Pregnancy guide > You > Mums to be > Eating for pregnancy > What should you eat during pregnancy?

What should you eat during pregnancy?

Advice on the foods you should be eating for a healthy pregnancy diet, including information on food safety recommendations and essential pregnancy vitamins.
Foods to enjoy

When you are pregnant you should ensure you eat five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables each day. Whether fresh, chilled, frozen, canned or dried, fruit and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. A piece of fruit, a portion of vegetables (not including potatoes), a glass of fruit or vegetable juice, and even a 'smoothie', will all count towards one of your five a day goal. However it is important that you keep the five items varied, so five of the same thing does not count!

Starchy foods including bread, rice, pasta and potatoes are carbohydrates and are satisfying, making you feel fuller for longer and providing you with energy. However, if you eat too many of these you may put on excess weight during your pregnancy. Wholegrain versions are especially nutritious and the fibre helps to prevent constipation.

Protein based foods are an important part of your daily diet. Lean meat, fish (twice a week, including oily fish once), eggs, cheese, beans and pulses give you protein and important minerals like iron and zinc.

Dairy foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese contain calcium but can be high in fat, so it is worth considering lower-fat varieties if you are concerned about excess weight gain, as they are just as nourishing.

Sugary and fatty foods are more likely to add excess weight because they are high in calories and have very little nutritional value, but they will add pleasure and choice to your diet as long as they are eaten in sensible amounts.

Forget Diets

Your baby should have the best of starts if you are not over or underweight when you get pregnant. Cutting down the calories that you eat while you are pregnant in order to control your weight should only be done under the guidance of a general practitioner (GP) or dietician, as unsupervised dieting will not help your baby. If you think you are overweight or underweight, mention it to your midwife. What is certain is that dieting, often going hungry or eating mostly junk food will not help your baby and might even be harmful. Pregnant women who diet excessively or who live through famines tend to have difficult pregnancies, problems in labour and small babies. Even women who are overweight or who put on a lot of weight early in pregnancy do not benefit from dieting and nor do their babies.

You may find that your GP or midwife no longer take regular recordings of your weight during pregnancy, as the evidence about this suggests that this may not be helpful.


You need vitamin D from sunlight or your food to absorb calcium effectively. Some women may not have enough exposure to sunlight either because of their natural skin colouring or because their culture or religion requires them to keep their skin covered. If you are a vegetarian you may also have a low intake of the foods that contain a lot of vitamin D, such as eggs, margarine or enriched spreads and oily fish like salmon. In this case, you can choose to eat more of the foods that are vitamin D rich, ensure you have some exposure to sunlight or you can take vitamin D as a supplement. If you feel you are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, discuss this with your midwife.

Foods to avoid

When you are pregnant, you will come across a lot of advice about what you should or shouldn't eat. Although this advice is usually research based, you may not be able to follow it either because of your personal tastes and preferences, or perhaps because of the cost. Other information about diet may catch the attention of the media although the evidence to support this may not always be authoritative. Women frequently have to decide which advice they can follow and it may be that their personal circumstances will impact on these decisions. For example, a woman who eats a vegetarian diet will have to find alternative sources of iron, as she cannot obtain this from eating red meat. Where this is the case, a woman can be left feeling guilty and anxious that she has not done the best for her baby.

There is now reliable information about foods to avoid when you are pregnant and breastfeeding.

Liver and vitamin A supplements. Very high intakes of one form of vitamin A (retinol, found in liver, liver pate and sausage, fish liver oils and some supplements) have been linked with the baby being born with birth defects. The other form of vitamin A is called 'beta carotene' and this is safe to take in pregnancy, but always check with your doctor or midwife before taking any vitamin A supplements.

The Department of Health suggests that you may choose not to eat peanuts or peanut products while you are pregnant, especially if you or your baby's father or any brothers or sisters have a history of allergies. Studies suggest that a baby can develop peanut allergy before birth or while breastfeeding, but the evidence is uncertain.

A survey by the Food Standards Agency has found high levels of mercury in some fish. As mercury can affect the developing nervous system of the unborn baby, it is advised to limit the amount of tuna you eat to two medium cans or a single fresh steak a week and to completely avoid swordfish, marl in and shark This applies when you are planning a pregnancy, actually pregnant or breastfeeding.

