If you're pregnant, it's important you eat a well-balanced and nutritious diet, to help make sure your baby gets all the nutrients it needs to grow. Eating a well-balanced diet will help you to stay healthy too.
There are some foods you should avoid during pregnancy, such as soft cheeses, pate, and raw, or partially cooked eggs.
Fruit and vegetables
Foods rich in protein
Fruit and vegetables
You should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. They can be fresh, frozen, tinned or dried. A glass of pure fruit juice also counts towards one of your portions (although no matter how much juice you drink, it only counts as one portion).
Make sure that you wash all fruit and vegetables before you eat them.
You need to include plenty of starchy foods in your diet. Starchy foods include:
- pasta, and
If possible, try and eat wholegrain options as they contain more nutrients.
Foods rich in protein
Protein is an important part of your diet, especially when you are pregnant. Protein-rich foods include:
- lean meats,
- eggs, and
- legumes (such as lentils and beans).
You should also aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish. All of these protein-rich foods are also high in iron, another nutrient which will help keep your baby healthy.
However, it's important to remember that there are some types of fish you should avoid eating while you're pregnant.
Avoid eating shark, swordfish or marlin, as they contain high levels of mercury, which can harm your baby's developing nervous system. You should also limit the amount of tuna you eat, as this can also be high in mercury. Don't eat more than one tuna steak, or four medium sized tins (about 140g a tin) of tuna a week. You should also avoid raw shellfish.
Constipation during pregnancy is common, so include plenty of fiber in your diet to help prevent it. Foods that are high in fiber include:
- wholegrain bread,
- legumes, and
- fruit and vegetables.
Foods such as cheese, yogurt and milk are all rich in calcium. Your body needs more calcium during pregnancy, especially during the last 10 weeks, when it's used to help strengthen your baby's bones.
Although you need to avoid some dairy products, such as soft or blue-veined cheeses, and unpasteurized goat's milk or goat's cheese, there are lots of dairy products which are safe to eat. These include:
- live or bio yogurt,
- probiotic drinks,
- fromage frais,
- creme fraiche,
- soured cream,
- hard cheeses (such as cheddar and parmesan),
- cream cheese,
- cottage cheese, and
- processed cheese (such as cheese spreads).
You can also eat other dairy foods, such as mayonnaise, ice cream and salad dressing, but you need to make sure they haven't been made using raw egg.
Pregnant women should take a daily 400mcg supplement of folic acid every day. Ideally you should begin taking this from the time you start trying for a baby, until your 12th week of pregnancy.
As well as taking a folic acid supplement, you should also make sure you eat foods that contain folate (the natural form of folic acid). Foods that are high in folate include:
- green vegetables,
- brown rice, and
- fortified bread and cereals.
Folic acid reduces the risk of your baby developing a neural tube defect (a condition which affects the development of your baby's
spinal cord and
brain). One of the most common neural tube defects is spina bifida (a condition which causes the
spine to develop abnormally).
During pregnancy, your body needs more iron than normal to help ensure your baby has an adequate
blood supply. To help make sure your body has enough iron, you should eat plenty of iron-rich foods, such as:
- red meat,
- green vegetables, and
- fortified breakfast cereals.
Pregnant women who can't get enough iron from their diet may have to be prescribed an iron supplement.
During pregnancy, you should take a 10mcg supplement of Vitamin D every day. Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body - two substances which are needed to keep bones and teeth healthy.
Vitamin D can be found in a small number of foods, such as oily fish, and eggs, but most of vitamin D intake comes from sunlight. However, when you're out in the sun, you should always make sure you keep your skin adequately protected.