Foods to Eat While Pregnant (Complete Guide)

Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial during pregnancy, as it contributes significantly to your overall well-being. This becomes even more vital if you’re already pregnant or planning to be. A nutritious diet during this time is not only beneficial for your own health but also plays a key role in supporting the proper development and growth of your baby.

You don’t have to follow a specific or restrictive diet, but it’s important to incorporate a variety of foods into your daily meals. This ensures that both you and your baby receive the necessary balance of nutrients. While it’s ideal to obtain vitamins and minerals from your diet, taking a folic acid supplement is recommended during pregnancy to ensure you’re getting all the essential nutrients.

Contrary to popular belief, there’s no need to “eat for two,” even if you’re expecting twins or triplets. While you may experience increased hunger, it’s essential to focus on the quality of your food rather than simply consuming more. Starting your day with a healthy breakfast can help prevent snacking on high-fat and sugary foods throughout the day.

Adopting a healthy eating routine often involves adjusting the proportions of different food groups in your diet, rather than eliminating your favorite foods altogether. The Eatwell Guide can be a helpful tool in achieving a balanced diet, illustrating the recommended portions from each food group. While it’s not necessary to achieve this balance with every meal, aim to maintain an overall balanced diet throughout the week.

Fruit and Vegetables

Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet during pregnancy as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fiber aids digestion and can help prevent constipation.

Make sure to consume at least 5 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. These can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or juiced. Always wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating.

Starchy Foods (Carbohydrates)

Starchy foods, known as carbohydrates, play a vital role in providing energy, certain vitamins, and fiber. They also help you feel full without being too calorie-dense. Examples include bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, maize, millet, oats, yams, and cornmeal. If you opt for chips, choose oven-baked ones that are lower in fat and salt.

These starchy foods should constitute a little over one-third of your overall food intake. Opt for wholegrain or higher-fiber alternatives like whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or leaving the skins on potatoes instead of choosing refined (white) options. This helps enhance the nutritional value of your diet during pregnancy.

Protein

Include protein-rich foods in your daily diet during pregnancy. Good sources of protein include:

  • – Beans
  • – Pulses
  • – Fish
  • – Eggs
  • – Meat (avoid liver)
  • – Poultry
  • – Nuts

Opt for lean meat, remove poultry skin, and avoid adding extra fat or oil when cooking meat. Ensure thorough cooking of poultry, burgers, sausages, and whole cuts of meat like lamb and beef until they are steaming throughout. Make sure there is no pink meat, and juices are clear without any pink or red tinges.

Incorporate two servings of fish into your weekly meals, with one being oily fish like salmon, sardines, or mackerel. However, steer clear of certain types of fish like shark, swordfish, and marlin during pregnancy or when planning to conceive.

Limit oily fish intake to no more than two portions a week during pregnancy due to potential pollutants (toxins). Avoid consuming some raw or partially cooked eggs due to the risk of salmonella.

Choose eggs produced under the British Lion Code of Practice, which are safe for pregnant women to consume raw or partially cooked, as they come from vaccinated flocks against salmonella. Look for the red lion logo stamped on the shell. However, eggs not meeting the Lion Code are considered less safe, and pregnant women are advised to cook them until both the white and the yolk are fully hardened, especially in dishes like mousse, mayonnaise, and soufflé.

Dairy in Pregnancy

Dairy is important during pregnancy as it provides calcium and essential nutrients for both you and your baby. Opt for low-fat options like semi-skimmed, 1 percent fat, or skimmed milk, as well as low-fat and lower-sugar yoghurt and reduced-fat hard cheese.

If you prefer dairy alternatives like soya drinks and yoghurts, choose unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.

Be cautious with cheeses during pregnancy, avoiding unpasteurized varieties. You can find a list of cheeses to avoid on our page about foods to steer clear of during pregnancy.

Watch out for foods high in fat, sugar, or both, as they can contribute to weight gain and dental issues. These include spreading fats (like butter), oils, salad dressings, cream, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries, ice cream, cake, puddings, and fizzy drinks.

Fat and Sugar Foods

If you consume high-fat and high-sugar foods, do so in moderation and small amounts. Reduce saturated fat intake and incorporate small amounts of foods rich in unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils, into your diet. This can help maintain a balanced and healthy pregnancy diet.

Healthy Snacks

Choosing healthy snacks during pregnancy is essential. Instead of indulging in high-fat and sugary options like sweets, biscuits, crisps, or chocolate, opt for healthier alternatives such as:

  • – Small sandwiches or pitta bread with grated cheese, lean ham, mashed tuna, salmon, or sardines, accompanied by salad.
  • – Salad vegetables like carrot, celery, or cucumber.
  • – Low-fat, lower-sugar fruit yoghurt, plain yoghurt, or fromage frais with fruit.
  • – Ready-to-eat apricots, figs, or prunes.
  • – Vegetable and bean soups.
  • – A small bowl of unsweetened breakfast cereal or porridge with milk.
  • – Milky drinks.
  • – Fresh fruit.
  • – A small slice of malt loaf, a fruited tea cake, or a slice of toasted fruit bread.

When Preparing Food, Ensure Safety

  • Washing fruits, vegetables, and salads thoroughly to remove soil, which may contain toxoplasma (a parasite harmful to your unborn baby).
  • Cleaning all surfaces, utensils, and hands after handling raw foods (poultry, meat, eggs, fish, shellfish, and raw vegetables) to prevent food poisoning.
  • Storing raw foods separately from ready-to-eat foods to avoid contamination.
  • Using a separate knife and chopping board for raw meats.
  • Ensuring ready meals are heated until steaming hot, especially those containing poultry.
  • Checking the use-by date to confirm food safety – do not consume food past its use-by date, even if it appears and smells okay.

For certain foods like eggs, poultry, burgers, sausages, and whole cuts of meat (lamb, beef, and pork), ensure thorough cooking until steaming all the way through. This attention to safety contributes to a healthy and risk-free pregnancy diet.

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