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How to eat healthily for pregnant women

This article shows the benefits of a healthy and balanced diet for pregnant women, and includes tips on how to stay motivated.
Pregnant woman preparing a healthy vegetable salad

A healthy and balanced diet, combined with regular exercise, can improve your physical and mental wellbeing and can also benefit your baby’s growth and development.

How to eat healthily for pregnant women

As you get closer to birthing your baby, it is still important to continue eating a balanced diet with a wide variety of foods to provide the nourishment you both need. You may have already started to make small changes in your diet. If you haven’t, it is never too late to start.

Food tips to remember

 

  • Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits: Try to eat at least 5 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit a day.
  • Eat wholegrain starchy foods: Eat 3 to 5 portions a day of wholegrain starchy foods, such as potatoes, brown bread, whole wheat pasta and rice.
  • Include dairy products in your meals: You should have 3 portions of dairy products a day such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Low-fat dairy products have the same amount of calcium as full-fat versions. If you do not eat dairy products, you can eat non-dairy alternatives that have added calcium and vitamin B12. You should not drink or eat unpasteurised milk and cheeses while pregnant because they are more likely to grow bacteria such as listeria, which may harm your baby.
  • Caffeine: You can still drink tea and coffee during pregnancy, but it is best to limit yourself to 200 milligrams (mg) a day (this is about the same as 2 mugs of instant coffee).
  • Limit foods or drinks high in fat, sugar or salt: Things like crisps, cakes and chocolate should only be eaten occasionally, about once or twice a week.
  • Alcohol should not be consumed, even in small quantities, during pregnancy.

How to stay motivated

 

  • Keep a list of what motivates you: Think about the reasons why you want to make healthy changes to your diet. Is it to help to improve your physical wellbeing or to increase your energy levels? Is it for the long-term benefits, both for you and your baby? Having a clear reason for making changes to your diet can help make it easier to continue these changes.
  • Start small: Pregnancy is not the time to go on a restrictive diet or to try to lose weight. Making one change at a time, such as adding vegetables to meals during the week or cutting down on your intake of caffeine, can make a big difference to the health of you and your baby.
  • Prepare healthy snacks in advance: Preparing healthy snacks and meals in advance and placing them somewhere you can see them (e.g. in a fruit bowl on a kitchen counter) means you’re more likely to eat them. Keep cut-up fruits and vegetables in the fridge. Bring healthy snacks, such as fruit and water, with you to work or when you’re out running errands.
  • Try new recipes: Experimenting with new, healthy recipes can help to have a more varied diet and make meal times more interesting.

If you are experiencing morning sickness or nausea, batch cook and freeze meals while you’re feeling well so that you, or someone else, can defrost and reheat them later.

If you have diabetes or any other special dietary requirements, talk to your doctor, midwife or dietician about what you should be eating during pregnancy.

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