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What to eat when you are expecting, and after giving birth (and what to avoid!) with Emma West

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Want to know what to eat, how your appetite might change, and what to avoid eating when pregnant, after giving birth, and if breastfeeding? Well this post is for you!

The very lovely and bubbly pre and post-natal exercise specialist, fully qualified Personal Trainer and Registered Associate Nutritionist Emma West joins me for another blog post, this time we are talking all about eating! (Click here for our last post, in which we discussed exercise and fitness advice during pregnancy and after giving birth).

Emma tells me: 

Eating, nutrition and appetite when pregnant:

"Firstly, congratulations if you are pregnant! If you are thinking about having a baby or are currently pregnant up to 12 weeks, please ensure you are taking a folate supplement to help prevent neural tube defects (such as spina bifida). So appetite when you are pregnant can vary from person to person. You might feel sick meaning you might eat more to stop it or eat less. The most important thing is not to stress about it and not to panic! You might also find your food preferences changing. You might find liking foods you previously disliked and vice versa."

"Ensure you are eating a balanced diet the best you can - eating carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein, dairy or dairy free products, fruit and vegetables. Of course having bit of what you fancy or crave as well. It is incredibly important you eat enough calcium, about 3 portions a day. If the baby doesn’t get enough, it will start to take calcium out of your bones and teeth which can leave you with brittle bones."

"Be careful of your caffeine intake, which has been linked to miscarriage and low birth weight. You should be having no more than 200mg a day - a cup of tea has 75mg and a cup of instant coffee has 100mg. All this information can be overwhelming, be aware of what you should and shouldn’t be doing and listen to your body to what it needs and wants during this time. Everybody is different as is everyone’s pregnancy and there isn’t a one size fits all."

"In regards for eating for 2 this is false! The only time you need extra calories is during your last trimester which is about an extra 200kcal - sorry for being a party pooper! Feeling sick is quite a common symptom, some women have it at the beginning of their pregnancy whilst others have it all throughout. If you do feel sick, here are some pointers which might help.

  • Eat some dry bread, biscuits or cereal before getting up in the morning. Get out of bed slowly and avoid sudden movements. Some people find eating breakfast helps.

  • Drink liquids between meals rather than with meals. As this can cause abdominal distension which can trigger vomiting.

  • Avoid large meals, greasy or highly spiced foods. Eating bland meals can help.

  • Suck on something sour such as a slice of lemon.

  • Relax, rest and get as much fresh air as possible keeping rooms well ventilated.

  • Slowly sip a fizzy drink when feeling nauseated. Some people find having a fizzy drink with a meal can help- which contradicts the earlier point! 

  • Foods and drinks containing ginger can help.

  • Eat little and often.

  • If possible, get someone else to cook your meals for you. As the smell of food cooking can make some feel sick 

"But it’s trial and error so find out what works best for you! "

Eating, nutrition and appetite after giving birth (especially when breastfeeding):

"Again try and eat a balanced and nutritional diet - what your body needs and also what you fancy like you did during pregnancy. If you nourish and care for your body that will ensure you and your baby both have everything you need. Iron is especially important during this time as women can lose a lot of blood during childbirth and it’s important to replenish your red blood cells. Be mindful of your iron intake aim to include  lean red meat, pulses or lentils, fortified cereals. But don’t go overboard you only need 18mg a day."

"Again try to limit your caffeine intake to 200mg a day as small amounts can pass through the breast milk and make baby restless. Your appetite might change due to a massive change in your life. It’s important to remember to eat and look after yourself mentally and physically. If you are not looking after yourself, how are you going to look after someone else the best you can?"

"If you are struggling to eat full meals, eat little and often and find foods that leave you feeling full and satisfied."

What should I do if I’m breast feeding?

"So, if you are breastfeeding this is the time when you do need extra calories, normally about 500kcal. Making sure you stay hydrated is very important if you are breastfeeding, if your urine is darker than a pale yellow colour it means you need to drink more! But it’s the same as above, eating a balanced diet. You want to make sure you are nourishing you and your baby."

"Don’t be worried about eating whilst baby is feeding, a lot of new mums feed their babies whilst they eat, they just cover baby up before doing so. Find snacks you enjoy such as hummus with carrots or crackers, fruit or even the occasional chocolate bar!"

Remembering to eat well as a busy mum when juggling feeding, childcare, housework or working from home:

"The best advice I can give you is to plan and be organised as you can.Make a meal plan for the week and buy what you need (this is also a good tip to save some money). A good idea is to get all the family involved in picking meal ideas, to help keep everyone interested in meal times. You could bulk cook meals and freeze some as well as picking meals which aren’t complex to cook, such as a stir fry or a slow cooker meal ( if you have one). If there are other adults in the house, take it in turns to cook."


"Just remember no one is perfect, juggling lots of things is hard. Some days you might have fish fingers, chips and beans for dinner and other days a home cooked meal - there is nothing wrong with that and please don’t feel guilty for doing so!"

Thank you so much Emma, once again really helpful and positive advice, and good to hear it straight from a professional! Emma is based around Loughton, Essex, and offers pre and post-natal sessions tailored specifically to your needs. If you are looking for personal training sessions she will also bring the gym to you! Sessions take place in the comfort of your own home.  Visit Emma's website for more information and to get in touch! My next blog post will be all about Better Bedtimes, following my upcoming free online parenting surgery, and will feature guest advice from a Sleep Consultant, so check back soon! Read my other posts for more info and advice on screen time, dinner times, fussy eaters, buying pre-loved children's clothing, decluttering before your new baby, and thinking about whether or not your family could foster a child.

Visit the rest of my website to find out more about my parenting coaching services, child development, child behaviour, and positive parenting!

Get in touch for more information on any of the topics mentioned here or elsewhere on my site, I would love to hear from you!


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