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Eat & Move: Making healthy food choices whilst pregnant

This week, Derval O’Rourke is chatting about healthy food choices whilst pregnant which is really important for her at the moment as her baby bump grows! Recipe wise it’s Thai green chicken curry plus a delicious veggie tomato sauce.

Eating a healthy, balanced and varied diet is important no matter what life stage you are at. However, during pregnancy it becomes even more important as it ensures you have a good store of nutrients to meet the demands of your developing baby and keeps you healthy well. This is what a healthy and balanced pregnancy diet looks like for me:

1) Fruit and vegetables:

These are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Guidelines recommend 5-9 portions per day. I find that having 1/3 of my plate with vegetables or salad at each meal is a helpful guide. Plus filling up on fruit or veggie based snacks like an apple with nut butter or carrot sticks with hummus between meals ensures I meet these targets each day.

2) Protein:

Eating a variety of different protein sources including meat, fish, eggs and pulses is important as our bodies need protein to grow and repair. I aim to fill around a 1/3 of my plate to ensure I meet my requirements and choose protein rich snacks for an extra boost if needed for example after a workout. I pay special attention to fish as experts advise us to eat two portions a week, one of which is oily (salmon, mackerel or sardines). These oily fish contain the omega 3fats ‘DHA’ and ‘EPA’ which aid your baby’s brain and eye development and are a good dietary source of vitamin D, protein and iron. If you don’t eat fish at all, you can include eggs with added omega 3 and include flaxseed (linseed).

3) Dairy:

Dairy foods are rich in calcium which is needed to help control your blood pressure and for your baby’s bone development plus muscle function. Aim for three portions per day which looks like a 125g pot of yogurt, 300ml of milk or one matchbox size of cheese. A top tip would be that if you really don’t feel like eating but know you need some nourishment, a glass of milk is ideal as it will provide you with calcium, protein and slow release energy plus it will keep you hydrated.

4) Wholegrain carbohydrates:

These will release energy slowly and keep you fuelled all day. Aim to fill about 1/3 of your plate with sweet potato, oats, quinoa , wholemeal pasta and brown/wholemeal bread. This will provide your body with vitamins, fibre and energy you and your baby need to thrive.

5) Stay hydrated:

As a guide, aim for your urine to be pale rather than darker, this means focus on staying hydrated. I know this can be challenging when pregnant as you might need to use the toilet far more than normal but it is really worth remembering to keep those fluid levels topped up.

6) Be mindful of eating rubbish:

Try to avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar and calories such as biscuits, chocolate and sweets. Again for me this was challenging because in my first trimester I wanted all this type of food. It helped me to remember those foods won’t nourish me or the baby. I have to work really hard not to eat crap food whilst pregnant and I always try to ask myself what will nourish me rather than make me feel a bit sluggish afterwards.

I focus on my food first when pregnant but then I support it with various supplements. The key nutrients I focus on in pregnancy include:

  • Folic acid – I supplemented this in the lead up to becoming pregnant and after I was pregnant, both on my first pregnancy and on this pregnancy. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects (NTD) such as spina bifida. The guidelines are a 400µg folic acid supplement daily before stopping contraception and up to the 12th week of pregnancy to help the development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord.
  • Vitamin D–I supplement vitamin D regardless of whether I’m pregnant or not but it’s something I continue to supplement whilst pregnant. Vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption for you and your baby. Include foods rich in vitamin D such as oily fish and fortified milk. A daily vitamin D supplement of 5µg is generally recommended during pregnancy.
  • Multivitamin/minerals- I’m currently using a multivitamin supplement and chose one that is specific for pregnancy. There are great products on the market, research them and chat to your pharmacist before choosing one.
  • Fish Oil Supplement- I’ve taken a fish oil supplement whilst pregnant before and again I’m taking it now with this pregnancy. What I look out for is a high quality supplement and one that is suitable whilst pregnant. It’s a good idea to chat to your pharmacist when choosing one.
  • Fitspiration:


    This is a great resource for any pregnant lady. It gives great ideas on nutrition and practical advice. It is from registered dietitian Nicola Whitehead. She has documented her pregnancy and her expert tips are really valuable.

    Hidden veggie tomato sauce

    As a mum to a three-year-old I’m very aware of the challenges of getting her to eat vegetables. My daughter is definitely in a ‘fussy’ phase and I make this tomato-based sauce as a tasty way to sneak vegetables into her diet.

    This sauce is really versatile. It can be used as a base for bolognaise, lasagne or even burritos.

    It freezes well and it is worth making in a big quantity and dividing up into portions.

    Prep time: 5minutes

    Cook time: 20-25 minutes

    Serves: This makes a large jar of sauce

    Nutritional information:

    Protein – 7g

    Fat – 14g

    Carbohydrates – 38g

    Calories – 295

    1 tbsp olive oil

    1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped

    1 celery stick, finely chopped

    1 onion, finely chopped

    1 red pepper, deseeded and diced

    3 garlic cloves, crushed

    400g tin tomatoes

    1 tbsp dried oregano

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

    Add the carrot, celery, onion, pepper, oregano and garlic and cook for about 6 minute, add a dash of water if the pan becomes dry.

    Add in the tomatoes and 300 mills of water.

    Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree the sauce until it is smooth.

    Simple Thai green chicken curry

    This is a really handy curry recipe to have. It uses lots of store cupboard ingredients and can be whipped up in no time at all.

    If I’m in a rush I serve this with some microwavable wholegrain rice or straight to wok noodles. Great for mid week eating.

    Prep time: 5 minutes

    Cook time: 25- 30 minutes

    Serves: 4

    Nutritional information(not including rice):

    Protein – 24g

    Fat – 30g

    Carbohydrates – 3g

    Calories – 365

    2 tbsp olive oil

    4 chicken breasts cut into chunks

    2 tbsp Thai green curry paste

    2 tbsp tomato puree

    1 tin of coconut milk

    1 stick of cinnamon

    ½ a red chili, halved, seeds removed and finely chopped

    To serve:

    Handful of flaked almonds

    Brown rice

    Heat the oil in a large pan or wok on a medium heat. Add the green curry paste and stir fry for 1–2 minutes, or until fragrant.

    Add the chicken and stir until coated in the curry paste. Continue to stir-fry for 1–2 minutes or until the chicken has browned on all sides.

    Add the coconut milk, tomato puree, chilli and cinnamon stick and stir well.

    Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10–15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through.

    To serve, spoon the rice into serving bowls, then ladle over the Thai green chicken curry. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and enjoy.

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