Folic acid

Taking a supplement of Folic Acid (400 micrograms per day) as well as eating more foods rich in folate for the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy will help minimise the risk of neural tube defects. For women with a BMI over 30 it’s advised that a higher folic acid supplementation of 5mg (milligrams) per day is taken. This needs to be prescribed as it is not available over the counter

Foods rich in folate include:

Vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, asparagus, kale, spinach, spring greens, broccoli, and other green vegetables.

Overcooking these will reduce the amount of the vitamin, so keep them crunchy. Steaming will retain the most amount of the vitamin.

Fortified breads and cereals which have folic acid added to them can also be good sources

Other good sources include oranges, vegetables like cauliflower, lettuce, parsnips and peas, brown rice, eggs, cooked soya beans, baked beans and chickpeas.

Vitamin D

It’s advised that you take vitamin D during your pregnancy to provide your baby with enough vitamin D for the first few months of his or her life.

Vitamin D is provided in your healthy start vitamins - free of charge

Avoid liver and Vitamin A supplements

Liver, liver products (such as liver pâté or liver sausage) and supplements containing vitamin A can be toxic to a developing baby, so avoid these during your pregnancy

Avoid alcohol

When pregnant or planning a pregnancy, the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all, to keep risks to your baby to a minimum.

Limit caffeine

Limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200mg a day. Here’s the average caffeine content in some drinks:

  • 1 mug instant coffee = 100mg
  • 1 mug filter coffee = 140mg
  • 1 mug tea = 75mg
  • 1 can cola = up to 40mg

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 can use the Eatwell Guide to get the balance of your diet right. The eatwell plate shows you how much to eat from each food group.


 Eatwell Guide showing what proportion of each food group you should eat


Fruit and vegetables in pregnancy

Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables because these provide vitamins and minerals, as well as fibre, which helps digestion and can help prevent constipation.

Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day – these can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced. Always wash fresh fruit and vegetables carefully.

Starchy foods (carbohydrates) in pregnancy

Starchy foods are an important source of energy, vitamins and fibre, and are satisfying without containing too many calories. They include bread, potatoes, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta, noodles

Protein in pregnancy

Eat some protien foods everyday. Sources of protien include:

beans, pulses and some grains, fish, eggs, meat (avoid liver and pate), poultry and nut

Dairy in pregnancy

Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, fromage frais and yoghurt are important in pregnancy. They contain calcium and other nutrients that your baby needs. Choose lower fat options when possible such as semi-skimmed milk. Low fat lower sugar yoghurt and lower fat hard cheese.  Aim for two to three portions a day.

If you prefer dairy alternatives such as soya drinks and yoghurts, go for unsweetened, calcium fortified versions.

General food handling guidelines

  • Wash hands before preparing food and after handling raw meat
  • Wash fruit and vegetables well, especially if they’re going to be eaten raw
  • Store raw meat covered at the bottom of the fridge, separate from cooked foods
  • Defrost frozen meat thoroughly before cooking
  • Check that meat, poultry and shellfish are thoroughly cooked
  • Re-heat cooked-chilled food thoroughly
  • Check foods are eaten within use-by dates.


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