Pregnancy and diet

The information presented here is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or healthcare professional. Please consult your doctor or healthcare professional for further information about LAL-D and its management during pregnancy.

At more than any other time when you are pregnant, you will be considering what you eat and whilst your body needs additional nutrients, vitamins and minerals throughout the whole of your pregnancy, it will need just an extra 350–500 extra calories each day during the second and third trimesters.

Having knowledge of which are the best nutrient dense foods, to supply these extra calories needed for your baby’s health and development is very essential.

It is particularly important when pregnant to eat regular meals of natural whole foods, making sure your diet is balanced with adequate protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre, but free from the problematic fats. Ensuring any reheated food is always piping hot before consuming, will help to reduce the risks from any potential food poisoning, as will avoiding undercooked poultry and eggs, raw fish (sushi or sashimi) and shellfish.

To avoid additional fats, steam, bake, grill or poach foods rather than fry.

Foods to include:

Complex Carbohydrates

These are the body’s primary source of fuel and provide slow releasing energy. They are also a good source of fibre and can help to prevent constipation during pregnancy

Good sources:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables (excluding avocados, olives, coconut and nuts and seeds)
  • Wholegrain breads
  • Brown and wholegrain rice
  • Beans and lentils
  • Other cereals including oats, barley, buckwheat, rye, and quinoa

Protein is the building blocks of all life, is required for cell replication and used to build organs, muscles, enzymes, hair, skin and hormones, all particularly important for a growing baby.

Animal products, diary and fish care the highest protein containing foods; however, they need to be considered carefully as they usually have the highest fat content – the exceptions being venison and veal which are naturally lower in fat.

Whilst the protein found in vegetarian foods is considered healthy, it is also a less complete form of protein, so if you are vegetarian, it is essential to combine the sources of protein from a wide range of vegetarian foods – beans, lentils, egg whites etc so your daily protein levels can be met.

Good sources:

  • Skinless poultry
  • Venison and veal (remove fat)
  • Egg
  • Fat free dairy – Quark / Sykr and fat free yogurts
  • White fish
  • Seafood (but not shellfish)
  • Pulses
  • Beans & lentils
  • Wholegrains 

Fibre is important during pregnancy to maintain a healthy bowel and prevent constipation (particularly prevalent towards the end of the pregnancy), as straining can often lead to an increased risk of hemorrhoids.

Soluble fibre is great to help to keep the stools soft and regular and can be found in:

  • Oats
  • Wholegrains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Beans, legumes and lentils

Other foods to avoid:

  • Caffeine drinks Caffeine is an addictive substance and can pass through to your baby in the womb. It can also interfere with your body’s absorption of nutrients such as iron and zinc, both of which are at greater risk of becoming depleted during the pregnancy.
  • Refined carbohydrates Includes white flour, white rice, sugar and all things that contain them such as sweets, chocolates and fizzy drinks, these disrupt blood sugar balance and are a risk factor for elevating triglycerides.
  • Alcohol it is generally accepted that alcohol can have serious consequences for the growing fetus and it is advisable not to drink alcohol at all during your pregnancy.

Beneficial nutrients:

  • Folic acid plays a vital role in the prevention of brain and spinal cord defects such as Spina bifida. It is also important for the formation of red blood cells which transport oxygen to tissues. Sources: wheatgerm, sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower.
  • Iron During pregnancy, your blood volume increases, and your red blood cell production is raised. Iron is an important element of the red blood cells that carry the oxygen in the blood to the tissues and the baby. Maintaining good iron levels throughout pregnancy may help to reduce the risks of increased fatigue and lethargy. Sources: brewer’s yeast, molasses, wheat germ, parsley, prunes dried fruit – such as dried apricots, wholegrains such as brown rice and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Zinc is vital for growth and cell replication and is needed for the functioning of many chemical reactions in the body. Some of your stores of zinc will be transferred to your baby during the last few months of pregnancy and early stages of breast feeding, so maintaining levels through diet is vital. Sources: fat free diary, poultry, beans, chickpeas, wholegrains – rye, oats.
  • Calcium is needed for healthy bone formation and for controlling blood clotting mechanisms. Sources: fat free dairy, soya, leafy green vegetables, cooked dried beans.
  • Magnesium is important for calcium absorption and for nerve and muscle function. Sources: wheat germ, green leafy vegetables, brown rice, buckwheat and apricots.
  • Vitamin A / Beta-carotene aids in the growth and repair of body tissues and is needed for the healthy eyes and skin. Obtained from our diet in two forms, either from animal meats (not recommended due to the fat content), or via vegetables as beta-carotene. This can then be converted into vitamin A when it is needed, as long as zinc supplies are adequate. Sources: Beta-carotene is found in all red, orange and yellow coloured vegetables as well as dark green vegetables like spinach and kale.
  • Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and cannot be stored by the body. It helps iron to be absorbed. Sources: Melon, all berries, guava, kiwi, apricot, avocado, broccoli, peppers, red chili.
  • Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and for healing the womb after the birth of the baby. It is normally produced by gut bacteria, but it is also available from cauliflower and all the green leafy vegetables.

Please discuss with your medical practitioner the subject of obtaining the essential omega 3 fatty acids required by your baby during your pregnancy

Cèlia Rodríguez-Borjabad

Cèlia Rodríguez-Borjabad

Written by Cèlia Rodríguez-Borjabad a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Vascular Medicine and Metabolism Unit. University Hospital "Sant Joan". Rovira i Virgili University. IISPV. CIBERDEM. Reus (Spain)