Healthy eating in pregnancy
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is especially important if you're pregnant or planning to be.
Your baby relies on you to provide the right balance of nutrients to help them grow and develop properly (even after they're born).
Which foods should I eat in pregnancy?
You don't need to spend lots of money, or go on a special diet – you just need a balance of the right types of food. These include:
Fruit and vegetables
Aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. Fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced can be part of your daily allowance – try to avoid anything with added salt or sugar.
Starchy foods (carbohydrates)
These types of food are an important source of energy, certain vitamins and fibre. They include:
- breakfast cereals
Try to choose wholemeal instead of refined, starchy (white) foods.
Protein provides the building blocks for your baby to grow. Foods in this group include:
- meat (avoid liver)
Have no more than 2 portions of oily fish each week. Make one of them an oily fish like salmon, sardines or mackerel.
There are some types of fish you should avoid (raw shellfish, shark, swordfish and marlin) if you're pregnant or trying to conceive.
Hen eggs produced under the British Lion Code of Practice (stamped with the red lion) or produced under the Laid in Britain scheme, are considered very low risk for salmonella and safe to eat raw or partially cooked.
Any hen eggs that are not British Lion eggs or produced under the Laid in Britain scheme, should be well cooked. Other types of eggs, including duck, quail and goose eggs, should also be well cooked.
If you have a severely weakened immune system or are on a medically supervised diet prescribed by health professionals, you should cook all eggs thoroughly.
These products contain calcium and other essential nutrients. When possible, choose low-fat varieties, such as semi-skimmed, 1% fat or skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurt and reduced-fat hard cheese.
If you prefer dairy alternatives, such as soya drinks and yoghurts, opt for unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.
Which foods should I avoid?
There are certain foods that you should avoid while you're pregnant as they can put your baby's health at risk. These include some types of cheese and raw or undercooked meat. Have a look at which foods to avoid in pregnancy on the NHS website.
Cutting down on salt
It's a good idea to cut down on salt during pregnancy. Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure (although high blood pressure in pregnancy can also be caused by other things). High blood pressure can increase your risk of developing heart disease or stroke.
Should I eat for 2?
No – this is a myth! Being pregnant, you'll obviously be more hungry than usual, but even if you are expecting twins or more, you don't need to eat extra portions.
In the final 3 months of your pregnancy, you'll need an extra 200 calories a day – that's the same as 2 slices of wholemeal toast and margarine.
Healthy Start vouchers
You may be entitled to Healthy Start vouchers. These can be used to buy milk, and plain, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables in local shops. You can also get vouchers for free vitamins. Find out if you are entitled to Healthy Start vouchers.
Healthy eating tip
Try starting the day with a healthy breakfast. This should help you snack less between meals – especially on foods that are high in fat and sugar. Have a look at Tommy's 5 easy breakfast ideas in pregnancy.