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Eating Well in Pregnancy

How do I eat well when planning to have a baby / during pregnancy?

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 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.  

  • 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).

    Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can put you and your baby at more risks of complications. You can read more *here*.

    Some people feel hungrier during pregnancy. This might be because you feel more tired, or because you feel sick, you might feel like you ‘deserve a treat’.

    • Try and eat three meals a day at regular times.
    • Have a couple of healthy snacks ready - *click here* for some ideas.
    • Eat filling foods like wholemeal carbohydrates – such as brown bread, brown pasta / rice at each meal to give you longer lasting energy.

    It’s ok to have a treat sometimes but most of your calories should come from health food choices. *Click here* to look at our Eat Better pages for more information.

  • What is a healthy diet during pregnancy?

    Eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day is especially 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 in pregnancy so 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 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.

    There is lots more information about a healthy diet in pregnancy *here*.

  • 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).

    • Take folic acid from when you start to try for a baby until you are 12 weeks pregnant. Take 400 micrograms a day.
    • 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. 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.

    • Take 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily during pregnancy. It is advised that most people in the UK continue to take a supplement - *click here* to read more..

    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’ - *click here* to find out more.

  • 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 no longer need to get your form signed by a health professional - you can find out more and complete the form online *here*. 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*   

  • Anyone can find themselves and their family in need of help for lots of different reasons. 

    If you are struggling for food, you can get help or support from a local foodbank or community fridge. 

    To find out more about support available if you have any other money worries  *Click Here*.


Who can Help?

If you feel worried and want more advice you can speak to your midwife.

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 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of the Healthy Child Programme team.

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