Our gynaecologist at Clinica Fertia, Dr. Auxiliadora Vega, has prepared this post along with a video to talk about maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy and offer some recommendations.
What foods should we avoid during pregnancy?
Firstly, let’s start by talking about the foods to avoid during pregnancy and here are some recommendations.
- PROCESSED MEATS: should be avoided due to the risk of toxoplasmosis or listeriosis infection. You should limit some processed meats such as cooked turkey, chicken or cooked ham, but you should avoid all raw cured meats such as serrano ham, salami, pepperoni and chorizo style meats, also during pregnancy it is important not to consume patés, including vegetable patés or meat spreads.
- UNPASTEURIZED DAIRY PRODUCTS: these should not be eaten either due to the risk of Listeria. It is very important to check the labels that the milk and its derivatives (yogurt, cheese, ice cream) are made with pasteurized milk. It is recommended to avoid fresh milk and home-made cheeses in which this cannot be verified.
- AVOID EATING RAW FISH: sushi type, marinated, pickled fish to name a few, should not be consumed during pregnancy due to the risk of containing parasites and bacteria, such as listeria or anisakis. If you wish to consume them, they should be frozen at <18ºc for at least 48 hours, but you have to take into account many home freezers do not reach these degrees.
This topic opens up another debate.
Are there any restrictions on the consumption of fish during pregnancy?
Despite the benefits of eating fish during pregnancy, you should be aware that certain types of fish may contain a higher concentration of mercury, a metal that has been linked to the appearance of birth defects. Here are some examples of the types of fish that you should avoid during pregnancy and others that you can eat in moderation.
During pregnancy it is not recommended to eat fish such as swordfish, mackerel, shark, tilefish and fresh tuna or any type of sushi.
Whilst pregnant you can eat up to two servings per week of fish such as cod, pomfret, catfish, crab, sea bass, North Atlantic mackerel, mussels, mullet, perch (oceanic or white), scallops, sole, squid, freshwater trout, white fish or canned tuna. All of these are low in mercury.
- CAFFEINE: During pregnancy it is also advisable to moderate your caffeine intake. You can consume one cup of coffee a day, a maximum of two. Most experts consider that a daily consumption of less than 200 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of about 2 cups of coffee maximum) is safe during pregnancy. However, energy-type drinks are not recommended at all as they can contain high amounts of caffeine.
- ALCOHOL: You should NOT consume any type of alcohol during pregnancy. (Neither wine, nor beer, nor cava, nor distilled alcohol) Alcohol is toxic to the formation of baby’s brain and is associated with growth problems and malformations. A good alternative would be non-alcoholic beer or wine for example.
- SWEET, SUGARY FOODS AND DRINKS: While sweet, sugary foods can be very tempting it is recommended to avoid them, since the consumption of sweets, pastries, cakes or biscuits can favour the appearance of gestational diabetes, passing too much glucose to the foetus, and they can lead to excessive weight gain during pregnancy. This is also true for soft, sweetened beverages. Limit your sugar consumption to a minimum of no more than one product per week. Industrial pastries, crisps or processed desserts should be avoided as they have large amounts of saturated and trans fats, the ‘unhealthy, bad’ fats.
- RAW EGGS: Using eggs in cooked recipes is safe but avoid foods that have raw eggs in them, such as homemade mayonnaise, meringues or mousses as raw or undercooked eggs can carry Salmonella.
So, what can I eat while pregnant?
Actually, the diet to follow during pregnancy should not be very different from normal, a healthy and balanced diet. We only have to be aware of the foods that can pose a risk to the health and development of the mother and the baby. It is always possible to adapt your favourite dishes by modifying the recipes a bit to avoid certain foods or to include important ones.
What is true is that there are a number of nutrients that are very important during pregnancy.
Next, we talk about them and give some tips and guidelines to include them in your diet during pregnancy.
- FOLIC ACID: also known as folate, is a type of vitamin B important for pregnant women, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily during the month before you conceive and 600 micrograms daily throughout pregnancy can help prevent so-called neural tube defects, brain and spinal cord malformations.
Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, bread, whole grains, and some nuts, and you can find products such as bread, breakfast cereals, or juices fortified with folate. However, consuming these foods can still make it difficult to get the recommended amounts of folic acid through your diet, so it is recommended that all pregnant women or those who want to conceive take a daily vitamin supplement that contains the recommended amount of folic acid.
