Eating a Balanced Diet

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It is important when preparing your body for pregnancy that you are as healthy and fit as possible through eating a balanced diet, taking exercise as well as quitting any bad habits that can affect fertility and the health of the unborn baby, such as smoking or drinking alcohol.  

To supply your body with all the necessary vitamins and food items, you should follow a balanced diet so that your body takes advantage of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals and some of beneficial fats.

What Does Your Body Need?

  • Eating a healthy balanced diet is essential for good health but is especially important when you are planning to conceive. Eating healthily before and during pregnancy will help you and your baby to be in optimum condition.
  • Follow the Food Guide Pyramid. 
  • The Food Pyramid recommends you eat bread, cereals, potatoes, fruit, and vegetables to give your body energy, fibre as well as vitamins and minerals as well as keeping you feeling satisfied and less likely to snack on unhealthy options.
  • Portions of dairy products, meat, pulses and fish are recommended to provide protein for growth, vitamins and minerals.
  • Portions of fat which are important (butter, oils, and cream) are recommended in much smaller amounts and very little fried foods (crisps, chips etc), sugary foods (chocolate, cakes, biscuits, sweets, soft drinks, ice cream etc) which are empty calories meaning give you little nutritional value but predispose you to un-necessary weight gain. 

Tips for your nutritious regime

  • “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”!
  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals instead of 3 main ones to keep your blood sugar steady and reduce cravings.
  • Eat healthy means vegetables, fruits, milk, whole grain, etc.
  • Eat 5 portions a day of fruit and vegetables, whether fresh, frozen, canned or dried.
  • Eat fiber; like whole grains and vegetables.
  • Eat sufficient portions of slow release carbohydrates, brown bread, rice and pasta are preferable.
  • Have sufficient protein from animal or plant proteins.
  • Keep your weight monitored so you know you either are, or are headed towards a healthy BMI.
  • Avoid unhealthy snacks and high salt, fat or sugar snacks.
  • Avoid using pesticide treated foods where possible and move to fresh and organic alternatives.
  • Avoid chemicals.
  • Reduce your dose of sugar and soda drinks.
  • Keep consumption of animal fat to recommended portions.
  • For cooking and dressings use unsaturated fats like olive oil or coconut oil.
  • Switch from caffeinated drinks to herbal or fruit teas or any other natural beverages.
  • Eat nuts especially almond and cashew, in limited quantities.
  • Limit your chocolate intake.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Limit using of medicines.
  • Take vitamins on the advice of your doctor – tell your doctor you are trying to conceive so they can adviseaccordingly as some supplements may not be recommended in pregnancy.
  • There are foods and drinks which are to be avoided in pregnancy – it is sensible to start avoiding these when trying to conceive. Your doctor will be able to tell you what you should avoid or restrict.

What is a Healthy Weight?

Calculate your body mass index (BMI). The Ideal BMI should be between 18.5 and 25. Below 18.5 is considered underweight and a BMI of over 25 is considered overweight.  Both come with specific health problems and challenges to both mother and baby so it is very important to work towards getting within the healthy weight range if you are not already.

This tool can help you calculate your BMI.   (BMI Calculator link)

Being underweight before pregnancy could increase risk of having a low birth weight baby, whilst being overweight has been linked to risk of complications both with conception and in pregnancy and delivery.

There are countless resources, nutritional programmes and advice available through your health care professionals and it is what suits you best.  The most important thing is to be within the healthy BMI range for your age and height and to start good habits ready for conception and pregnancy and ultimately parenthood.

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