Last updated December 2011. Planned review date: December 2012
Having a balanced diet in pregnancy
During pregnancy there is a bit more to eating healthily than cutting out the junk food.
Pregnancy power snacks
• carrot sticks with hummous
• rice pudding
• cherry tomatoes
• slice of malt loaf
There are some important things you need to know about which foods are good for you and your baby, and which foods you should avoid.
Foods you should eat
Eating healthily during pregnancy is not difficult as long as you follow some basic principles. Your diet should include these food groups.
- Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, couscous, yams and other starchy foods are packed with energy and carbohydrates. They should make up the main part of every meal. Wholegrain versions are best and provide a fibre punch.
- Fruit and vegetables provide essential vitamins, minerals, plant compounds and fibre. Try to eat at least five portions of different fruits and vegetables a day – fresh, frozen, tinned and juice all count. Fruit juice only counts as one portion though, however much you drink.
- Meat, fish, eggs and beans provide protein, which is vital for the growth of your baby as it builds new tissue for bones, muscles and organs. They are also good sources of iron, which is especially important when you're pregnant. Oily fish (sardines, mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna) have Omega 3 fatty acids, which help the baby's nervous system to develop. Try to eat these twice a day.
- Milk and dairy foods, including cheese and yoghurt, area a good source of calcium – needed for strong bones and healthy teeth. Try to eat one to two portions a day.
The eatwell plate - the amount of each food type to eat
The Department of Health produced this illustration to show the portions of each type of food that should be eaten.
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Sample nutritious meals for pregnancy
- Muesli or porridge with semi-skimmed milk.
- A banana and glass of fruit juice.
- Grilled bacon and tomato on two slices of wholemeal toast, with a glass of milk.
- Two scrambled eggs on two slices of wholemeal toast. A glass of orange juice.
- Baked beans on two slices of wholemeal toast. Fruit and natural yoghurt.
- Ham and salad sandwich. Piece of fruit cake.
- Tomato soup with two slices of wholemeal bread. Apple and currant bun.
- Baked potatoes with cottage cheese and salad. Rice pudding.
- Chicken with vegetables and potatoes or rice. Stewed apple and ice-cream.
- Spaghetti cooked with half a tin of tuna and a tomato sauce. Slice of malt loaf.
Even if you're feeling nauseous, try to keep eating small nutritious meals or snacks to keep you going. See our Questions about morning sickness page for tips on coping with pregnancy nausea.
In the third trimester you should eat an extra 200 calories (on top of the 2000 daily calories recommended for women). Click here to see some healthy and nutritious 200 calorie recipes.
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Visit our Frequently asked questions about diet and weight in pregnancy page for more information.
More information on pregnancy health
NHS Choices (accessed Dec 2011) Pregnancy planner, Have a healthy diet in pregnancy, http://www.nhs.uk/Planners/pregnancycareplanner/Pages/Eating.aspx
NICE (2010) Dietary interventions and physical activity interventions for weight management before, during and after pregnancy, Public health guidance 27, p6
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