What you eat and drink is important at any time in your life but in pregnancy it affects your baby’s health as well, when you’re pregnant and after the birth.
It can be hard to think about eating well if you’re feeling sick or tired and don’t feel like spending time cooking. Try your best to eat a range of healthy foods every day if you can.
The key to eating well is having a good variety of foods from all the different food groups every day. You can find out more about what a balanced diet is here. You don’t need to eat a special diet – there are loads of delicious, healthy foods to choose from. You should think about eating lots of different foods instead of a special diet.
There are also some foods and drinks that may carry an increased risk of problems for your baby, so it’s best to avoid these during pregnancy.
Do I need to ‘eat for two’ now I’m pregnant?
Some people may say that you should have second helpings or extra snacks because 'you're eating for two now'. This is not true! Your baby takes everything he or she needs from your body for the first six months without you needing any extra calories at all (above the 2,000 that is recommended for a woman).
Once you get to the last few months of your pregnancy, you may need to eat a little bit more. This is only around 200 extra calories a day, though, which is about half a sandwich.
How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?
It is difficult to put a number on how much weight each woman should gain when pregnant as we are all different. Your ideal weight gain will depend on your weight before you were pregnant and how active you are.
It’s very important not to try to actively lose weight by dieting when you’re pregnant. The most important thing is to keep weight gain to a safe and healthy level for you and your baby.
In the US, guidelines suggest that:
- women who are underweight, with a BMI under 18.5, should put on between 28lbs (13kg) and 40lbs (18kg)
- women in the normal weight range, with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, should put on between 25lbs (11kg)and 35lbs (16kg)
- women who are overweight, with a BMI between 25 and 29.9, should put on between 15lbs (7kg) and 25lbs (11kg)
- women who are obese, with a BMI of 30 or more, should put on between 11lbs (5kg) and 20lbs (9kg).
Healthy Start: help with healthy eating during pregnancy
Healthy Start is a government scheme that offers food vouchers to eligible pregnant women and families with a child under 4 years of age. You can use the food vouchers to buy plain milk and fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables in most local shops or supermarkets.
Healthy Start also provides vouchers that you can use to get free Healthy Start vitamins. Your midwife, GP or health visitor will be able to tell you where you can get the free vitamins locally if you are eligible. Find out more about what supplements you may need during your pregnancy.
You may be eligible for Healthy Start if you are:
- under 18 and pregnant or have children under the age of four
- 18 or over, pregnant or with children under the age of four, and getting certain benefits and/or tax credits.
Find out more about Healthy Start and to see whether you are eligible. If you want to apply, you can ask your doctor, midwife or health visitor for a Healthy Start application form or call 0345 607 6823 and ask for a form to be sent to you.
You can also fill in a form online. If you prefer, you can download the form and print it out or email it to yourself. The form has to be signed by a GP, midwife or health visitor to confirm you are ten weeks pregnant (or have children under four years of age).
Did you know?
Eating well in pregnancy can help reduce the risk of your child having diabetes and heart disease in later life.
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).
Now that you’re pregnant, it’s important to eat well. Good nutrition will keep you healthy and help your baby grow and develop.
Now you're pregnant, people may tell you to have second helpings or to eat more treats '...because you're eating for two'. It’s not true and is likely to lead to extra weight gain.
Common questions about diet in pregnancy answered.
After the recent report by the Food Standards Agency into the Campylobacter bug in supermarket chicken we’ve had lots of people asking us whether it’s OK to eat chicken in pregnancy.
Food hygiene is important for everyone but it’s particularly good to be careful how you prepare, handle and store food now you're pregnant.
Carefully reading the labels on food packets can help you pick the healthier option between similar products. They can also help you to think about the ingredients in different foods. But sometimes things are not quite as they seem.
If you have a varied and balanced vegetarian diet that includes all the food groups, you should have all the nutrients you and your baby need during your pregnancy.
There are two vitamins that are very important in pregnancy and that you can take as a supplement: folic acid and vitamin D. If you are anaemic it may be important to take an iron supplement too.
Eating well means eating a range of different kinds of food from the main food groups every day.
During pregnancy eating small more frequent meals can help with sickness. If you want a snack, there are lots of healthier options.
The big myth around eating in pregnancy is that you need to 'eat for two'.
- Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ Midwifery, 14th edition, London, Ballière Tindall, p. 197-203, 211, 424
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2010) ‘Weight Management Before, During and After Pregnancy’, NICE Public Health Guidelines 27: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph27 [accessed 20 Sept 2016] (next review date: January 2016).
- McGowan CA, et al. (2013). “Maternal dietary patterns and associated nutrient intakes during each trimester of pregnancy.” Public Health Nutrition 2013;16:97-107
- Institute of Medicine (2009) Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines.Institute of Medicine (US) and National Research Council (US) Committee to Reexamine IOM Pregnancy Weight Guidelines; Rasmussen KM, Yaktine AL, editors.
- NHS Start4Life [accessed 20 Sept 2016] ‘Healthy eating during pregnancy' https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/healthy-eating, NHS, London
- Howie GJ, et al. (2009). “Maternal nutritional history predicts obesity in adult offspring independent of postnatal diet.” The Journal of Physiology 2009;587:905-915
ℹLast reviewed on June 27th, 2017. Next review date June 27th, 2020.