A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any time, but is especially vital if you're pregnant or planning a pregnancy. Eating healthily during pregnancy will help your baby to develop and grow, and will keep you fit and well.
You don't need to go on a special diet, but it's important to eat a variety of different foods every day to get the right balance of nutrients that you and your baby need.
It is best to get vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat, but when you're pregnant you need to take some supplements as well to make sure you get everything you need. You can find out more about vitamins and supplements in pregnancy.
You will probably find that you are more hungry than usual, but you don't need to 'eat for two' - even if you are expecting twins or triplets.
Have a healthy breakfast every day because this can help you to avoid snacking on foods that are high in fat and sugar.
Eating healthily often means just changing the amounts of different foods you eat so that your diet is varied, rather than cutting out all your favourites. You will need to be careful with your diet if you develop gestational diabetes - your doctor or midwife will advise you.
Fruit and vegetables in pregnancy:
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables because these provide vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre, which help digestion and prevent constipation.
Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day - these can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced. Always wash them carefully.
Cook vegetables lightly in a little water, or eat them raw but well washed to get the benefit of the nutrients they contain.
Starchy foods (carbohydrates) in pregnancy:
Starchy foods are an important source of vitamins and fibre, and are satisfying without containing too many calories. They include bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, maize, millet, oats, sweet potatoes, yams, and cornmeal.
These foods should be the main part of every meal. Eat whole meal instead of processed (white) varieties when you can.
Protein in pregnancy:
Sources of protein include:
l meat (but avoid liver)
Eat some protein every day. Choose lean meat, remove the skin from poultry, and cook it using only a little fat.
Make sure eggs, poultry, burgers, sausages and whole cuts of meat such as lamb, beef and pork are cooked all the way through. Check that there is no pink meat, and that juices have no pink or red in them.
Try to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish such as salmon, sardines or mackerel.
Dairy in pregnancy:
Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, fromage frais and yoghurt are important in pregnancy because they contain calcium and other nutrients that your baby needs.
Choose low-fat varieties wherever possible. For example, semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurt and half-fat hard cheese. Aim for two to three portions a day.
Foods that are high in sugar, fat or both:
l all spreading fats (such as butter)
l salad dressings
l ice cream
l fizzy drinks
You should eat only a small amount of these foods. Sugary foods and sugary drinks contain calories without providing any other nutrients, and can contribute to weight gain, obesity and tooth decay.
Fat is very high in calories, and eating too many fatty foods is likely to make you put on weight. Having too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which increases the chance of developing heart disease. Try to cut down on saturated fat, and have foods rich in unsaturated fat instead. Find out about saturated and unsaturated fat.