Listeria is a bacteria that grows in some specific foods and can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or serious illness in the newborn baby. Other bacteria such as salmonella can also cause serious illness to you and your baby. While hard cheeses are mostly safe to eat in pregnancy, it is advised to avoid soft mould-ripened cheeses like Camembert, Brie and all blue-veined cheeses. You should also avoid eating all types of pate and oven-ready meals that are uncooked or undercooked as well as raw or part-cooked eggs.

Studies show that high levels of caffeine are linked with miscarriage and stillbirth. It is better to choose decaffeinated drinks or keep to no more three cups of brewed coffee or four cups/three mugs of instant coffee.

Chat or Ask a Question:

If you have a question about this article or something else, visit our friendly forums & ask the AskBaby community.

Chat about what should you eat during pregnancy? with our friendly community...

Your Comments:

We'd love to hear your comments on this article...

Login to add your comment:

Email: Password:
Not yet a member? Join thousands of other parents and parents-to-be... Sign Up Now!
Forgot your

hi,what about fasting ramadan,i'm in the 2month bregnent
&my w:56
good health my age:34
by ggg7lwa 18th Aug 2010, 9:28am
Just saw the post by poondi and Joberry below and feel I need to clarify on the subject of fish-oils and fish.
There are two types of fish oil supplement - those made from the liver of the fish and those made from the body of the fish. Those made from fish liver, (e.g. cod liver oil) contain the retinol form of vitamin A and need to be avoided altogether during pregnancy. However, fish oils not derived from fish livers contain lots of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 essential fatty acid which is essential for your baby's developing eyes and brain especially in the last trimester! So intake of this type of fish oil is encouraged. This can be done through eating oily fish or taking the correct fish-oil supplements.
Fish especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids include tinned or fresh mackerel, salmon, trout, herring, kippers, pilchards, anchovies, fresh tuna and sardines. However due to pollutants such as mercury, dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in fish, which can all affect the development of your baby, you should not eat more than 2 portions of oily fish a week. You should also avoid eating shark, swordfish and marlin, as these fish are likely to have high levels of mercury.
Fish-oil supplements to go for are only those marketed specifically for pregnancy. I'm taking some supplements which contain all the right vitamins, minerals and also Omega-3 (DHA 300mg per day). Hope this information helps anyone reading it!
by N15 7th Jan 2010, 10:02am
can we have tea during pregnancy or its better to avoid
by mehakaur 17th Nov 2008, 8:51am
hey, im very scared as i am only 17 but have been with my partner for 2 years now so its not like were rushing, but i am 8 weeks pregnant and i want this baby, i eat alot of toast and havve cups of tea all the time, is that okay for my baby?
by bumpers10 24th Oct 2008, 8:59am
Omega 3 tablets are not advised when pregnant as they contain the fish oil that it is advised to avoid entirely when pregnant. They also dont recomment codl iver oil tablets or any other tablets of that kind. yet they all advertise making you healthy and helping with everything. Its gettting to the point now where you have to ask yourself if anything you eat is actually safe for you? I thnik everything is moderation is OK as long as not an extremely high risk factor involved in it before pregnant. I.e I wouldnt be drinking as thats bad for you when not pregnant and although i do when not pregnant I avoidingthe cheeses suggested cos at the end of the day they are mouldy really arent they and that cant be healthy really. especially as i allergic to penicillin an is that not a form of mould?
by Joberry 21st Oct 2008, 8:58am
is it safe to eat bio yoghurt
by tat2 29th Sep 2008, 9:13am
most of the time i am not able to eat.... my stomach hurts... i am 7 weeks .... it doesnt matter what i eat either.... i need help
by tinyf 16th Jun 2008, 8:34am

There are so many supplements on the market for trying to get pregnant and pregnant women. Is taking Omega 3 capsules safe having read some fish oils are not recommended? Worried i may have succumed to advertising and it may not be best for me and my pregnancy although i have onle been taking them a couple of weeks, being only 7 weeks.
Would appreciaite others advice.
by poondi 23rd Jan 2008, 10:54am