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Nutrition for Pregnancy

Getting ready for your baby

As with many of the really special events in our lives, having a baby means lots of change and excitement. During the pregnancy, your baby depends on you for the nutrition it gets so it is very important to eat well and safely. Nutrition for pregnancy even before you are pregnant preparations should begin to get your body in good condition. A healthy pregnancy will be a happy pregnancy and taking good care of yourself is the key.

If you normally eat well and enjoy a wide variety of foods you will probably have to make only a few changes to your diet. If your diet isn’t as good as it could be, now is a good time to make some changes - both you and your baby will benefit. During pregnancy eating for two is not necessary. Your baby will grow rapidly during the last three months and you may need to eat a little more then, an extra glass of milk and a slice of bread each day should be enough. If you feel nauseated (morning sickness), try to eat small meals more often. Toast or dry biscuits, with perhaps a little jam, may be better tolerated than more fatty foods.

Folic acid is important

Ideally, this vitamin should be taken in supplement form for at least three months before you become pregnant. If you are already pregnant, folic acid should continue to be taken until the twelfth week. Until recently, the importance of folic acid was not understood. We now know that it helps to prevent babies from developing disorders called neural tube defects. Your doctor will tell you how much to take.


When you are pregnant you need more iron than usual. This is particularly important if you have ever had anaemia (low blood iron). The best way to be sure of getting enough is to take iron-rich foods regularly. The most readily available iron is found in meat (e.g. beef, lamb, pork), fish (e.g. mackerel, haddock, sardines) or chicken. Iron from vegetables, cereals, pulses (peas, beans, lentils) and eggs is less well absorbed, but, Vitamin C helps you to absorb iron from these foods if taken at the same meal. Citrus fruits such as oranges, fresh fruit juices and green vegetables contain Vitamin C. Tea prevents iron from being effectively absorbed so make it weak and try not to drink tea with meals.

Calcium makes strong bones

Calcium requirements increase when you are pregnant. Dairy produce, (milk, cheese and yoghurt) and sardines or tinned salmon are good calcium-rich foods. Five portions of these foods should be taken daily during pregnancy and for the duration of breast feeding. Vitamin D helps you to absorb calcium. Vitamin D can be made in the body through the action of gentle sunlight on the skin and is found in oily fish and fortified milk or margarine.

Good Foods for Mums to Be

Bread and cereals

Use the wide range of breads which are now available to add variety to your meals and snacks. Cereal with fruit and milk makes a good breakfast.


Try them baked, boiled or steamed, rather than as chips. A good topping for savoury pies.

Rice and pasta

Use at your main meal or make a rice or pasta salad with fish, eggs or cheese for a light meal.

Meat, chicken and fish

Eat twice a day. Take a small portion as part of your light meal and a more substantial helping for dinner. Good for iron and zinc.

Eggs, pulses (peas, beans and lentils)

These high protein foods also provide a host of other nutrients and can be incorporated into any meal. 

Milk, cheese and yoghurt 

Calcium-rich foods which contain protein and vitamins. Eat about five portions of these foods daily.

Fruit and vegetables

Very important. Full of vitamins. Use as a snack between meals or for dessert. Vegetables (cooked or as a salad) should be included in both lunch and dinner. Do not over-cook as some vitamins are destroyed by cooking.

This webpage provides general information about the nutritional issues which are important during pregnancy.  To check out your special needs it is important to talk to your doctor.