How much thought do you put into nutrition? Are you someone who tracks macros, or do you
just try to eat healthily? No matter what your diet looks like, you’ve likely put some thought
into what fuels your body every day. But now that you’re growing an entirely new person, you
might want to take a harder look at your diet, and make sure you’re getting all of the
nutrients you and the baby need. And here’s why.
Your Baby Is What You Eat
The normal adage is ‘you are what you eat’, but when you’re pregnant, that isn’t really true.
Instead, your baby is what you eat. You are your baby’s only source of nutrients while it’s
developing and growing, which means whatever you feed yourself, you’re feeding it as well.
And those choices may shape your baby’s habits for years to come. If you don’t believe us,
check out this study that shows how babies can taste a version of what you can taste while
still in the womb, and they will develop a flavour preference based on that.
Beyond that, proper nutrition is important to ensure both you and your baby stay healthy
through your pregnancy. For example, pregnant women need higher levels of iron in their
diet, mainly because you have around 45% more blood in your body when you’re pregnant
to ensure the baby is getting enough oxygen. This is one of the reasons pregnant women
are so prone to anaemia, and why eating foods high in iron can help you feel better during
your pregnancy. Your baby will also need a good supply of vitamins A, C, D, B6 and B12 to
develop healthily, all of which it is going to take from you. So if you want to stay feeling
healthy during your pregnancy, you will need to increase your intake of these vitamins so
that you get what you need even after the baby has taken its share.
Getting enough folic acid in your diet is incredibly important, especially during the first
trimester of your pregnancy. Folic acid is a synthetic version of the vitamin B9, which helps
the body make healthy blood cells and prevents anaemia. For pregnant women, folic acid is
also important to reduce the chance of certain birth defects and ensure a healthy baby. In
particular, it’s been proven to help prevent neural tube defects such as spinal bifida from
developing, which is why you need 400 micrograms every day until you are at least 12
You can increase the amount you get naturally by eating more leafy green vegetables (which
have the natural form of folic acid), or breakfast cereals and fat spreads that have folic acid
added. It’s generally pretty difficult for anyone to get the right amount of folic acid needed for
pregnancy through diet alone, which is why you can also get it in the form of supplement
Foods To Avoid
It’s such a stereotype that pregnant women have to avoid so many things ‘for the baby’. But
in reality, the list of things you can’t eat while pregnant is fairly small, and it’s usually due to
the risks of bacteria that can cross the placenta and harm the baby, who doesn’t have the
strong immune system you do. The things you can’t eat include:
Unpasteurised milk, cheese or cream: This includes soft ripened goats’ cheeses, mould-
ripened soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert, any soft blue cheeses like Gorgonzola, and
unpasteurised cows, goat’s or sheep’s milk. You should avoid these because there’s a small
chance that these products contain Listeria, which can cause an infection called listeriosis
and lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. The pasteurisation process kills all bacteria within these
products, as does cooking it until it’s steaming, which is why pasteurised foods are
Raw Meats: Meat in general is perfectly fine and important for pregnant women to eat, as it
contains a lot of vitamins and minerals needed for healthy growth. But there are risks in
eating cold cured meats like salami, pepperoni, chorizo and prosciutto on their own
(although these are fine when cooked, so you can still enjoy your pizza!) Liver and liver
products, pate, game meats and raw/undercooked meats all present risks of transmitting a
parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, which can cause miscarriage. Pates are generally
advised against because they contain a high amount of vitamin A which can cause birth
Raw Eggs: Any raw eggs, or partially cooked eggs that aren’t British Lion carry a higher risk
of salmonella. This is unlikely to harm your baby, but it may give you food poisoning, which
can be more dangerous in pregnant women.
Fish: This isn’t one to cut out of your diet completely, but rather to limit how much you eat.
It’s recommended you only eat 2 portions of oily fish a week, and no more than 4 tins of tuna
per week, as this can contain high levels of mercury, which can harm the brain as it
We know those restrictions can feel a bit much at times, but the positive is that it’s only 9
months. In fact, we’ve known many people who have celebrated the delivery of their baby
with a wine and cheese night, enjoying all the things they couldn’t have during pregnancy!
And as long as you have a healthy diet and lifestyle, you’re doing great.