Published Mon, 2012-02-13 17:15; updated 35 weeks ago.
A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any time, but especially vital if you're pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
Eating healthily during pregnancy will help your baby to develop and grow, and will keep you fit and well.
You don’t need to go on a special diet, but it's important to eat a variety of different foods every day in order to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby need.
Have a healthy breakfast every day because this helps to prevent you eating snacks and fatty and sugary foods later in the day.
Certain foods must be avoided in pregnancy.
There’s no need to eat for two when you're pregnant.
Even if you have a multiple pregnancy with twins or triplets, it's the quality of food that's important, not the amount.
With a few exceptions, you can continue to eat all the foods you enjoy. Eating healthily often means just changing the amounts of different foods you eat so that your diet is varied, rather than cutting out all your favourites.
- Fruit and vegetables. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables because these provide vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre, which helps digestion and prevents constipation. Cook vegetables lightly in a little water, or eat them raw but well washed, to get the benefit of the nutrients they contain. Frozen, tinned and dried fruit and vegetables are good too. Eat at least five portions a day.
- Carbohydrates. Starchy foods (carbohydrates) are an important source of vitamins and fibre. They include bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, maize, millet, oats, sweet potatoes, yams and cornmeal. These foods should be the main part of every meal. Eat wholemeal instead of processed (white) varieties.
- Protein. This includes meat (but avoid liver), fish, poultry, eggs, beans, pulses and nuts. These foods are all good sources of nutrients, so eat some every day. Choose lean meat, remove the skin from poultry (such as chicken and turkey), and cook it using only a little fat. Try to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish such as sardines or mackerel. If you eat a lot of fish, choose a variety of different kinds to make sure that your diet is balanced. There are some types of fish you should avoid in pregnancy: see Take care with some foods.
- Dairy. Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese, fromage frais and yoghurt, are important because they contain calcium and other nutrients that your baby needs. Choose low-fat varieties wherever possible. For example, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurt and half-fat hard cheese. Aim for two to three portions a day. There are some cheeses to avoid: see Take care with some foods.
- Foods that are high in sugar or fat. This includes all spreading fats, oils, salad dressings, cream, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries, icecream, cake, puddings and fizzy drinks. If you can't stop eating these foods, eat only a small amount. Sugar contains calories without providing any other nutrients, and can contribute to weight gain, obesity and tooth decay. Fat is very high in calories. Too much can increase the risk of heart disease and contribute to being overweight. To reduce fat, avoid fried foods, trim the fat off meat, and use spreads sparingly.
If you get hungry between meals, don't eat snacks that are high in fat and/or sugar, such as sweets, biscuits, crisps or chocolate. Instead, choose from the following nutritious snacks:
- Sandwiches or pitta bread filled with grated cheese, lean ham, mashed tuna, salmon or sardines and salad.
- Salad vegetables, such as carrot, celery or cucumber.
- Low-fat yoghurt or fromage frais.
- Hummus and bread or vegetable sticks.
- Ready-to-eat apricots, figs or prunes.
- Vegetable and bean soups.
- Unsweetened breakfast cereals or porridge, and milk.
- Milky drinks or unsweetened fruit juices.
- Fresh fruit.
- Baked beans on toast or a baked potato.
Preparing food safely
- Wash fruit, vegetables and salads to remove all traces of soil, which may contain toxoplasma, a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis can harm your unborn baby.
- Throw away any leftover food within 24 hours.
- Wash all surfaces and utensils, and your hands, after preparing raw meat. This will help to avoid toxoplasmosis.
- Make sure that raw foods are stored separately from ready-to-eat foods, otherwise there's a risk of contamination. This is to avoid other types of food poisoning from meat (salmonella, campylobacter and E.coli 0157). Use a separate chopping board for raw meats.
- Heat ready meals until they're piping hot all the way through. This is especially important for meals containing poultry, such as chicken or turkey.
Due for review February 2013