ALCOHOL, SMOKING, CAFFEINE AND CANNABIS
ESSENTIAL VITAMINS AND MINERALS
WHAT TO EAT IN PREGNANCY
Giving up smoking
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Ask your midwife about taking a supplement of vitamin D if you don't drink milk, or eat dairy foods, or oily fish. This vitamin is absorbed through the skin via sunlight in hot countries, however, in the UK there's not much opportunity for that!
Although the availability of fast foods makes our lives so much easier, try to avoid too much processed food, refined carbohydrates - such as white flour bread, cakes and biscuits - and sugar, because most of the nutrients have been extracted before you eat them. Also keep tea, coffee and cola drinks to a minimum as they have a tendency to dehydrate and deplete iron stores. Excessive amounts of caffeine have been linked to slow fetal growth.
If you don't eat dairy foods, other foods rich in calcium include tinned fish with the bones in, soya milk, spinach, spring greens, tahini (sesame seed puree), chickpeas, kidney beans and baked beans.
A good source of iron is meat. Iron can also be obtained from fortified breakfast cereals and wholegrains, oatmeal, lentils, haricot beans, dark-green leafy, vegetables, dried fruits and eggs.
You can make the most of the iron in your diet by:
• combining iron-rich foods with those rich in vitamin C, for example, baked beans with sliced tomato, breakfast cereals with fruit, a having a wholemeal hummus salad sandwich;
• avoid drinking tea and coffee shortly before or during meals and for up to two hours afterwards. This is because they contain chemicals that reduce the amount of iron your body can absorb.
As a protection against neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, it is recommended that you take 400 microgrammes of folic acid each day as a supplement to your diet, as soon as you start planning a baby. If you're already doing this, keep going until you are 12 weeks pregnant. If you're not taking folic acid, then you should start immediately.
As well as taking folic acid tablets you need to eat more foods that are rich in folic acid such as:
• Fortified breakfast cereals, bread and other foods - look for the 'F' symbol and the words 'with extra folic acid', or 'contains folic acid';
• Green leafy vegetables (raw or lightly steamed);
• Vegetables such as peas, potatoes, beans and cauliflower;
• Tinned baked beans;
• Fruit - especially citrus and kiwi fruit.