Pregnancy is a good time to think about what and how much we eat - if we aim for a good range of healthy foods we are more likely to have all the nutrients we need for ourselves and our babies.
Being a healthy weight – with a sensible weight gain – throughout pregnancy will help your baby be a healthy weight too at birth and beyond.
The Eatwell Guide shows the main food groups in the proportions that are healthy for adults and children over 5 years old. It is not necessary for every meal to reflect this balance – we can aim to balance what we eat and drink over the course of a day or two, including snacks.
The majority of what we eat should come from two groups – fruit and vegetables, and carbohydrates (bread, rice, potatoes and other starchy foods). The rest is made up of protein (beans, pulses, fish, eggs and meat), dairy foods (such as milk and cheese, or non-dairy alternatives) and a small amount of oil.
How big is a portion?
The size of portions offered in restaurants and cafes has increased in recent years so it can be hard to know what a sensible portion looks like.
The simple way of measuring the size of a portion without the bother of weighing all our food is to use the size of our own hand.
Curl your fingers into a fist – this is roughly the size of your unstretched stomach. Our hands are in proportion to the rest of us so that reminds us that that a young child’s portion is a lot smaller than an adults. When your baby is older, from around 1 year old, you’ll be able to use their hands to judge their portion sizes too!
How many portions?
So are we saying that each meal should only contain one portion from each food group? The table below shows the daily recommended portions that reflect a healthy balance of the different food groups. The number of daily portions includes everything we eat – meals, snacks and drinks.
If you have eaten too many or too few portions in one day - aim to balance what you eat and drink by spreading the number of portions over the course of a day or two.
|Food group||Number of daily portions||Hand size|
|Fruits and vegetables||5+|
|Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates||5|
|Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins||2-3|
|Dairy and alternatives||2|
Juices and Smoothies
- Limit fruit juices and smoothies to one small glass a day. Try drinking juices and smoothies with meals to reduce risk of tooth decay.
- Choose unprocessed foods where possible but if buying pre-prepared foods, choose ones that are lower in saturated fat, free of sugars and salt.
Sweets and Treats
- Food and drinks that are high in sugar, salt and fat such as biscuits, cakes and sugar can be bad for us if we eat them too often, so try and limit these if you can.
If you’re surprised by the size of a portion, or the number of portions, you’re not alone! Many people discover they’re eating more than they need – or maybe not enough.
Did you know that you don’t have to ‘eat for two’ when you’re pregnant? It’s only towards the end of your pregnancy (the last 3 months) that you may need to eat an extra 200 calories, which is only around 2 slices of buttered toast! Watch this video to see what an extra 200 calories may look like.
Did you know that you don’t have to ‘eat for two’ when you’re pregnant? It’s only towards the end of your pregnancy (the last 3 months) that you may need to eat an extra 200 calories, which is only around 2 slices of buttered toast!