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Diet and pregnancy – What can I eat and what should I avoid?

Diet and pregnancy - advice for what to eat and what to avoid if you are pregnant

When you get pregnant, you will probably learn as one of the first things that there are certain types of food you should avoid or limit. While this can seem frustrating, there are luckily more things you can and should eat. Here Cryos’ midwife Julie explains exactly what you can eat and what you should avoid when you are pregnant.

Should I eat extra when I am pregnant?

It is important to eat healthy and varied when you are pregnant. However, it is not necessary to eat for two. The body only needs an extra 300 kcal a day. A normal-weight woman needs about 2000 kcal a day, so the additional amount of energy that pregnancy requires is only a small amount of extra food. 300 kcal is equivalent to three bananas or half a litre of skimmed milk. Some women find that their appetite is greater when they are pregnant. In that case, it would be a good idea to eat small, frequent, and healthy meals. Suggestions for these meals could be:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Nuts and almonds
  • Yoghurt products without added sugar. If necessary, a little sprinkle on top or chopped nuts
  • Crispbread with cheese, cottage cheese or what you like
  • Rye bread or whole-grain bread, for example, with one slice of cheese, avocado and a little greens
  • Chopped vegetables and, if necessary, with a little delicious dip made from avocado, yoghurt, hummus etc.

It is also a good idea to eat this type of small frequent meals if you suffer from nausea. It can help keep your nausea down. 

Weight during pregnancy

During pregnancy, you will naturally gain weight as the baby gets bigger and your body changes.

The extra weight is distributed on the baby, amniotic fluid, the placenta and uterus, as well as increased blood volume and fat depots. Exactly how much weight you should gain is related to your weight and BMI before pregnancy.

You can see below how much weight you should preferably gain during the entire pregnancy. The largest weight gain takes place towards the end of the pregnancy. During this stage, you may gain 500 grams a week.

Graph showing weight gain and distribution of extra weight during pregnancy

Source: Danish Health Authority

What to eat and what to avoid during pregnancy

You must plan your meals so you get all the extra protein, vitamins, and minerals your child needs.

You should eat:

  • Meat, fish and poultry
  • Coarse grain products such as oatmeal, rye bread, crispbread
  • Green and high fibre vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, beans
  • Fruit 

Eat fish several times a week

Fish is healthy because it contains healthy oils and is a good source of vitamin D, iodine, and selenium, among other things. You should eat at least 350 grams of fish a week, of which 200 grams should be oily fish. You could for example eat plaice, flounder, cod, haddock, hake, fish roe, and oily fish such as herring and farmed salmon.

Rye bread with salmon is a healthy meal if you are pregnant

Rye bread with avocado and salmon is a healthy meal when you are pregnant.

Avoid predatory fish

Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not eat cuts of the large predatory fish because they may contain high levels of mercury. Predatory fish are for example rays, halibut, oilfish, swordfish, mackerel, shark, pike, perch, zander and tuna, such as tuna steaks. It is recommended that you eat a maximum of 1 regular can of tuna a week and that you avoid canned white tuna or albacore tuna. Eat no more than 125 grams of Baltic salmon a month, as it contains high levels of dioxins.

Avoid raw meat and fish

When you are pregnant, you should avoid raw/unprepared meat. Meat that has not been heated to at least 66º C for at least 3 minutes may contain toxoplasmosis, which can infect both you and your baby. Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that is sometimes found in animal excrement and raw meat.

Can I eat sushi when I am pregnant?

A question I often get is: Can I eat sushi?. Sushi contains raw fish and we generally know that raw foods can contain bacteria and parasites. To be sure that the sushi does not contain bacteria and parasites, you must make sure that it has been frozen for 24 hours at minus 20 degrees. This is a legal requirement in some countries but be aware that this is not necessarily the case in all countries.  

Avoid soft cheese

During your pregnancy, you should avoid soft cheese made from unpasteurized milk as it may contain the bacteria listeria.
According to legal requirements in some countries, soft cheese must be made from pasteurized milk, and you can therefore eat it when you are pregnant. However, be aware that this is not a legal requirement in all countries. The list of ingredients must state whether the cheese is made from pasteurized or unpasteurized milk. Therefore, read the ingredient list carefully.

Avoid liver

Liver and cod liver oil can contain large quantities of vitamin A which can harm your baby. Liver pâté and pâtés, in general, contain less vitamin A and are safe to eat.

Coffee, tea, and cola

You should not drink more than three cups of coffee a day and restrict your intake of other beverages which contain caffeine such as tea and cola. Studies have shown that large amounts of caffeine can affect your child's growth negatively. If you are curious about your child's growth, read our guide to baby’s development.

You should not drink more than three cups of coffee a day during your pregnancy

You should reduce your coffee intake during pregnancy.

Ginger shots and supplements that contain ginger

As something new, pregnant women are advised not to take ginger shots and supplements that contain ginger. However, you can still eat foods that contain ginger, as the amount of ginger will be small compared to ginger shots and supplements with ginger. Recent studies conclude that it cannot be ruled out that large amounts of ginger can be harmful to the fetus. 

Alcohol, smoking and medicine

  • Alcohol: If you drink alcohol during your pregnancy, your unborn baby will have the same concentration of alcohol in his or her blood as you. Alcohol is absorbed by your blood and passes through your placenta to the baby. Alcohol is harmful to your baby’s development throughout pregnancy. The recommendation is therefore that you should not drink alcohol when you are pregnant.
  • Smoking: Your baby’s development is affected if you smoke or are exposed to passive smoking. The harmful substances in tobacco smoke increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Medicine: If you are being treated with medicines, ask your doctor whether you can continue the treatment while you are pregnant. Some medicines should not be taken while pregnant, whereas it is safe and important to continue taking others. 

Vitamins and supplements for pregnant women

Food is the best source of the nutrients that both mother and child need. It is important to get enough vitamins and minerals during your pregnancy.

Some vitamins and minerals can be difficult to get in the recommended amount – even through a healthy and varied diet. Therefore, it is recommended that pregnant women take the following dietary supplements:

  • 400 micrograms of folic acid from pregnancy planning to 12th week of pregnancy
  • 40-50 mg of iron from the 10th week of pregnancy and throughout pregnancy
  • 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout pregnancy
  • 500 micrograms of calcium (if you do not eat or drink dairy products)
  • Avoid vitamin A supplements in doses above 800 RE (a regular pregnancy vitamin pill is fine)

Dietary supplements cannot replace the nutrients that a healthy and varied diet provides you. The above supplements should be a supplement to a healthy and varied diet because it can be difficult to get enough folic acid, vitamin D and iron through foods.

Calcium supplements are recommended for pregnant women who do not get enough dairy products.

Fibre containing products and dairy products inhibit the absorption of iron. Therefore, you should take iron supplements alone or with citrus fruits such as oranges, as these improve iron absorption.

If you found this article about diet and pregnancy interesting and want to read more from our midwife, we can recommend our blog post on what you need to know before giving birth.

My name is Julie, and I am a trained midwife working at Cryos Customer Care. I have been a midwife for 6 years and have experience from many different maternity wards, including a stay in Uganda. I provide Cryos’ blog with expert knowledge about fertility, pregnancy and birth. I hope to bring you a step closer to make your dream of having a baby come true.

Julie
Julie
Cryos
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