Eating a balanced and varied diet makes sure you have all the nutrients you and your baby need during your pregnancy. This advice is important for everyone – including your family and partner!
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.
Try to avoid eating food that has lots of sugar and salt, and choose foods from each of these groups every day – they are all important for your health now and after your baby is born.
Fruit and vegetables
Eat plenty of these, at least five portions a day. Each portion should be the size of a good adult handful, but preferably more. Choose vegetables and fruits that are different colours - orange, red, green, yellow, white and purple fruit and veg all have different nutrients so aim to 'eat a rainbow'!
Whether fresh, frozen, tinned or dried, fruit and vegetables have lots of healthy vitamins and minerals. They are also a good source of fibre, which helps prevent constipation.
Meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and pulses, nuts, seeds, tofu and other meat alternatives provide protein and the important nutrients iron and zinc. Protein builds new tissue for bones, muscles and organs, so it's vital for your baby's growth.
Eggs are a very good source of nutrients and are cheap and easy to prepare. While pregnant women have until now been advised to avoid eating raw or under-cooked eggs, new research suggests that lightly cooked eggs are safe to eat in pregnancy as long as they are of Red Lion standard.
Oily fish, such as sardines, mackerel, salmon and fresh tuna, have Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be helpful for the baby’s brain development. But you should have no more than two portions of oily fish a week.
Aim to eat protein foods twice a day.
Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
This group also includes foods such as couscous, polenta, yam and other grains and starchy roots. Starchy carbohydrate foods are packed with energy and they should make up the main part of every meal alongside fruit and vegetables.
Choose wholegrain, wholemeal or multigrain versions of foods such as bread, rice and pasta. These will give you more fibre and other nutrients and fill you up more. You can leave the skins on potatoes when you cook them as well – easier and more nutritious!
Milk and dairy foods
These include milk, cheese and yoghurt. Dairy foods are a good source of calcium, which, along with vitamin D, is important for strong bones and teeth. Choose low or reduced-fat versions and, if you are pregnant, make sure any cheese or milk you have has been pasteurised. As you need 6-8 cups or glasses of fluid a day, milk could be a good option for some of these.
Tips for getting your five a day
- Have fruit for breakfast - slice a banana or sprinkle berries into your breakfast cereal, for example.
- Cook a variety of vegetables, blend them in a food processor and add them to tomato-based sauces or stews.
- Have a salad with your midday or evening meal.
- For a snack, choose a piece of fresh fruit, a handful of dried fruit or raw vegetable sticks with some hummus for dipping.
What if I don't like vegetables?
Try some raw vegetables, such as carrots and peppers, or sweeter vegetables, such as sweetcorn. You could also add a little chopped or blended veg into sauces or stews made with tinned tomatoes – you probably won't even notice it and if you keep trying different vegetables you will probably find you, and your family, learn to like them more.
Did you know?
Potatoes, yam, plantain and cassava don't count towards your five a day because they are starchy foods.
Fruit and veg don't have to be expensive
Eat fruit and vegetables when they're in season as they'll be cheaper, and look out for offers at the supermarket or your local greengrocer. Loose fruit and vegetables are often cheaper than pre-packed, and market stalls can offer great value for money as can local vegetable and fruit box schemes and farmers markets.
Eating a balanced and varied diet makes sure you have all the nutrients you and your baby need during your pregnancy. But this should not be accompanied by feelings of guilt, or add to the pressures of staying home during the pandemic.
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- Public Health England (accessed 21 June 2017) ‘The eatwell plate: how to use it in promotional material’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-eatwell-plate-how-to-use-...
- Oyebode O, Gordon-Dseagu V, Walker A, Mindell J S (2013) ‘Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data’, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 68 (9): 856–62
- ‘NHS Choices [accessed 21 June 2017] Other vitamins and minerals’, http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Other-vitamins-mine... (Page last reviewed: 03/03/2017 Next review due: 03/03/2020).
- FSA (2016) Review of advice to consumers (including vulnerable groups) on eating raw or lightly cooked shell eggs and their products in the UK https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/help-shape-our-policies/review-of-a...
- Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ Midwifery, 14th edition, London, Ballière Tindall
ℹLast reviewed on June 27th, 2017. Next review date June 27th, 2020.