What to eat when pregnant

What you eat today can significantly impact your baby’s health tomorrow. If you’re not sure exactly what pregnant women should eat, check out our pregnancy diet plan

Having a bump doesn’t have to turn your life upside down. (Having a baby – that’s another story!) If you feel well, and get antenatal check-ups, there’s no reason why you can’t live life pretty much as you did pre-bump. But a few tweaks to your diet and lifestyle can make a huge difference to the wellbeing of the baby inside you. Here’s how:

Your pregnancy diet plan – what the experts say

Scientists now agree that what you eat today can significantly impact your baby’s health tomorrow. "Research has shown that what our children eat for the first 1,000 days of their lives (from conception to two years) has an important influence on their future health," says Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington. Scientists reckon your pregnancy diet can affect your child’s future weight, heart health and even their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. "It’s about building a body that the baby can live off," said Professor David Barker, whose research team discovered the importance of the 1,000-day diet. And it’s easy! Read on for the simple steps you can take to create your own pregnancy diet plan.

Should you eat for two?

Alas, pregnancy is not an excuse to spend the next six months with your head in the biscuit tin. "You only need to increase your calorie intake during the last 13 weeks," says Vicky. "Even then, it’s best to get those extra calories from wholesome foods."

The latest advice on supplements

Even if your nutrient-dense diet makes Davina McCall’s look deficient, you’ll still need a little help. While it’s always best to get your nutrients from food, some supplements are recommended in pregnancy: "Government advice is to take 400μg (micrograms) of folic acid* and consider a daily supplement of 10mcg of vitamin D a day during autumn and winter, to support baby’s growth and development," says Vicky. And it’s not just about your baby’s health – you’ll benefit from the nutrients, too. "Your baby will take all the vitamins it needs, but you could get short-changed," explains Boots Parenting Club midwife Emma Mills. "Pregnant women can become low in vitamin D, which is responsible for keeping bones and teeth strong and healthy. Iron levels will also fluctuate, so talk to your midwife if you feel breathless, lightheaded or unusually tired."

*While trying to conceive and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

How much caffeine is safe?

Staying hydrated is crucial. "It’s important to drink plenty of water," says Vicky, "because you can become dehydrated much quicker when you’re pregnant. Plus, it helps take the nutrients from your food to baby." But step away from the kettle: caffeine recommendations are under 200mg a day in pregnancy, which is roughly two mugs of instant coffee, one shop-bought filter coffee or two cups of tea.

Which are the best snacks?

You could certainly find yourself returning to the fridge more often than usual. "When I was pregnant, I wanted to snack constantly," says Henrietta. But you need to restrict your guilty pleasures. "Good snacks include a mix of protein and complex carbs like oatcakes with hummus or half an avocado, or some cashew nut butter on apple slices."

Be clever about cravings

Around 85 percent of pregnant women will at some point hanker after certain foods. So, what does it mean? "There’s no scientific evidence that cravings mean anything," says Vicky. "But there’s usually no harm in having a little of what you fancy now and then." What to do when all your cravings seem to be off the menu? Try switching your favorite foods and drinks with something similar in taste or texture. Exchange creamy unpasteurized Brie or Camembert cheese for flavor-packed Manchego; ditch sugary chocolate biscuits and treats for a couple of squares of cocoa-rich dark chocolate (a little goes a long way) and switch the white grape juice for a refreshing elderflower and soda mocktail.

Bump-friendly superfoods

Boots nutritionist Vicky Pennington suggests five great sources of bump-friendly nutrients.

  • Oily fish such as fresh tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines, for DHA (omega 3), to support your baby’s brain and eye health. No more than two portions a week though
  • Eggs are packed full of iron, which will help give you energy. 
  • Pulses like kidney, pinto or black beans are good for folic acid, calcium and iron
  • Broccoli, along with other green, leafy veg such as spinach, kale or cabbage, is a great source of folic acid
  • Hard cheese and yogurt are great sources of bone-strengthening calcium