Vitamin C helps to absorb the iron in vegetables. Take good vitamin C sources daily:
- oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, lemons, limes, strawberries, melon, kiwi or vitamin C fortified fruit juice
- green, red, yellow peppers or fresh tomatoes
If you are taking an iron supplement, wait 30 to 60 minutes after a meal before taking it, as some foods can reduce the amount of iron you can absorb. It can also help to take your supplement with some vitamin C.
Iron supplements can stop some blood pressure medications or thyroid medications from working properly. Take your iron tablet and any other medications you have been prescribed at least two hours apart.
3. Calcium and vitamin D
Calcium is an important mineral for healthy bones and teeth and for regulating blood pressure. Foods that have a lot of calcium are milk, cheese, yoghurt, fortified soya milks and fortified orange juice. Take three portions of these foods every day. If you are having twins or more, or if you are a teenager, take 5 portions daily.
One portion of calcium rich food is:
- 200 ml fortified cow’s milk or calcium-fortified milk alternative
- 30 g cheese
- 125 g yoghurt
- 45 g tinned sardines (eaten with the small, soft bones)
You also need vitamin D to absorb the calcium from your diet. Vitamin D may also help support your immune system and general health. All pregnant women should take a supplement of10 µg (400 IU) Vitamin D daily and choose foods rich in vitamin D (salmon, mackerel, sardines, milk, spreads with vitamin D).
4. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, are important for your heart and for baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system development. Aim to eat salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout or herring once weekly. If you do not eat fish, take a vitamin and mineral supplement made for pregnancy that contains iodine and omega-3s.
Some types of fish contain too much mercury or other toxins that may be harmful to your baby. Do not eat shark, marlin, ray or swordfish. Only eat one tuna steak or two cans (140 g drained weight) of tuna in a week. This also applies if you are breastfeeding.
Iodine is important for your baby’s brain development. Fish and dairy products are rich sources of iodine and should be included in your diet.
Vegetarian and vegan
If you are vegetarian and your diet is varied and balanced, you will get enough nutrients for you and your baby during pregnancy. However, it can be hard to get enough iron, iodine, vitamin D and vitamin B12 from a vegetarian or vegan diet. Take a complete vitamin and mineral supplement that is made for pregnancy to ensure you are meeting your needs for these essential vitamins and minerals.
Other special diets
If you follow another type of restricted diet because of food intolerance (for example, coeliac disease) or for religious reasons, talk to your doctor or midwife. The dietitian can advise you on how to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need for yourself and your baby.