We all know what we eat is important, but a healthy varied diet is even more important if you're planning on becoming pregnant.
That's because how well you eat before your baby is even conceived can influence its growth and development, and can help lay the foundations of your child's later health.
If you're planning a pregnancy, here are some questions to ask your doctor:
1. Can eating particular foods help me get pregnant?
The answer is no. There is no one 'superfood' to help you get pregnant, nor are there any foods you need to avoid, with the exception of alcohol. The best diet is a varied one that ensures all the nutrients you need to help have a healthy pregnancy. Depending on your current diet, this either means making some fairly major changes or just changing the amounts of different foods you eat to ensure your diet is varied and you are well nourished.
The Eatwell Guide is the best way to enjoy a balanced diet:
- Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods – These provide you with carbohydrates needed for energy, and wholegrain versions provide fibre valuable for aid digestive health. Include these starchy carbohydrate foods at each meal to balance the diet.
- Fruit and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and soluble fibre, absolutely essential for health. Choose different coloured fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits to benefit from their phytochemical content, naturally occurring anti-oxidants that help protect our body.
- Milk and dairy foods - are naturally rich in calcium. Milk, cheese and yoghurt are also rich in protein, essential for good health. If you're watching your weight, choose lower fat milks and low fat yoghurt as your daily calcium choices rather than calorie-rich hard cheeses like Cheddar and Cheshire.
- Meat, fish, eggs, soya beans, chickpeas, beans and lentils are all good sources of protein, essential for a healthy body. Our body needs protein every day to replace protein lost as old cells are lost and new cells are made, and unlike other nutrients, we can't store protein for later use.
- Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar, less healthy foods like sweets, chocolates, crisps, and snacks aren't the healthiest choices we make, but they are enjoyable. There's nothing wrong with treating yourself to these foods, but if you need to lose weight for a successful pregnancy, then these are the foods to limit.
- The British Nutrition Foundation says to avoid the fatigue of iron deficiency in early pregnancy iron stores should be built up before conception. It says this can be achieved by eating a healthy varied diet and iron-rich foods such as meat, eggs, beans, nuts, dark green vegetables and fortified foods, such as some breakfast cereals. Anaemia isn't uncommon in pregnancy, but don't take additional iron supplements unless advised to by your GP or obstetrician.