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Unsure whether you can have a glass of wine and continue your cheese habit? Our food expert makes it easy to eat well during pregnancy
Excitement about a new baby can often turn to worry about foods to avoid when pregnant. Whether it's fish, cheese, supplements, alcohol or meat, the tabloid headlines scream a different story every week. However, it's simpler than you think to eat healthily during pregnancy.
Vitamins for pregnancy
As soon as you get your wonderful baby news (or hopefully before, if you're organised), start taking daily folic acid supplements. Folic acid helps to protect your baby from a serious disability called spina bifida. Vitamin D and fish oils are also recommended at this time, and you can usually buy a complete pregnancy supplement to save taking different products. Don't take high-dose supplements or products that contain vitamin A, as these are too concentrated during pregnancy.
Oily fish or not?
A pregnancy diet should include fish, especially the oily varieties such as salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines. These are rich in vitamins and special fats, called omega-3s, which your baby uses to build brain and eye cells. Eating the oily fish listed here once a week is safe and can benefit you and your baby. Studies show that women who eat fish regularly have brainier babies!
Some foods are risky during pregnancy because they might contain high levels of bacteria or pollutants. These include soft or unpasteurised cheeses, pâté, liver, undercooked meat and seafood, raw eggs and certain types of fish such as shark, swordfish or marlin. In contrast, hard cheeses, cooked eggs, meat and seafood, as well as many types of fish (see above), are perfectly safe. For specific advice, check out the NHS Choices website.
The official advice is to avoid alcohol, especially in the first three months of pregnancy. However, don't despair if you drank too much one night before you realised you were pregnant – many of us have done the same, and our children are fine! Just stick to non-alcoholic drinks from now on, and try interesting options such as elderflower cordial with sparkling water, iced tea with mint, or cranberry juice with diet tonic water.
By Dr Carrie Ruxton, dietitian and health writer