The developing foetus requires specific nutrients for healthy growth and development, so a well-balanced diet during pregnancy is essential to meet those needs. While in an ideal world, everybody should eat a well-balanced diet, rich in essential nutrients, the expectant mother needs an even greater supply to accommodate the needs of her growing foetus. What may be an adequate diet for most people may not be adequate for a pregnant woman. Vitamins are responsible for maintaining normal growth; severe vitamin deficiency can cause birth abnormalities.The developing foetus requires specific nutrients for healthy growth and development, so a well-balanced diet during pregnancy is essential to meet those needs. While in an ideal world, everybody should eat a well-balanced diet, rich in essential nutrients, the expectant mother needs an even greater supply to accommodate the needs of her growing foetus. What may be an adequate diet for most people may not be adequate for a pregnant woman. Vitamins are responsible for maintaining normal growth; severe vitamin deficiency can cause birth abnormalities.

A healthy balanced diet is made up of carbohydrates, protein and fats. All of these come in a variety of forms and it is important to eat them in the correct form to ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals.A healthy balanced diet is made up of carbohydrates, protein and fats. All of these come in a variety of forms and it is important to eat them in the correct form to ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals.

1 - Carbohydrates - which include starches, sugars and fibres are the main providers of energy. They are best eaten unrefined, with "nothing added and nothing taken away", as processing removes many vital nutrients as well as much of the fibre that can help prevent constipation.Carbohydrates - which include starches, sugars and fibres are the main providers of energy. They are best eaten unrefined, with "nothing added and nothing taken away", as processing removes many vital nutrients as well as much of the fibre that can help prevent constipation.

Food to eat - complex carbohydrates, such as fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrains such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta.Food to eat - complex carbohydrates, such as fresh fruit and vegetables and wholegrains such as wholemeal bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta.

Foods to avoid - simple carbohydrates such as white sugar, white flour and bread, white pasta and sweets. These simply add ‘empty' calories without providing any goodness.Foods to avoid - simple carbohydrates such as white sugar, white flour and bread, white pasta and sweets. These simply add ‘empty' calories without providing any goodness.

2 - Proteins - are the building blocks for the body, used for building and repairing cells, enzymes, muscles, organs, tissues and hair. Protein is utilised more efficiently during pregnancy, less being used for energy and more being stored for use by the baby. So the recommended intake goes up only slightly during pregnancy. It is important that the protein is of good quality, and that the vitamin and mineral deficiency does not impede the body's utilisation of the protein.Proteins - are the building blocks for the body, used for building and repairing cells, enzymes, muscles, organs, tissues and hair. Protein is utilised more efficiently during pregnancy, less being used for energy and more being stored for use by the baby. So the recommended intake goes up only slightly during pregnancy. It is important that the protein is of good quality, and that the vitamin and mineral deficiency does not impede the body's utilisation of the protein.

Foods to eat - Include lean fresh (preferably organic) meat, poultry, offal, fish, milk, eggs and cheese. Excellent quality protein is obtained from combining vegetarian sources, such as nuts with pulses, nuts with seeds or pulses with seeds. This also avoids the high fat intake that comes with eating too much red meat.Foods to eat - Include lean fresh (preferably organic) meat, poultry, offal, fish, milk, eggs and cheese. Excellent quality protein is obtained from combining vegetarian sources, such as nuts with pulses, nuts with seeds or pulses with seeds. This also avoids the high fat intake that comes with eating too much red meat.

Foods to avoid - Processed meats and meat with a high fat content, such as paté, sausage, salami and burgers.Foods to avoid - Processed meats and meat with a high fat content, such as paté, sausage, salami and burgers.

3 - Fats - provide energy and build cell walls, but there are good and bad fats. The essential fats, linoleic and linolenic acid are found in most of the body's cells, especially the brain, and play an important role in many of the body's mechanisms, including making healthy arteries, allergic reactions and making the sex hormones.Fats - provide energy and build cell walls, but there are good and bad fats. The essential fats, linoleic and linolenic acid are found in most of the body's cells, especially the brain, and play an important role in many of the body's mechanisms, including making healthy arteries, allergic reactions and making the sex hormones.

