When you’re pregnant, you really are eating for two. There’s you, who needs to eat good food to supply the extra nutrients your body demands during pregnancy. And there’s your developing baby, who also needs lots of nutrients to grow.
Eating healthy during pregnancy is very important. The foods you choose, as well as they way those foods are processed, cooked and even what they’re packaged in can have an impact on both you and your baby’s health.
Exposing unborn babies to chemicals can have an impact on your baby’s health, including increasing the risk of premature birth and birth defects, as well as heart problems and an increased cancer risk. Chemicals cross the placenta, so it makes sense to limit your baby’s exposure to these as much as possible.
Here’s our top tips on clean eating during pregnancy.
Healthy Eating During Pregnancy
Eat whole foods
- Plenty of whole fruits and vegetables
Juice is not the same as eating whole fruits, even if the pack says that it’s equal to a serve of juice. You’re missing the fibre that fills you up and offsets the sugar. You’re also missing out on some of the vitamins and nutrients. Yes, it’s better to have a freshly made fruit and vegetable juice than a can of Coke. But it’s even better to have a whole piece of fruit or some chopped vegetables.
- Choose unprocessed meats
Skip the ham and salami and choose shredded chicken in your sandwich, or a slice of roast beef. Processed meats are high in salt, and they also contain nitrites and other chemicals. Processed meats are also a high risk for listeria. Choose whole foods, safely prepared, and you know exactly what you’re eating.
- Choose whole grains
Whole grains have more fibre (which can help with pregnancy constipation) and more vitamins and minerals than processed grains. Choose popcorn instead of chips, whole oats instead of white bread for breakfast, or a quinoa salad instead of a pasta salad.
Eat organic where possible
The jury is still out on whether you get extra nutritional benenfits by buying organic. What organic foods will give is less exposure to pesticides, which is definitely a good thing when it comes to developing babies. There are some foods that you don’t need to worry about buying organic, which are generally fruits with thick skins as the pesticides can’t penetrate the skin.
However things like berries, apples and stonefruit have high pesticide residues so it’s worth eating these organic.
Leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach can also contain high levels of pesticides. Buy organic, or even better, grow some yourself. They’re very easy to grow from seed, and if you sow new seeds every six weeks, you’ll have a continuous supply of fresh, organic greens.
Choose healthy fish
Some fish at the top of the food chain can contain a lot of mercury. They’re eating fish lower down the food, and so the levels of mercury build up. Fish to avoid include:
- Orange roughy
- Southern Bluefin Tuna
Fish with lower levels of mercury are:
- Shellfish, including prawns, oysters, mussels and crayfish
- Tinned tuna (although try to avoid tins with linings containing BPA)
Cook for yourself during pregnancy
Or even better, share the cooking with your partner.
It’s an easy way to eat healthy while you’re pregnant. You’ll avoid processed foods and takeaways which are often high in sugar, salts and transfats. They’re expensive, and you don’t end up eating much in the way of whole foods.
If you can’t cook, get hold of a basic cookbook like Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food and teach yourself. The recipes are yummy, and they’re simple enough that my 13 year old can cook.
If you’re pushed for time, or just plain exhausted, why not try a food box home delivery service? My Food Bag and Hello Fresh deliver the ingredients for meals and give you the instructions on how to cook them. They deliver fresh and healthy food and you just need to cook it. They’re delicious, and they’re fast and easy to get on to the table.
Be careful with plastics
Plastics can leach harmful chemicals like BPA and phthalates into your food, so try to avoid using plastics in the kitchen. This isn’t easy, I know, so check out our guide to safer plastics and choose these where possible.
- Don’t use plastic to heat food in the microwave. Choose ceramic or glass instead.
- Don’t serve and store in plastic. Go with glass, ceramic, stainless steel or enamel.
- Avoid glad wrap and sandwich bags, etc., as these can contain phthalates. Go with reusables and choose waste free, too.
Tinned foods can contain BPA from the lining inside the can.
- Look for BPA free tinned foods. You can buy BPA free tins from the likes of Honest to Goodness.
- Buy food in glass jars where possible.
- Cook things like beans and legumes by soaking and boiling them. They taste better, and they’re cheaper, too.
Check your cooking utensils
The pans and dishes that you’re cooking with can leach toxic chemicals into your food. Teflon can emit fumes from perfluorocarbons into the air as we’re cooking. Choosing safer pans will be beneficial to you and your baby.
What to avoid:
- non stick Teflon
What to choose instead:
- Go with ceramic or glass or Corningware
- Look for stainless steel
- Invest in cast iron – it doesn’t have to be Le Crueset. Ikea has a good cast iron range these days.
- Use silicone only where you’re not heating it
- For non stick, look for Thermolon or ceramic coatings
Image source: Depositphotos
What are your clean eating tips for pregnancy? Share in the comments below!
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