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Dos and don'ts when you're eating for two

SO you have taken the test, and passed -- you are pregnant, congratulations! If you are still in the early stages, you probably don't feel much different, but there are some changes you will need to make to your diet to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby. If you are not already taking a folic acid supplement start now, as it can prevent neural tube defects.

Although you are now nurturing someone other than yourself, it doesn't mean you need to double the calories you consume. Actress Isla Fisher is now on her second pregnancy and looks fab while putting on some pounds. Model Alison Canavan is one yummy-mummy-to-be as she gets ready for the birth of her first child in September.

You may feel tired during the early stages of your pregnancy so you do need extra calories for increased nutrients and energy, just not double what you would normally eat. Dieticians recommend eating an extra 300 calories a day from the first three months of pregnancy onwards. To put that in perspective, there are roughly 300 calories in one cup of Fruit & Fibre cereal with a half cup of non-fat milk and a small banana.

Ideally, you should be a healthy weight while pregnant but it is important not to restrict yourself, as low calorie diets can cause problems for your unborn baby. Your GP will advise you on how much weight you should gain in your pregnancy, but it's usually between 25 and 35 pounds.

It is important that the weight is gained gradually, with most gained in the last three months of pregnancy.

Eating in moderation could save your health down the line. Women who gain more than the recommended amount during pregnancy and who don't lose this weight within six months of giving birth are at much higher risk of being obese 10 years later.

Eating during pregnancy is less about quantity and more about quality -- your body needs more vitamins and minerals for your baby to develop healthily.

Increase your fruit and vegetable intake from five to at least seven portions a day (one portion is a medium apple, one cup of vegetables). Bread, cereal and potato portions should increase from six to at least seven servings (one serving is one slice of bread, one cup of breakfast cereal or a half-cup of rice/pasta). Choose wholegrain varieties where possible.

Increase your dairy servings from three to five a day (one serving is a third of a pint of milk, a matchbox-size portion of cheese or one yoghurt) and opt for low rather than full-fat varieties. Eat three instead of two servings of meat, fish and protein daily (one serving is two to three slices of cooked lean meat or chicken, two eggs or nine dessertspoons of beans or pulses).

It is vital that all meat and fish are cooked thoroughly and it is advised that deli and luncheon meats and hotdogs should be avoided, as should soft cheeses (such as feta, brie, and goat cheese) as these can contain listeria, a form of bacteria that is harmful to unborn babies.

According to the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, pregnant women should avoid raw, cured and undercooked fish such as smoked salmon or sushi. The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) recommends that you select fish from a wide range of species but that you avoid swordfish, marlin and shark, and limit the amount of tuna you eat. You should also avoid cod liver oil and other fish-oil supplements as these can contain large amounts of vitamin A, which can be harmful.

While pregnant you should be drinking at least six glasses of water every day and this should increase by another glass for each hour of activity you undertake. Water plays a key role as it carries the nutrients from the food you eat to your baby. In addition, it helps prevent constipation, haemorrhoids, swelling, urinary tract and bladder infections and dehydration in your last three months of pregnancy. Not drinking enough water can also result in premature labour.

One of the many trials of pregnancy is nausea. Although it is most common in the earlier stages, it can last longer -- even the whole pregnancy. It happens because of all the changes going on in your body and can be triggered by smells, certain foods, stress and tiredness.

Some things can help alleviate nausea, such as eating smaller regular meals, drinking fluids between, but not with meals, avoiding greasy fried foods and strong, unpleasant odours and resting when you feel tired.

Food cravings can be a result of your body needing different nutrients while you are pregnant. Your pregnant body absorbs and metabolises nutrients differently and these changes help your baby develop and also fill the demands of breastfeeding once your baby is born, so listen to your body and give it what it needs.


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