Foods to eat - seeds and nuts, as well as sunflower, sesame and soya oil, are all good sources, but heating causes oxidation (makes them rancid), so cooking with these should be avoided. It is important to buy cold-pressed oils and store them in the fridge. Oily fish such as mackerel and tuna are useful sources of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docasahexaenoic acid (DHA).Foods to eat - seeds and nuts, as well as sunflower, sesame and soya oil, are all good sources, but heating causes oxidation (makes them rancid), so cooking with these should be avoided. It is important to buy cold-pressed oils and store them in the fridge. Oily fish such as mackerel and tuna are useful sources of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docasahexaenoic acid (DHA).

During the first trimester, all the organs of the baby's body, as well as its hands, feet and limbs, are formed. It is a period of incredibly rapid growth spurts and in many ways the most crucial stage of the baby's development. Specific nutrients are needed, though it should never be forgotten that nutrients do not work in isolation, but interact with each other in a complex synergy.During the first trimester, all the organs of the baby's body, as well as its hands, feet and limbs, are formed. It is a period of incredibly rapid growth spurts and in many ways the most crucial stage of the baby's development. Specific nutrients are needed, though it should never be forgotten that nutrients do not work in isolation, but interact with each other in a complex synergy.

Vitamin A - is vital for proper foetal growth and in particular the development of the eyes. It needs to work in balance with other nutrients, in particular zinc, B complex and vitamins C, D and E. It can be obtained from animal products in the form of retinol, or from vegetables in the form of beta-carotene, which the body changes with the help of zinc into proplasma vitamin A (long slow cooking of vegetables destroys beta-carotene).Vitamin A - is vital for proper foetal growth and in particular the development of the eyes. It needs to work in balance with other nutrients, in particular zinc, B complex and vitamins C, D and E. It can be obtained from animal products in the form of retinol, or from vegetables in the form of beta-carotene, which the body changes with the help of zinc into proplasma vitamin A (long slow cooking of vegetables destroys beta-carotene).

(Good food sources - fish oils, egg yolk, butter, cheese and yoghurt, carrots, spinach, red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, apples, apricots and mangoes.)(Good food sources - fish oils, egg yolk, butter, cheese and yoghurt, carrots, spinach, red peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, apples, apricots and mangoes.)

B Vitamins - should always be taken as B complex (in conjunction with other B vitamins), as their functions are linked and dosing with one may lead to a deficiency of others. The body's need for all of them increases during pregnancy, and deficiencies have been linked with birth abnormalities such as cleft palate and shortened limbs.B Vitamins - should always be taken as B complex (in conjunction with other B vitamins), as their functions are linked and dosing with one may lead to a deficiency of others. The body's need for all of them increases during pregnancy, and deficiencies have been linked with birth abnormalities such as cleft palate and shortened limbs.

(Good food sources - brewers yeast, molasses, egg yolks, wholegrains, wheatgerm, rice, pulses and green vegetables, bananas, papaya, dried peaches and prunes)(Good food sources - brewers yeast, molasses, egg yolks, wholegrains, wheatgerm, rice, pulses and green vegetables, bananas, papaya, dried peaches and prunes)

Folic acid - Deficiency of folic acid has been linked to defects such as spina bifida, a condition where the spinal cord does not develop properly. Mothers who supplement folic acid and vitamin B12 before conception and during the first 3 months of pregnancy have a lower incidence of neural tube defects.Folic acid - Deficiency of folic acid has been linked to defects such as spina bifida, a condition where the spinal cord does not develop properly. Mothers who supplement folic acid and vitamin B12 before conception and during the first 3 months of pregnancy have a lower incidence of neural tube defects.

Folic acid is destroyed by sunlight, heat and an acid environment and the use of antibiotics also leads to deficiency. Supplementation of 400µg a day is recommended from before conception up until the end of the first trimester.Folic acid is destroyed by sunlight, heat and an acid environment and the use of antibiotics also leads to deficiency. Supplementation of 400µg a day is recommended from before conception up until the end of the first trimester.

(Good food sources - green leafy vegetables, brewer's yeast, wholegrains, wheatgerm, milk, salmon, root vegetables and nuts).(Good food sources - green leafy vegetables, brewer's yeast, wholegrains, wheatgerm, milk, salmon, root vegetables and nuts).

