Eating well when you are planning a pregnancy, and whilst you are pregnant, makes good sense. You do not need to eat ‘special’ foods. Your body will prioritise what your growing baby needs.
However eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and veg is important to keep you well, prepare you for labour and the early days with a newborn.
You and your unborn baby both benefit from you having a diet containing all of the vitamins and minerals as well as protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats you needs.
How Much Should I Eat?
People used to be told to ‘eat for two’ when they were pregnant. We now know you need very few extra calories during pregnancy.
The recommended calorie intake for most women is about 2000 calories. No extra calories are needed for the first six months and just 200 more each day in the last three months (for example this might be an extra 2 slices of wholemeal toast with butter).
You may feel hungrier during pregnancy. Here are a few tips to consider:
It’s ok to have a treat sometimes but most of your calories should come from healthy food choices.
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can put you and your baby at more risks of complications.
Eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day is important during pregnancy.
Iron prevents anaemia which can be a problem for some women in pregnancy. Your needs for iron rich foods goes up a bit during pregnancy. Try and eat foods like red meat, baked beans, green leafy vegetables and cereals with added iron.
Eat two portions of protein a day such as meat, fish, eggs, beans and pulses. This is important for growth, maintenance and repair of our bodies.
You should try and have three portions of dairy foods like semi-skimmed milk, yogurt and hard cheeses, or other calcium rich foods (spinach, almonds, dried fruit and broccoli). This is important for healthy bone development and strength.
Drinking plenty of fluids is important too. Aim to have about eight glasses of water a day.
Keep sugary foods to a minimum. Healthy fats like olive and vegetable oils are better for you than animal fats like butter or lard. Lots of ‘junk’ foods are high in fats and/or sugars so keep these for a treat. You could make your own version so you know that the ingredients are mainly healthy.
Find out more about healthy diet in pregnancy
Vegan and Vegetarian Diet in Pregnancy
Well-planned vegan diets can provide the right nutrition during pregnancy without animal products. This can be successfully managed by eating a balanced and varied diet, and using fortified foods and supplementation wisely.
If you’re pregnant and a vegetarian or vegan, you need to make sure you get enough iron (Vitamin B12) and Vitamin D.
What can’t I eat when I‘m expecting a baby?
There are some foods that women who are trying to conceive and pregnant women should avoid. You can find an up to date list of foods that should be avoided or reduced here.
Caffeine is found in tea and coffee as well as in high energy drinks, cola and chocolate. You should try not to drink much caffeine as it can affect the baby.
It is advised that you try not to have more than two mugs of caffeinated coffee or tea a day.
Do I Need Extra Vitamins?
Eating a varied diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables will make sure you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need. However there are some recommended supplements for those planning a pregnancy / already pregnant, as well as trying to include in your diet.
Folic acid helps to prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects (a problem at birth with the baby’s brain, spine or spinal cord).
If you have diabetes, take drugs for epilepsy, or have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect, you need to take a higher dose of folic acid - see your GP for further advice.
Vitamin D helps you and your baby develop strong bones and teeth. Not getting enough vitamin D can affect your energy levels and your mood. You get some from diet and being in the sunlight but it is difficult to get enough.
You may choose to take a pregnancy multi-vitamin. If you do please talk to your local pharmacist for advice on suitable ones before you begin. You may be eligible for free Healthy Start Vitamins.
Talk to your midwife, health visitor, or GP if you are worried about your health during pregnancy.
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.
If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 074806 35060 for confidential advice from one of our team.
To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.