What should you eat

What should you eat A healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle at any time, but 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.

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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. You should also avoid certain foods in pregnancy: see .

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 will advise you.

Fruit and vegetables 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. 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. Find out what counts as a portion in : what counts?

Starchy foods (carbohydrates) 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, oats and sweet potatoes. These foods should be the main part of every meal.

Protein Sources of protein include meat (but avoid liver), fish, poultry, eggs, beans and nuts. Eat some protein every day. Make sure eggs, poultry, burgers and sausages 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.

Dairy Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are important because they contain calcium and other nutrients that your baby needs. Choose low-fat varieties wherever possible.

Foods that are high in sugar or fat This includes all spreading fats (such as butter), oils, salad dressings, cream, chocolate, crisps, biscuits, pastries, ice cream, cake, puddings and fizzy drinks. You should eat only a small amount of these foods. Sugar contains calories without providing any other nutrients, and can contribute to weight gain, obesity and tooth decay. Fat is very high in calories, and eating more 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.

Healthy snacks If you get hungry between meals, don't eat snacks that are high in fat and/or sugar, such as sweets, biscuits, crisps or chocolate. Instead, choose from the following nutritious snacks:

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