Vitamin C - helps to boost the immune system and increase resistance to viruses and toxins. It is needed to make healthy collagen (body's connective tissue), and it aids the absorption of iron and so prevents anaemia. Deficiency has been linked to miscarriage.Vitamin C - helps to boost the immune system and increase resistance to viruses and toxins. It is needed to make healthy collagen (body's connective tissue), and it aids the absorption of iron and so prevents anaemia. Deficiency has been linked to miscarriage.

(Good food sources - citrus fruits, blackcurrants, melons, pineapple, bananas, raspberries, apples, pears, prunes, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers, green vegetables such as brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, parsley, alfalfa and rose hips.)(Good food sources - citrus fruits, blackcurrants, melons, pineapple, bananas, raspberries, apples, pears, prunes, tomatoes, potatoes, green peppers, green vegetables such as brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, parsley, alfalfa and rose hips.)

Vitamin E - this is important in the development of the heart, to help get oxygen to cells and to protect RNA and DNA from damage that could cause congenital defects in the baby. It also helps the utilisation of fatty acids and selenium.Vitamin E - this is important in the development of the heart, to help get oxygen to cells and to protect RNA and DNA from damage that could cause congenital defects in the baby. It also helps the utilisation of fatty acids and selenium.

(Good food sources - unrefined cold pressed oils, wholegrains, wheatgerm, nuts, green leafy vegetables, avocados, molasses and eggs)(Good food sources - unrefined cold pressed oils, wholegrains, wheatgerm, nuts, green leafy vegetables, avocados, molasses and eggs)

Iron - the volume of blood circulating round the body increases during pregnancy, to help get oxygen to the placenta. Iron is needed to make haemoglobin, the substance in the red blood cells that carries oxygen. Deficiency can lead to weakness, excessive tiredness, depression, headache, confusion and memory loss. Iron supplementation on its own is not effective as it needs to work with other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C in particular helps the body to absorb iron, as for example taking a glass of fresh orange with an egg yolk.Iron -the volume of blood circulating round the body increases during pregnancy, to help get oxygen to the placenta. Iron is needed to make haemoglobin, the substance in the red blood cells that carries oxygen. Deficiency can lead to weakness, excessive tiredness, depression, headache, confusion and memory loss. Iron supplementation on its own is not effective as it needs to work with other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C in particular helps the body to absorb iron, as for example taking a glass of fresh orange with an egg yolk.

(Good food sources - molasses, wholegrains, wheatgerm, lean red meat, poultry, almonds, egg yolk, wholegrains, avocadoes, dried fruits such as figs, currants and apricots, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, watercress and parsley).(Good food sources - molasses, wholegrains, wheatgerm, lean red meat, poultry, almonds, egg yolk, wholegrains, avocadoes, dried fruits such as figs, currants and apricots, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, watercress and parsley).

Zinc - In addition to its role in preventing defects and low birthweight in the newborn, zinc is needed for cell division and growth, for maintaining hormone levels and to keep the immune system healthy. Zinc deficiency inhibits metabolism of vitamin A and may also be one of the causes of morning sickness. The best dietary sources are meat and poultry, so vegetarians are likely to be zinc deficient.Zinc - In addition to its role in preventing defects and low birthweight in the newborn, zinc is needed for cell division and growth, for maintaining hormone levels and to keep the immune system healthy. Zinc deficiency inhibits metabolism of vitamin A and may also be one of the causes of morning sickness. The best dietary sources are meat and poultry, so vegetarians are likely to be zinc deficient.

(Good food sources - meat and poultry, fish, shellfish (particularly oysters), ginger, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin and sprouted seeds, almonds and other nuts, soya beans, fruit, leafy vegetables, watercress, wheat and oatgerm, wholegrains and brewer's yeast. the citric acid in organs increases zinc absorption.(Good food sources - meat and poultry, fish, shellfish (particularly oysters), ginger, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin and sprouted seeds, almonds and other nuts, soya beans, fruit, leafy vegetables, watercress, wheat and oatgerm, wholegrains and brewer's yeast. the citric acid in organs increases zinc absorption.

 

Foods to avoid - these include saturated fats (from animal sources), which provide energy but should only be eaten in small quantities or in low fat forms, such as skimmed milk, lean meat and low fat cheese. Processed foods tend to be high in saturated fat).Foods to avoid - these include saturated fats (from animal sources), which provide energy but should only be eaten in small quantities or in low fat forms, such as skimmed milk, lean meat and low fat cheese. Processed foods tend to be high in saturated fat).