What to eat when pregnant
Healthy pregnancy diet
Eating a healthy pregnancy diet can help you to fight the fatigue and give your baby fuel to grow and develop. Supporting the growth of your baby increases your needs for certain nutrients. The good news is this can be easily achieved by basing your meals and snacks on the EatWell Guide1,2. Thankfully you don’t need your own nutritionist to translate healthy eating pregnancy guidance into balanced and tasty meals. We’re here to help you on your journey and find the right meals that will support your baby’s development.
Foods to eat when pregnant
Good protein foods for pregnancy
Protein helps you to maintain your muscles which will be useful when you have your baby strapped to your side for the first 6 months! It also helps to promote muscle growth in your baby. Try having different protein sources from animal and/or plant-based foods including fish, lean poultry, meat, eggs, legumes (beans, peas, lentils) and nuts. Eggs, legumes and nuts are also a good source of folate – that's two for the price of one!
Choosing mostly lean meat (such as chicken or turkey) or fish and removing the skin will help you to get all the protein you and your baby need without having too much fat, which can make nausea worse. Try having two portions of fish each week (a portion of fish is 140g or 5oz). During pregnancy it’s safe to have up to two portions of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines etc.) each week3. Oily fish contain omega-3s; an important type of dietary fat that supports the development of your baby’s brain, nervous system and eyes4.
Carbohydrates in pregnancy
Carbohydrates are a source of energy for mums and are also important for fueling your baby’s growth. Foods rich in carbohydrates include breads, rice, pasta, grains and cereals. Try having these foods at each meal or snack. To avoid a mid-afternoon slump and keep constipation at bay, try and choose whole grain, high fibre options if you can5,6.
Fruit and vegetables to eat during pregnancy
Five is the magic number – aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day (one portion is 80g fruit/vegetables) and include as many different colours and varieties as possible. Eating a rainbow will help you to have a wide range of minerals and antioxidants to support you and your baby. Fresh, frozen, dried, juiced (up to 150ml or one small glass per day) and canned fruit and vegetables all count towards your 5-a-day, so eating healthily doesn’t have to break the bank!6
Dairy and Non-Dairy alternatives during pregnancy
Milk, yoghurt and cheese are a good source of calcium, which help your baby’s teeth and bones to form. Try having three portions of these foods daily and choose low-fat versions (unless you are trying to gain weight). Non-dairy foods including tahini, spinach, tofu, beans, almonds and dried fruit are great sources of calcium too.
Are you eating for two when pregnant?
There is no need to eat for two – it's one of the biggest pregnancy myths! You may feel more hungry than usual or need an extra energy boost during the afternoon, but you don’t need to be plating up extra portions. Choose high fibre and high protein snacks to keep you feeling full for longer.
In the third trimester (months 6-9), it’s recommended that you have an extra 200 calories a day to help your baby to achieve a healthy weight7. See below for some tasty options.
- Small handful (30g) of unsalted mixed nuts
- Porridge (30g oats, 100mls semi-skimmed milk and 80g mixed berries)
- 1 slice of wholemeal toast with 15g (1tbsp) of low salt, low sugar peanut butter
- Low-fat Greek yoghurt (150g) and 1 small banana
- Hummus (2tbsp) with vegetable batons and 1 mini wholemeal pitta bread
What should I eat while nauseous and pregnant?
Nausea during pregnancy is often called ‘morning sickness’ but it can happen at any time of day. It usually eases by the second trimester (3-6 months). It’s unclear why some women experience nausea during pregnancy, although increased hormone levels during the first few weeks can be a cause.
Helpful hints to manage nausea during pregnancy include:
- Choose a small starchy snack in the morning and try to eat little and often throughout the day. From biscuits to dry toast to crackers, now is the time for beige foods!
- Avoid leaving long periods of time between meals as this can make nausea worse.
- Cold, bland, non-greasy foods (i.e. crackers, dry toast, dry cereal) may be better tolerated when sickness strikes.
- Avoiding foods or smells that trigger symptoms (for example spicy or fatty foods) may help. Keeping a window open whilst cooking and choosing cold foods may help to minimise aromas.
- Ginger has been proven to help relieve nausea8. Put the kettle on and try having a cup of ginger tea with a ginger biscuit.
- During episodes of nausea, it’s important to keep yourself hydrated. Try sipping on cold, non-fizzy drinks little and often.
As tough as those first few weeks may be, try not to panic. Nausea during pregnancy doesn’t usually affect the growth of your baby. In severe cases (known as hyperemesis gravidarum), treatment from your doctor or hospital may be needed. If you have any of the following symptoms, it’s important to contact your doctor or midwife8.
- Weight loss (more than 5% of your pre-pregnancy weight)
- Frequent vomiting and being unable to keep food or drink down
- Dark coloured urine
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- British Nutrition Foundation. Nutrition Requirements [Online]. Last reviewed 2016. Available at: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/media/nmmewdug/nutrition-requirements.pdf [Accessed: December 2020].
- British Dietetic Association. Healthy Eating: Food Fact Sheet [Online]. 2016. Available at: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/healthy-eating.html [Accessed: December 2020].
- British Dietetic Association. Omega 3: Food Fact Sheet [Online]. 2017. Available at: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/omega-3.html [Accessed: December 2020].
- Jensen CL. Effects of n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83(6):1452S-7S.
- National Health Service Start4Life. Healthy Eating [Online]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/start4life/pregnancy/healthy-eating-pregnancy/ [Accessed: December 2020].
- British Dietetic Association. Pregnancy and Diet: Food Fact Sheet [Online]. 2016. Available at: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/pregnancy-diet.html [Accessed: December 2020].
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Weight management before, during and after pregnancy [Online]. 2010. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph27/chapter/Recommendations#recommendation-2-pregnant-women [Accessed: December 2020].
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Nausea/vomiting in pregnancy: How do I know my patient has it? [Online]. Last revised 2020. Available at: https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/nausea-vomiting-in-pregnancy/diagnosis/diagnosis/ [Accessed: December 2020].
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*Weaning is recommended at around 6 months. Please speak with a healthcare professional before introducing solid foods.
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