Oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, fresh tuna, pilchards, herring and mackerel contain omega 3 which are helpful as they contribute to healthy development of the brain and retina. They should, however, be limited to 2 portions a week because they can contain mercury and a small amount of pollutants which can be harmful.
A portion is roughly 140g which equates to a small deck of playing cards. Whilst tinned tuna is not classed as an oily fish, it can also contain mercury so no more than 4 tins should be consumed each week.
Too much caffeine in pregnancy is associated with low birth weight and can even lead to miscarriage. Whilst it is not necessary to eliminate it, guidelines recommend that you do not exceed 200mg per day. This equates to:
• 2 mugs of instant coffee (100mg each)
• 1 mug of filter coffee (140mg each)
• 2 mugs of tea (75mg each)
• 5 cans of cola (up to 40mg each)
4 (50g) bars of plain chocolate. Caffeine in milk chocolate is about half that of plain chocolate.
Of course this doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy those important coffee shop meetings with fellow new mums to be but you may want to consider caffeine free alternatives such as herbal or fruit teas.
Much like caffeine, alcohol can increase the risks of a low birth weight and miscarriage. Excessive amounts can also lead to foetal alcohol syndrome.
It is probably advisable to refrain as much as possible throughout pregnancy but the guidelines advise no more than 1 or 2 units of alcohol, once or twice a week and certainly don’t get drunk!
A unit equates to half a pint of standard strength beer, lager or cider (stronger versions will be more) or a pub measure of spirit. A medium glass of wine is about 2 units and alco-pops are about 1.5 units.
In short, whilst caffeine and alcohol are fine in small amounts whilst pregnant, it is best to limit these as much as possible. Unlike oily fish, they don’t offer any nutritional advantage to your unborn baby. With that said, if the thought of no tea or a glass of wine for 9 months creates stress or anxiety then you are better off having them in small amounts. Just make sure you don’t exceed the guidelines to maximise your chances of a smooth pregnancy, labour and a healthy baby.
So, now you know what foods are best to eat an abundance of, what foods to avoid and which ones to limit but what about all of those other foods you have been told to avoid….? For a break down of some of the pregnancy nutrition myths please read Part 4.