Having a healthy diet in pregnancy

Now that you’re pregnant, it’s important to eat well. Good nutrition will keep you healthy and help your baby grow and develop.

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. Check out these healthy eating ideas for pregnancy. 

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.

Download Your guide to a healthy diet in pregnancy here.

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.

Once you get to the last few months of your pregnancy, you may need to eat a bit more. This is only around 200 extra calories a day, though, which is around 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).

Talk to your doctor or midwife about what is right for you. If you find out that you may be overweight or underweight your midwife and doctor can give you extra support and care in pregnancy.

Download your guide to a healthy weight gain in pregnancy as a pdf.

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.

Read more about having a healthy diet in pregnancy

  • 200 calorie pregnancy snacks

    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.

  • A healthy vegetarian salad with bread

    Nutrition in pregnancy

    Now that you’re pregnant, it’s important to eat well. Good nutrition will keep you healthy and help your baby grow and develop.

  • Box of fresh vegetables

    Healthy eating tips

    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.

  • Knife, fork and plate with question mark on it, drawn in white chalk on a blackboard

    Questions about diet in pregnancy

    Common questions about diet in pregnancy answered.

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    How much water should I drink?

    It's always important to have plenty of fluids during pregnancy. Not having enough to drink can affect you and your baby.

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    Campylobactor and pregnancy

    After the recent report by the Food Standards Agency into the Campylobacter bug in supermarket chicken we’ve had lots of people calling us asking whether it’s OK to eat chicken in pregnancy.

Sources

  1. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ Midwifery, 14th edition, London, Ballière Tindall, p. 197-203, 211, 424
  2. NICE (2010) ‘Weight Management Before, During and After Pregnancy’, NICE Public Health Guidelines 27: ,National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
  3. McGowan CA, et al. (2013). “Maternal dietary patterns and associated nutrient intakes during each trimester of pregnancy.” Public Health Nutrition 2013;16:97-107
  4. Rasmussen KM, et al. (2013) "Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Reexamine IOM Pregnancy Weight Guidelines 2009 Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines.”. Institute of Medicine, accessed online at
  5. NHS Start4Life [accessed 18 January 2015] ‘Your baby can tell when mum eats well – healthy eating during pregnancy’, :
  6. 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
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Last reviewed on August 1st, 2016. Next review date August 1st, 2019.

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