Eating for two, or just eating for you? It turns out that only a third of expectant mums understand exactly what they should be eating during their pregnancy.

A survey conducted by The National Charity Partnership (made up of Diabetes UK, The British Heart Foundation and Tesco) found that many women were confused by the old fashioned advice that they should be “eating for two”.

With healthy eating information about as clear as mud, we’re sharing these top tip from nutrition experts to help you get to grips with your pregnancy meal plans.

Should I be eating for two?

Dr Helen Ford, Head of Nutrition at Glenville Nutrition Clinics, explains that growing babies only need additional food and nutrients during the last trimester.

Dr Helen said: “The emphasis should be on quality of food and not just quantity. The baby does not want ice cream and puddings and burgers, but wholesome high energy foods like oily fish which is particularly important for brain development.”

Other brilliant baby-growing foods include avocados, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, organic natural yogurt and some cheese.

eating for two

What about cravings?

Let’s be realistic: most pregnant women get the munchies. If you do find you have cravings, Dr Helen says they may not be due to real hunger, but a lack of the right vitamins and minerals in your diet.

“Nutritional deficiencies including zinc, chromium and B vitamins which can encourage cravings through pregnancy,” says Helen. “I recommend NHP Fertility Support for the first trimester and NHP Ante Natal Support thereafter, to help control your food intake.

“It is important to avoid sugary, fatty foods that won’t provide any nutritional benefit and just make it harder to lose the post-baby weight. Over-eating on highly processed, sugary and refined food may also put the expectant mother at risk of developing gestational diabetes.”

Square meals for budding bellies

Pregnant or not, we all know we should be eating carefully balanced meals to help us stay healthy, but pregnancy gives us a little extra incentive to think about what we’re eating.

Dr Marilyn Glenville PHD, one of the UK’s leading nutritionists and author or Getting Pregnant Faster, shares her recommended list of top foods for expectant mothers:

Complex Carbohydrates (Low GI): These are the body’s primary source of fuel and provide slow releasing energy.  They are also a good source of fibre and help to prevent constipation.

Good sources include brown rice, oats and wholegrain bread.

eating for two

Calcium: Calcium is needed for healthy bone formation and for controlling blood-clotting mechanisms.  If there is not enough calcium in the mother’s diet it will be taken from her bones.  Mothers are believed to lose up to 7% of their calcium stores during pregnancy.

Good sources include hard cheese, soya, salmon and sardines, green vegetables, almonds, pumpkin seeds, cooked dried beans.

Vitamin K: 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 some foods.

Good sources include cauliflower and all the green leafy vegetables.

eating for two

Fibre: Fibre is important during pregnancy to maintain a healthy bowel and prevent constipation (particularly prevalent towards the end of the pregnancy).  Straining can often lead to post-natal piles. Good soluble fibre can keep the stools soft and moving but avoid bran.

Good sources include whole grains, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds.  You can also soak a tablespoon of whole linseeds in a glass of water overnight and swallow with an extra glass of water to help with the bowel

Healthy Fats: These provide you with energy, help to build cell walls and are used to develop your sex and stress hormones. Polyunsaturated fats and especially the Omega 6 and Omega 3 series of fats that are found in nuts, seeds and oily fish are of benefit to you and should be included in the diet.  DHA an essential fatty acid found in oily fish is very important for the development of the brain and nervous tissue of the baby.