Eating Well in Pregnancy
What is a healthy diet during pregnancy?
- You should aim to eat three meals healthy a day, and two to three healthy snacks a day
- You may need to eat more if you exercise a lot
- Try and eat carbohydrates at each meal such as bread, pasta, potatoes and cereals
- Eat iron rich foods such as meat, oily fish, and cereals fortified with iron
- Try to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Eat two portions of protein a day such as meat, fish, eggs, beans and pulses
- Eat three portions of dairy a day such as semi-skimmed milk, yogurt and cheeses, or non-dairy alternatives, (such as soya with calcium added) or calcium rich foods (spinach, almonds, dried fruit and broccoli)
- Keep fats to small amounts and try to use olive oil or rapeseed oil
- Limit sugar and salt
- Drink plenty of fluids - about eight glasses a day of water, milk, fruit juice or fruit teas
- You should try not to go more than 12 hours without eating.
What is Healthy Start?
Healthy Start is a national scheme to improve health. You could qualify if you're on low income or benefits and are at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under the age of four. You also qualify if you're pregnant and under 18.
Your midwife, health visitor or other health professional can support you to sign up. You will be sent vouchers for cow’s milk, fresh/frozen fruit and vegetables and first infant formula milk. These can be used in local shops or supermarkets. You will also receive vouchers to exchange in pharmacies for:
- Women’s vitamins (contain Vitamin C, D and Folic Acid) - available from week 10 of pregnancy up to baby’s first birthday
- Children’s Vitamins (contain Vitamin A, C and D) – from ages 6 months to 4 years
For families who are not eligible for the scheme, all Norfolk Lloyds Pharmacies sell Healthy Start vitamins at a cheaper price than branded vitamins.
For more information on the scheme and a list of shops accepting vouchers *Click Here*
What can’t I eat when I‘m expecting a baby?
• Don’t eat under-cooked or raw eggs
• Make sure shellfish, fish, meat and chicken are well cooked (avoid food containing raw meat or fish, such as sushi)
• Soft ice cream
• Soft cheese including brie, camembert and some goats’ cheese and blue cheese; meat and vegetable pates; and unpasteurised dairy
• Food or vitamin supplements high in vitamin A (liver, liver pate)
• Shark, marlin and swordfish – due to concerns around mercury levels
• If you have a strong family history of peanut allergy - seek advice
• Don’t drink alcohol during pregnancy.
What do I have to eat or drink less of?
• Eat no more than four medium cans of tuna a week, and oily fish such as fresh tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines no more than twice a week.
• Limit or avoid caffeine (high energy drinks, cola and chocolate). Have no more than two mugs of caffeinated coffee and three mugs of caffeinated tea a day.
Watch out for hidden sugars. Cereals and drinks can be high in sugar, as well as convenience foods.
I feel sick, how can I stop this?
It is quite common to feel sick while you are pregnant. It will not harm your baby as long as your sickness is not severe. If you are feeling sick in pregnancy, it is usually because of increased hormones in your system. Below are some things that might help you.
• Eat small amounts of food often
• Eat starchy foods like toast and crackers
• Eat foods which are plain and not greasy
• Food and drinks with ginger in them can sometimes help
• Drink water little and often to stop you becoming dry (dehydrated), this is important
• Get some ginger drops to add to drinking water
• You may find wrist acupuncture travel bands stop you feeling sick.
Your sickness should improve by 16-20 weeks. This does not always happen and you may feel sick up until you have your baby. If you are being sick a lot and feeling very unwell, you may have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (severe pregnancy sickness). You need to see your GP or midwife or dial 111 for advice, as you may need extra medical help.
Do I need extra vitamins?
Folic acid helps to prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects (a problem at birth with the babies brain, spine or spinal cord).
• You should take folic acid from when you start to try for a baby until you are 12 weeks pregnant. You should take 400 micrograms a day
• You should eat foods such as green vegetables and cereals/bread with extra folic acid added
• 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.
• You should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D while you are carrying your baby, until they are born.
I’m constipated (difficulty in pooing), what can help me?
• Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
• Eat high fibre foods such as wholemeal bread, oats, and bran flakes
• Drink plenty of water each day - at least six to eight glasses
• Do regular exercise
• Speak to your GP or midwife if you become uncomfortable.
I am having terrible indigestion - what can help?
• Try eating smaller meals at mealtimes
• Try not to eat fatty foods
• Avoid spicy foods
• Discuss this with your pharmacist or GP, as there may be medicines which can help.
What is the cheapest way I can buy healthy food and waste less food?
• Try to plan your meals for a week so you don’t waste food
• Always make a shopping list based on your weekly meal planner, and try to stick to it
• Buy the shop's own brand, or look for the cheapest options
• Buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season, such as English strawberries in summer, and apples in autumn
• Buy fruit and vegetables from local markets and greengrocers where they are cheaper
• Have basic store cupboard ingredients in, such as pasta, rice, kidney beans, and tomatoes
• Make soups with any leftover vegetables
• If you do not eat much bread, keep some in the freezer and use as needed
• Cooking at home can be a lot cheaper than using ready meals or buying takeaway meals, and is better for you
• If you don’t know how to cook, give it a go. It’s easy and fun!
• Look out for Joy of Food Cooking Classes run by Norfolk County Council
• Look online for easy healthy recipes (see change4life, NHS Choices and BUPA websites), or follow an online cooking class
• Make a batch of food, which saves time and money, and use it over more than one day. You can freeze portions to use for later. Make sure you reheat them well before you eat them
• Try and eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible. Frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables are also good.
• Always wash your hands before preparing food, or after handling raw food
• Wash fresh fruit and vegetables before eating
• Make sure takeaway, microwave meals, and reheated food are piping hot
• If you keep food to eat later, make sure it is kept cold in a fridge when being stored. It should also be kept in a sealed container
• Do not eat food after the use by date
• The best before date means the food will be better before the date shown, but it may still be safe to eat after that date.
What if I can’t afford fresh fruit and vegetables?
• Have a look at the Healthy Start tab
• Look out for a community fridge near you. These are quite new and provide free food donated to reduce food being wasted.
Who Can Help?
You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.