Eating well

What to eat

Eating a balanced and varied diet is the best way to be healthy and also help your baby to grow and develop. This means eating a range of things from the different food groups including

  • lots of fruit and vegetables
  • plenty of starches like potatoes, rice, pasta and wholegrain bread
  • protein-rich food including at least two portions of fish and one portion of oily fish a week
  • plenty of fibre which you’ll find in fruit and vegetables as well as rice and wholegrain bread - eating fibre-rich foods will help you deal with constipation
  • dairy products like plain yoghurt, semi-skimmed pasteurised milk and hard cheeses, which will help you get enough calcium.

If you feel sick eating small, frequent healthy snacks and try to avoid large meals as these put a strain on your digestive system. You should not let your stomach remain empty for more than a couple of hours to keep your digestive system ticking over. A dry cracker or crisp bread may help. It is a good idea to keep these by your bed to snack on before you get up in the morning.

Healthy weight

Eating well will not only keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy, but it is the best way to maintain a healthy weight throughout your pregnancy. A healthy diet and breastfeeding will help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight more quickly after the birth as well. Remember, you're not 'eating for two'.

There are substantial risks to you and your baby from too much weight gain or weight loss during pregnancy. You should not go on a weight loss diet during pregnancy. Speak to your midwife for advice.

Healthy drinks

It’s essential to keep your fluid levels up by drinking plenty of water. Some experts suggest that the reason we retain water (and get puffy and bloated) is because we are not drinking enough of it. Drinking lots of water can also help with constipation.

Keep fruit juices to mealtimes only to prevent tooth decay. See Oral Health in Pregnancy for more information.


If you are a regular coffee or tea drinker it’s a good idea to try and cut back. High levels of caffeine can affect your baby’s birthweight. For this reason it is important not to have more than 200mg of caffeine a day.

To give you an idea:

  • an average cup of instant coffee has 75mg of caffeine
  • regular brewed coffee has 100mg caffeine
  • regular tea has 50mg caffeine.

Cola and some ‘energy drinks’ also contain caffeine:

  • 40mg caffeine in a regular can of cola
  • up to 80mg in some energy drinks.

You can substitute these with decaffeinated tea or coffee and look for drinks that are caffeine free.

Limit your intake of herbal products as little is known about their safety. During pregnancy it is recommended that women drink herbal or green teas in moderation – around four cups a day. As little is known about the effects of Ginseng and Echinacea, it is best to avoid these when pregnant and breastfeeding. Speak to your midwife if you are unsure about using any herbal products.

Caffeine can also reduce iron absorption. Eating vitamin C rich food with a meal increases iron absorption.

Last Updated: 05 February 2018
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