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Pregnancy can be a time which focuses many women’s minds on what they are eating. While the basic principles of eating well are similar to before pregnancy, there are some additional things to remember.


Basic principles of eating well

  • Enjoy:
    • Have a diet rich in fruit and vegetables
    • Swap refined carbohydrates for wholegrain carbohydrates and aim to eat 30g of fibre per day.
    • Eat 2 portions of protein per day such as lean meat or fish, eggs, lentils, pulses, beans, and tofu etc which are also an important source of iron.
    • Eat 3 portions of calcium rich food per day such as diary products, or tinned fish where you eat the bones, tahini, broccoli, tofu, almonds and dried fruit
    • Drink plenty of fluid (approximately 8 glasses), which is especially important in pregnancy as your blood supply increases. If you are exercising or being sick, you will need to drink more.
    • Nuts if you are not allergic.
    • Dairy products, fish and fortified plant based milks that are rich in iodine (


  • Supplement:
    • Folic acid:
      • As soon as you stop contraception, or find out you are pregnant, take a supplement of 400micrograms (mcg) per day of folic acid. This can help prevent your baby developing neural tube defects (NTD). If you have diabetes, or epilepsy or a previous pregnancy with NTD, then you will need to take 5milligrams (mg) per day.
    • Vitamin D:
      • Vitamin D is produced in your body using sunlight, and most people do not get enough without supplementing. It’s recommended most people take a vitamin D supplement in the UK during autumn and winter. In pregnancy it is recommended to take one regardless of the seasons. Vitamin D is needed for strong bones and teeth. Take a supplement of 10micrograms (mcg) or 400IU of Vitamin D per day.


  • Avoid:
  • Food high in salt or sugar or fat
  • Soft cheeses such as brie, and unpasteurised diary products because these can contain a bacteria called listeria.
  • Raw or undercooked eggs and those that are not produced in the UK.
  • Raw, undercooked or cured meat such as chorizo, salami and prosciutto.
  • All types of Pâté, even vegetarian ones.
  • Swordfish, shark and marlin and limit intake of tuna to no more than two fresh tuna steaks (280g cooked / 340g raw per steak) or 4 medium sized cans per week to prevent you eating too much mercury contamination.
  • Raw or lightly cooked wild fish and shell fish except those that have been frozen first.
  • Vitamin A also called retinol or retinoic acid, some fish oil supplements, and any foods fortified (with added) vitamin A.
  • The safest approach is if you think you could be come pregnant, to avoid all alcohol.



  • Limit the amount of caffeine you consume from coffee, tea, green tea, chocolate, sports drinks and cola to approximately 200mg per day






Dr Harriet Holme

Optimising your health is more to do with what’s on your plate than what you do for exercise. Instead of following restrictive diets, detox drinks, and lots of supplements, my advice is based on the latest science, providing an evidence based, practical approach to enjoying tasty real food for life. I am a great believer that food should be enjoyable and not overly restrictive, while benefiting your health. There are healthy choices that you could be making now which mean a rich array of tasty nutritious food, that may improve the quality of your life and reduce your future risk of disease. I studied medicine at the University of Cambridge and have over a decade in academic clinical practice as a paediatric doctor. In addition I have a PhD in genetics from University College London. I now use those uniquely developed skills for the benefit of my clients and students, exclusively consulting as a Registered Nutritionist with the Association of Nutrition and lecturing in culinary science and nutrition. I was commissioned to write a cutting edge degree combining culinary, nutrition and health, the first of it’s kind in the UK, and I’m involved in teaching the chef’s and doctors of tomorrow about nutrition. Your health is fundamentally linked to your diet. Dr Harriet Holme MA MBBS MRCPCH (2009) PhD RNutr (AfN)

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