Nutrition in pregnancy and before

Baby on the way

A healthy diet is especially important if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Eating healthily during pregnancy will help your baby to grow and develop.

There is no need to go on a special diet, but it is important to eat a variety of different foods every day. This will help you to get the right nutrients that you and your baby need. 

Folic acid and vitamin D

man and pregnant woman having a picnic

If you eat a balanced diet, you should get the vitamins and minerals you need from the foods you eat. But when you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you need to take a folic acid supplement. 

Try to take folic acid three months before your pregnancy. Then continue to take folic acid for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This will help your baby’s brain and spine develop.

It is recommended that you have vitamin D every day.  Through the Healthy Start scheme, you may get free vitamin D supplements.

There are some vitamin supplements to avoid. There's more information about this on the NHS page Vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy.

Top tips for healthy eating in pregnancy

    • Try and start the day with a healthy breakfast as this will stop you from wanting to snack on unhealthy foods.
    • Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. These can be fresh or frozen. Make sure you wash fresh fruit and vegetables before eating.
    • Starchy foods, also known as carbohydrates, are a useful source of energy. These include potatoes, pasta, bread, rice, and noodles.
    • Try and eat some protein-rich foods every day. Beans, eggs, meat, fish, and poultry are all types of protein. Avoid eating raw or partially cooked eggs and make sure meat is well cooked.
    • Milk, cheese, and yoghurts are types of dairy food. They provide calcium which is good for bone development for you and your baby. Try to choose low-fat options where possible.
    • Try not to eat too many foods that are high in fat and sugar. These include sweets, crisps, cakes, chocolate, and fizzy drinks.
    • Drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated.
    • You may feel hungrier, but it is not necessary to “eat for two.”
    • It is not safe to drink alcohol whilst you are pregnant as this can harm your baby.
    White plate filled with grilled chicken and a variety of vegetables

    There are some foods to avoid during pregnancy as there is a risk that they carry harmful bacteria. It is also important to take care when preparing and cooking certain food such as meat, eggs, and burgers. The NHS has some helpful information on foods to avoid in pregnancy

    The British Nutrition Foundation has an article on Ramadan and fasting during pregnancy. Please speak to your midwife for further information.

    Last updated on 27 June 2023