Healthy eating during pregnancy

Pregnancy is the time to look after your diet very carefully! During pregnancy you will have an increased need for energy and nutrients from foods to assist the growth of new tissues and for the increase in your own blood volume, which helps to carry nutrients to the baby and carry waste products away.

Here's what to focus on

  • Eat a variety of food to ensure you include a maximum amount of vitamins and minerals.
  • Protein is important for the growth of new tissue. Eat moderate portions of protein in the form of dairy/meat/chicken/fish/soya with all meals.
  • If you are a vegetarian have more soya milk or yoghurt, soya mince, soya burgers, dried beans and lentils.
  • Iron helps to form red blood cells. A lack of iron will lead to anaemia and cause extreme tiredness. Iron is found in red meat, pork, chicken, liver, eggs, spinach, dried beans and dried fruit. If you are a vegetarian it's important to have more of the non-meat sources.

You may need to take a supplement if your iron levels are low - discuss this with your Doctor or Dietitian.

  • Vitamin C helps to increase the absorption of iron from food, so eat foods high in vitamin C with food high in iron. Sources of vitamin C are: oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, fruit juice, guavas, tomatoes, green & red peppers, broccoli and cabbage.
  • It is VERY important to take a folic acid supplement, especially in the first trimester, as it will help prevent any spinal defects in your baby.

You should take a supplement that provides a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid per day (you can take up to 800 micrograms).

Eat more food that's rich in folic acid, such as spinach, cabbage, broccoli, dark lettuce, avocados, nuts and wholegrain cereals.

  • Calcium is important for the development of strong bones. You will need extra calcium in your diet as it will be taken from your own bones, for your baby's development, if there's not enough! You need the equivalent of a litre of milk daily - but try to include a variety of low fat milk, yoghurt, cheese, dark green, leafy vegetables, nuts and tinned sardines or salmon with the bones.
  • Essential fatty acids promote healthy nerve and brain development in your baby. You need a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in sesame and sunflower seeds and oils.
  • Fibre helps to control bowel movements - digestion slows down during pregnancy to allow the gut to absorb more nutrients! This can lead to constipation so include more fibre and water to help prevent this.

Good fibre-rich foods are:

  • ALL vegetables and fruit (EAT LOTS OF THEM!) Try to eat 3 different fruits and 2-3 different vegetables during the day
  • Bran cereals, muesli
  • Wholewheat and seed bread, rye and wholewheat crackers
  • Sweet potato, baby potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Popcorn



  • Rooibos/herbal tea or decaffeinated coffee
  • Bran cereal or muesli
  • Skim/low fat milk
  • 1 fruit, e.g. sliced banana/chopped dried fruit in cereal/half a papino

Mid-morning snack

  • Fruit
  • Fat-free/low fat yoghurt


  • Wholewheat bread/roll/pita or crackers
  • Lean chicken/tuna/sardines/cheese or cottage cheese
  • Salad
  • Avocado/low oil mayonnaise

Afternoon snack

  • Fruit
  • Handful of peanuts


  • Brown rice/baby or sweet potatoes/wholewheat pasta
  • Lean red meat/pork/chicken/fish/lentils or beans
  • Green and yellow/orange vegetables


  • 1 glass skim/low fat milk/cup of low fat custard

Foods to avoid

Food poisoning could be dangerous to you and your baby, and it is therefore advisable to avoid risky foods such as soft mouldy cheese (brie, camembert, roquefort), raw meat and raw fish (sushi). Always rinse and cook foods well. Eat foods before the sell-by / best-before date.

See further information on food safety under this Good Health Section.

How to deal with discomforts during pregnancy

Nausea is common. Try to eat small, regular meals during the day. Upon waking it may be helpful to eat some dry biscuits.

Try drinking fresh ginger tea or diluted apple juice.

If you are vomiting a lot, a liquid supplement may help. Ensure that you are drinking enough fluid at all times.

Heartburn is also very common. To help prevent this, eat small, regular meals.

Avoid extremely spicy foods. Milk often helps soothe heartburn or, alternatively, discuss a suitable antacid with your Doctor.

Constipation can be a real pain! Follow the ''fibre'' guidelines on the previous page.

**If you need more advice, click on the ''Ask the Dietitian'' to pose a question to our Registered Dietitian

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is provided by the SPAR Group Ltd for general information purposes only. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.