Children's cookery author Annabel Karmel discusses her new book Eating For Two, which guides expectant mothers through the nutritional minefield that is pregnancy, and suggests ideas and recipes for everything from morning sickness to sleeplessness.

By Lisa Salmon.

For many mothers-to-be, eating for two is one of the joys of pregnancy.

But research clearly demonstrates that expectant mums who eat too much and pile on the pounds are at increased risk of pregnancy complications, whereas those who eat healthily and manage their weight are at much less risk.

It's with such health messages in mind that best-selling children's cookery writer Annabel Karmel has taken a slight detour from her usual direction and produced a book about eating during pregnancy.

The book, Eating For Two, features 94 healthy recipes and information about nutrition during all three pregnancy trimesters.

Karmel, a mother of three, explains that she wanted to write the definitive book giving pregnant women all the advice they need, with delicious recipes as well.

"I just thought if I could write that for pregnant mothers, it would be incredibly useful," she says.

However, she's keen to stress that while pregnant women should eat well, that doesn't mean eating twice as much as usual.

"Doctors focus very much on the baby," she says, "and nobody's watching the amount of weight the mother's gaining.

"There are no clear guidelines in this country as to the rate of weight gain during pregnancy, and obstetricians have told me they've never seen so many fat pregnant women.

"They throw away the diet book and the scales, don't care how much they eat, and don't realise that you don't need to eat for two."

She says the only time a pregnant woman needs to eat more is during the last trimester, when she should eat an extra 200 calories a day.

"Women are becoming fat during their pregnancy and can't shift the weight afterwards, so there's more pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes," she says.

She stresses that pregnant women need a good-quality diet, with iron, calcium and essential fatty acids, and should take folic acid and vitamin D supplements.

"You need to think about the foods you're eating a bit more carefully. It's quality, not quantity."

Karmel's recipes feature a range of nutrient-dense foods such as oily fish, which contains omega 3 fats which help form the baby's brain, nerve and eye tissue.

Many featured foods contain iron, which is important for mum and baby's blood, the placenta and baby's iron stores, or fibre, which helps pregnant women avoid constipation.

The book also includes useful nuggets such as the 'Top 10 ways to beat morning sickness', which suggests eating small high-carbohydrate snacks every hour, having a sip of a fizzy drink when feeling nauseous, and eating ginger, which has anti-nausea properties.

As well as helpful information about healthy BMI (body mass index), different food groups and pregnancy supernutrients (folic acid, vitamins C and D, omega 3 fats, iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc), there are also a number of pregnancy mythbusters, including 'Do cravings mean our body is missing nutrients?'

The answer is probably not - research shows it's likely to be connected to iron deficiency.

Karmel explains that the book is really an extension of what she already does - she's previously written 26 books focused on baby and toddler meals and nutrition.

"For me, it's still feeding a baby," she says, "but at a very vulnerable time in their life when they're inside you.

"It's looking after the pregnant mother, and it also gave me the chance to develop recipes for adults, which I love to do."

Recipes include breakfasts such as cinnamon almond granola or banana bread; main meals including quick creamy chicken curry, fillet steak with wild mushrooms and tarragon sauce, and sticky tuna and ribbon noodles; snacks including mango and banana smoothie and English muffin pizzas; and yummy desserts such as lemon souffle pudding and coffee and walnut cake.

"I hope they'll become favourite recipes for after women have had their baby too," says Karmel, "as they're feeding their baby and they need to eat well then too, particularly if they're breastfeeding."

She's also included plenty of recipes that can be frozen, as after the birth, when women are looking after baby and possibly breastfeeding, they often don't have time to cook, despite the fact that a healthy diet is still essential.

Karmel points out that what to eat and avoid can be very confusing for pregnant mums - what cheeses can they eat, is sushi OK, can they eat peanuts?

"Some things have changed," she explains.

"A few years ago pregnant mums were being told not to eat peanuts or peanut butter, but now they actively encourage you to eat them if you're not allergic, to desensitise your baby.

"I include quite a few recipes with nuts - such as chicken satay, which is delicious and nutritious."

She adds: "It was a pleasure writing this book, because I've had to write books for children for so long. I cook from it most nights now, because the recipes are easy and quick."