can safely eat up to 12 ounces (340 grams) of seafood a week. This is in line with European research and equates to approximately two portions of sea food per week. Mother Nurture recommends that you abstain from raw fish and shell fish when you are pregnant due to the risk of toxic poisoning or ingesting harmful bacteria.

 

Seafood that is low in mercury includes fish such as:

• Shrimp
• Crab
• Salmon
• Pollock
• Cod
• Whiting
• Hake

Canned light tuna is another good choice — but limit albacore tuna, chunk white tuna and tuna steak to no more than 6 ounces, or 170 grams, a week

At Mother Nurture we are often asked by ‘Mums to be’ if that should eat more as they are pregnant. Well the answer is quite simple. When you are pregnant your body becomes more efficient and makes even better use of the energy you get from your food. This means that you don’t actually need any extra calories for the first six months of pregnancy. Then you only need about 200 extra calories per day for the last three months. Two hundred calories is equivalent to:


• a slice of wholemeal toast with a small can of baked beans
• a toasted pitta bread with two tablespoons of reduced-fat hummus
• a slice of malt loaf or fruit scone with butter or spread
• one slice of cheese on toast
Your appetite is your best guide of how much food you need to eat. You may find your appetite fluctuates throughout your pregnancy:
• In the first few weeks your appetite may fall away dramatically and you may not feel like eating proper meals, especially if you have nausea.
• During the middle part of your pregnancy your appetite may be the same as before you were pregnant or slightly increased.
• Towards the end of your pregnancy your appetite will probably increase. If you suffer from heartburn or feel bloated after eating you may find it helpful to have small, frequent meals.

The best rule to remember is to eat when you are hungry. Have a good balance of foods every day and you will gain a steady healthy weight as your baby grows.


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