REMEMBER: Raw vegetables and fruits must be disinfected before consuming them, since the use of untreated organic fertilizer or the punctual contamination of wells may have contaminated irrigation water or contaminated soil. Although previously it was recommended to wash vegetables with water with a few drops of bleach, currently it is recommended to use commercial products such as Amukina.
- IRON: our body uses iron to produce a substance that allows red blood cells to transport oxygen to all our organs and tissues. During pregnancy, you need an extra amount of iron – approximately double the amount recommended for non-pregnant women – since, at the start of pregnancy, your blood volume increases, and with it the need for iron to supply you and your baby with oxygen. If your iron intake is insufficient, you could develop anaemia.
The recommended daily dose of iron during pregnancy is 27 milligrams, and it can be found in most prenatal vitamin supplements. In addition, you can also consume foods rich in iron, such as red meat, seafood, legumes, fortified breakfast cereals or prune juice.
Keep in mind that iron is more easily absorbed if foods rich in iron are eaten together with foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits or tomatoes. In the same way, some foods, such as tea, coffee, and whole grain cereals, can make it difficult to absorb iron.
- CALCIUM: is used to build your baby’s bones and teeth. Every woman over the age of 19, pregnant or not, should ingest 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, and the amount rises to 1,300 milligrams daily between the ages of 14 and 18.
Milk and dairy products, such as cheese or yogurt, are the best source of calcium in your diet, in addition to containing protein, riboflavin and vitamin B12, but if you are lactose intolerant, you can obtain calcium from other sources, such as enriched oat or almond milk, tofu, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, sweet potato, legumes, green leafy vegetables, sardines or almonds, or specific supplements. Also, sesame is rich in calcium.
- VITAMIN D: Vitamin D works together with calcium to help your baby’s bones and teeth develop properly. In addition, it is essential to ensure that you have healthy skin and good vision. All women need 15 micrograms of vitamin D every day; During pregnancy and lactation, this contribution should provide the baby with sufficient reserves of vitamin D for the first few months of life.
Milk enriched with vitamin D and fatty fish, such as salmon, are good sources of this vitamin; on the other hand, exposure to the sun also activates the production of vitamin D, so it is advisable to sunbathe or spend time outside, always in moderation and always using the appropriate protection, a SPF 50+ is always advised.
- IODINE: The consumption of iodine is important to ensure the proper development of the baby’s brain and nervous system. The main natural sources of iodine in your diet are iodized salt, seafood in general, fish, eggs and seaweed, but it is difficult to obtain the 150 micrograms daily recommended during pregnancy from these sources. Therefore, it is recommended to take a prenatal vitamin supplement that contains iodine from the moment the you think you are pregnant up until the end of breastfeeding.
- HEALTHY FATS: olive oil, omega 3 (salmon, walnuts), oily fish (oily fish contains polyunsaturated fatty acids – omega 3 and omega 6). Those known as good fats are extremely important and favour the cardiovascular system and omega 3, in particular, foetal brain development: mackerel, salmon, sardine, fresh anchovy, horse mackerel or trout, to name a few should be consumed.
- FIBRE: It is very important to avoid constipation, which is very common during pregnancy. Fibre is present in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes and should be consumed daily.
- PROTEINS: Proteins are very important during pregnancy as they constitute the building block of new cells and tissues. In addition to protein, meat and fish provide significant amounts of iron, zinc and other micronutrients. Legumes provide dietary fibre and minerals. Eggs and nuts also provide fat, for this reason it is recommended to eat walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios and/or seeds at least 3 times a week. They are an important source of calcium, folic acid, and mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- WATER. Water provides benefits for both the baby and the mother. Your hydration, in part, may depend on the amount of foetal amniotic fluid present. During pregnancy it is very important to always be properly hydrated, as it can prevent urinary infections and maintain an adequate volume of circulating blood (the blood of a pregnant woman increases from the first trimester).
We recommend consuming bottled water, if possible, between 6 and 8 glasses of water, which is equivalent to 1.5-2 litres.
We encourage you to watch the video with all the information about nutrition and pregnancy from Dr. Auxiliadora Vega.
We know that there is a lot of information on the internet and sometimes it can be contradictory, if after reading this post you have any questions about what you can and cannot eat during pregnancy, we encourage you to contact our team, we are always on hand and we will be happy to answer any of your questions, no question will ever be too big or too small!