Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is especially important if you're pregnant, or planning a pregnancy. Your baby relies on you to provide the right balance of nutrients to help them grow and develop properly (even after they're born).
What food 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 bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta and noodles. Opt for wholemeal instead of refined, starchy (white) versions, when possible.
Foods in this group include meat (avoid liver), fish, poultry, eggs, beans, pulses and nuts. Protein provides the building blocks for your baby to grow.
- Aim to have 2 portions of fish each week. Make one of them an oily fish like salmon, sardines or mackerel. There are some types of fish you should avoid (shark, swordfish and marlin) if you're pregnant, or trying to conceive.
- Eggs: Make sure you buy eggs stamped with the British Lion stamp mark. There have been improved food safety controls in recent years. So infants, children and pregnant women can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked hen eggs (as long as they have the British Lion stamp), or foods containing them. 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. Read about the healthy way to eat eggs.
Dairy includes milk, cheese and yoghurt. 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.
What 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. Here's a guide on which foods to avoid in pregnancy.
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.
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Do I have to eat for two when pregnant?
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 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. Here are some delicious, nutritious and filling breakfast ideas.
Healthy Start vouchers for pregnant women
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.