Choosing healthy foods

It can be difficult to make healthly choices when eating take-aways or in restaurants. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what is in your meal and how much you are going to be served; it is easy to end up eating much more salt and calories than you intended to.

When going out to eat, or buying pre-cooked food, look for dishes that are steamed, grilled or poached rather than fried or battered. For example:

  • grilled chicken or fish, rather than a burger or fried fish
  • tomato or light vegetable sauces instead of heavy sauces or curries with lots of cream or cheese
  • lean meat, fish or pulses in place of pies, sausages or bacon
  • baked or boiled potatoes or plain rice rather than creamy potato dishes, chips or fried rice
  • fruit salad or sorbet instead of cakes, puddings or ice cream
  • wholegrain bread or toast in place of sweet pastries, muffins or croissants.

Eating from the food groups

Aim to eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups every day. That doesn’t mean forcing yourself to eat things you don’t like; after all, you are more likely to stick to healthy eating if you like what you are eating. Some research shows that the types of food you eat while pregnant and breastfeeding will be what your baby enjoys too.

Carbohydrates and starchy foods

These include breads, cereals, rice, potatoes, pasta, noodles and couscous. They should form the main part of your diet. Try to eat at least three to four servings a day. Wholemeal or wholegrain starches are ideal as these types have more fibre and are more filling.

Proteins

Lean red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, pulses and nuts are all rich in protein and iron. Try to eat two portions a day. Pulses include peas and lentils, baked beans, runner beans, chickpeas, broadbeans, kidney beans and butter beans. Tinned pulses are very quick and easy to use because they have already been soaked and cooked. They only need to be heated or can be eaten cold. Try to avoid tins with added salt or sugar.

Dairy foods

Milk and other foods such as hard cheese are a useful source of calcium. Calcium is very important in pregnancy because it helps your baby’s developing bones to harden. Try to include a pint of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk per day in your diet or substitute a matchbox-size piece of hard cheese, a carton of yoghurt, or a milk pudding for one-third of a pint.

Fruits and vegetables

Aim for at least five portions a day. A portion is an apple, or a glass of fruit juice, or three heaped tablespoons of vegetables or a dessert bowl full of salad. Incidentally, potatoes don’t count in this category, as they are a starchy food and fruit juice only counts as one portion.

Fats and sugars

Foods high in fat and sugar include cakes, biscuits, bagels, crisps, sugary drinks, sweets (including chocolate!) and anything fried in fat such as egg rolls. Try to eat as little of this food group as possible and keep sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes, as this is less damaging to teeth.

Snack ideas

  • grilled chicken or fish, rather than a burger or fried fish
  • tomato or light vegetable sauces instead of heavy sauces or curries with lots of cream or cheese
  • lean meat, fish or pulses in place of pies, sausages or bacon
  • baked or boiled potatoes or plain rice rather than creamy potato dishes, chips or fried rice
  • fruit salad or sorbet instead of cakes, puddings or ice cream
  • wholegrain bread or toast in place of sweet pastries, muffins or croissants.
Last Updated: 11 November 2015
We use cookies to help improve this website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue. Don't show this message again