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 they are safe to eat in pregnancy as long as they are of Red Lion standard. The Foods Standards Agency still advises pregnant women against eating raw or under-cooked eggs but they are currently reviewing this advice.
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 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.
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.
If you’re struggling with morning sickness, or finding it hard to get up in the morning, breakfast is probably way down your list of priorities in pregnancy. We look at why it’s worth getting up for.
How much should you eat in pregnancy? During most of your pregnancy you do not need to take in extra calories (over the recommended 2,000 a day for women). In the third trimester you should eat an extra 200 extra calories a day.
Choosing healthy foods is very important but the amount you eat is important too.
In pregnancy it's important to eat well. If you are used to eating foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat, you can make a few changes that will be good for you and your baby.
During pregnancy eating small more frequent meals can help with sickness. If you want a snack, there are lots of healthier options.
These healthy pregnancy recipes are great for your main meal of the day, when you have a little more time to prepare, cook and eat food.
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- ‘Food Fact Sheet: Fruits and vegetables – how to get five-a-day’, Birmingham, British Dietetic Association: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/FruitVeg [accessed 18 January 2015]
- ‘Other vitamins and minerals’, NHS Choices: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vitamins-minerals/Pages/Other-vitamins-minerals.aspx#zinc [accessed 18 January 2015]
- Coletta JM, Bell SJ, Roman AS (2010) ‘Omega-3 fatty acids and pregnancy’, Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology 3 (4): 163–71.
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2008) ‘Antenatal Care’, NICE Clinical Guidelines 62: http://publications.nice.org.uk/antenatal-care-cg62 [accessed 18 January 2015].
ℹLast reviewed on August 1st, 2016. Next review date August 1st, 2019.