Pregnancy Nutrition 101

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Knowing what to eat in pregnancy can seem like a minefield. From old wives' tales to the latest health guidance, the information available can be confusing. 

Here we give you our 101 beginner's guide to eating well in pregnancy to nourish yourself and your baby with confidence.

Why is Nutrition Important in Pregnancy?

Eating well is particularly important before conception and during your pregnancy. 

Your baby gets their nutrients from you via the umbilical cord, which helps them grow and develop exactly as they should. If you choose to breastfeed, your baby will continue to get nutrients from you after delivery via your breast milk. 

Luckily, eating well doesn't mean going on any particular diet or visiting a specialist food shop. Our guidelines will help you see which foods you should eat during your pregnancy to keep you and your baby healthy.

Before we begin, it's important to note that if you are struggling to eat due to morning sickness, there is no need to panic. Continue to eat what you can, when you can. The baby growing inside you will be incredibly adept at obtaining the nutrients required for its development. If you have severe morning sickness, you should ask for support from your midwife or doctor.

What Should I Eat in Pregnancy?

Although the media might lead you to believe that pregnant women eat nothing but ice cream, a healthy pregnancy requires many of the same foods recommended for women who are not pregnant.

  1. Fruit and Vegetables

    Just as is advised before pregnancy, you should aim for five portions of fruit and veg each day. If this sounds difficult, it may help to know that the items can be fresh, frozen, or canned (in juice or water) and still count.

    One portion can also come from a small glass of juice or a fruit or vegetable smoothie.

    Fruit and veg contain vitamins including A, C, and E, and minerals including iron and folate. These can support the normal development of cells within the eye, bloodstream, immune and nervous systems.

  2. Protein

    Protein is one of the critical building blocks of our muscles and is contained within every body cell. Protein can be found in meat and fish, and other food sources.

    Meat also contains vitamin B12 and iron, which may help prevent anemia in pregnancy. All meat should be thoroughly cooked to avoid illness.

    Whitefish and oily fish (such as salmon, trout, or sardines) are healthy protein sources. Oily fish also contains omega-three fatty acids. These fatty acids are essential in pregnancy, supporting fetal brain and eye development. 

    Shark, marlin, and swordfish should not be eaten as they may contain high levels of mercury which is dangerous in pregnancy.

    Protein can also be found in eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, and soy products.

  3. Dairy

    In utero, babies require calcium to support the development of their bones. Dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese, are all high in calcium.

    To avoid excess weight gain associated with fatty dairy products, choosing healthier options such as semi-skimmed milk or low-fat yogurt is wise.

    Mould ripened cheeses such as brie and camembert should be avoided in pregnancy due to the risk of listeria, an infection that can affect the baby.

  4. Carbohydrates

    Healthy carbohydrates include bread, potatoes, pasta, noodles, rice, and low-sugar breakfast cereals. The digestive system breaks down these foods more slowly to keep you feeling fuller for longer. 

    Carbohydrates are a good source of fiber, which may help prevent constipation associated with pregnancy. When increasing your fiber intake, increasing the amount of water you drink each day is also essential. Aim for two or more liters of water each day to keep your bowel movements regular.

    For the healthiest choice, reach for wholemeal or wholegrain rather than white options.


Many women choose to take supplements during their pregnancy.

If you only take one supplement, it should be folic acid. A folic acid is a form of vitamin B that is advised from before conception until the end of the 12th week of pregnancy. Taking 400 micrograms of folic acid will help protect your baby from neural tube defects such as spina bifida. 

Final Thoughts

Eating healthily in pregnancy follows many of the same principles as the rest of the population.

It is essential to eat a range of healthy foods every day to give your baby the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals they need.

If you cannot include a wide variety of foods in your diet due to sickness or another reason, your baby is still likely to continue to grow well. However, it is essential to speak to your midwife for further advice.

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