top of page

Why Is Nutrition in pregnancy so important?

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

As part of our program all our clients (1:1, group classes and couples) are given the option to look at their nutrition. We do not use the word DIET, its so emotive and as much as we wish people understood we were just talking about the food you eat, we know thatit is associated with very negative views!

It can be especially emotive around pregnancy and postnatally. Women often feel they’re pressured to eat a certain way.

We don't like that and we want to help change it!

As a qualified nutritionist, I see clients looking at me as if I am about to tell them what to eat. Thats not my job, my job is to simply give you information and help you make informed choices that are easiest for your lifestyle and help you feel better from within.

That is also the purpose of this blog :)

When you get pregnant, you may have this idea that when your weaning baby will always eat the best foods, organic, free range, full of vegetables good quality meats ( Commonly known as ‘healthy foods’ )

You may well change how you use food throughout pregnancy, if your suffering from HG like I did, you'll eat anything that stays down!

The food we eat is more the calories, its social time with friends, energy for our body, and tool to help improve health.

As a nutrition coach and PT im all for being active and eating well consistently. I see that people use is as a tool to ‘control’ weight and we know that weight control is a concern for women even through pregnancy……BUT it is so much more than weight control.

There are direct links between inadequate nutrition and increased pregnancy complications, such as premature birth and low birth weight babies. What we eat during this time not only has to provide sufficient energy and nutrients to meet your usual requirements but also the needs of your growing baby.

When a baby arrives, you focus so much on on ensuring that their baby is fed in the most nourishing way possible. Many utilising the power of breastmilk. As the weening period begins you seek out the most nutritious, colourful fruits, vegetables and ingredients, often organic.

Yet in pregnancy we don’t often focus on it, not just for baby but for ourselves to!

To me nutrition holds the key to health, there is so much power in nutrition especially during pregnancy and placing value on it is just as important as when you’re weaning your little one. The food you consume when pregnant provides the nutrient stores for babies to use for growth and development in-utero. (*Fun fact, if your born a girl- you are born with ALL your eggs which means that what you eat in life directly affects your granddaughter)

The first 1,000 days of life (the nine months of pregnancy and the first two years of the baby’s life ) is a critical window of opportunity for getting sufficient nutrition.

How well we as mothers nourish ourselves and our children can directly impact a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive. Poor nutrition can set the stage for obesity, diabetes and chronic diseases for the child’s future life.

Nutrition during pregnancy and the information out there can be overwhelming. The NHS website can be a useful source of information. Remember, simplicity is the key :)

How many calories should you consume in pregnancy?

Eating for two is not something we recommend, in fact calorie requirements in pregnancy do not increase until the 3rd trimester. When it does increase, it is only an extra 200-300 extra calories a day is recommended. (this is roughly a piece of toast with peanut butter on)

Often in pregnancy women are always told what they 'cant' or 'shouldn't eat. The list of foods is marginally small compared to all the foods that can be eaten so.......

What should you eat in pregnancy?

Our diets are made up of 3 macronutrients- carbohydrates, protein and fat.

We then have micronutrients- vitamins and minerals (don't be fooled they are essential to health and wellbeing.)


Protein is essential for health. it is composed of amino acids which are ‘the building blocks of life’. This is because they are found in every cell of the body and are responsible for repair and growth of cells. Protein requirements increase in pregnancy to 1g/kg of body weight. An easy way to measure this is simply to use the palm of your hand three times a day. You can mix this between meat and plant based

Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (sugar) and absorbed into your blood so the glucose can enter your cells and be used by your body for energy. Do not cut out the carbs unless a dietician has told you to do so. Using complex carbohydrates over refined, white versions gives you extra fibre and helps to maintain your blood sugars. For example, brown rice and pasta, wholemeal bread, oats and leaving skins on potatoes.

Fats, specifically the ‘good’ or un-saturated versions are essential to health and the absorption of certain vitamins such as vitamin A, D and E. some energy but also growth and repair of tissues. Aim to limit your saturated fat intake from foods such as butter, cakes and chocolate and increase your unsaturated fats from sources including nuts, seeds, fish, avocados and olive oil.

Start your plate with the protein but, each meal should contain foods from each of these groups to create a balanced and varied diet.

There is some evidence emerging that a healthy gut microbiome in pregnancy can lead to a reduction in asthma, eczema and allergies in children. Having variety is key to a healthy gut microbiome, so including a wide range of fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains is important. Variety in your normal regime will help to boost your gut health. This could be simple swaps like swapping an apple for a pear, orange carrots for purple carrots, mixed berries in a smoothie rather than single and using mixed seeds over individual.


Iron is an essential micronutrient, however, 1/3 of women of childbearing age have low iron stores. Iron is important in making red blood cells which transport oxygen around the body as well as other body functions such as gastrointestinal and immune systems. Deficiency in iron may lead to anaemia which may make you feel very tired and lethargic, cold, short of breath and generally weak. Pregnant women with low iron may also be more prone to infection because it supports the immune system and it is also associated with low birth weight infants and preterm birth.

Iron requirements increase in pregnancy (27mg/day) - because red blood cell production increases dramatically to provide your baby with the oxygen and nutrients to grow

There are two main sources of dietary iron- haem iron (found in animal-based food) and non-haem iron (found in plant-based food). Haem Iron sources include- beef, pork, lamb, eggs and some fish including mackerel, tinned tuna and prawns. Non- Haem sources include- chickpeas, kidney beans, tofu, figs, almonds, brazil nuts, peanut butter, sesames seeds, sunflower seeds and green leafy veggies (spinach, broccoli, kale etc). To aid your body’s ability to absorb iron in food eat it with Vitamin C rich foods such as fruits and veggies.

Vitamin A- for cell growth, eye health and nervous system support. Too much in pregnancy however is linked to birth defects so avoid supplementation. A healthy amount can be obtained from a balanced diet. Sources include- eggs, milk, butter, apricots, carrots, tomatoes, spinach and many other fruits and vegetables

Zinc- helps to form the baby’s organs, skeleton, nerves and circulatory system. Sources include- canned sardines and tuna, eggs, meat, prawns, milk, beans and lentils, tofu, nuts, wholemeal bread

Iodine- helps regulate metabolism and thyroid function. Iodine deficiency is believed to be the biggest cause of learning disability in children. Sources include- butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, eggs, fish

Choline- is essential in the development of your baby’s brain. Sources include- eggs, meat, vegetables, toft, nuts, seeds

Vitamin C- building block for skin and is also an antioxidant to help protect cells against damage. Sources include- fruits and vegetables

Thiamin- plays an important role in the development of the baby’s nervous system. Sources include- chicken, eggs, nuts, potatoes, oatcakes, wholemeal bread

Omega 3 fatty acids- Many benefits for mothers such as; improved heart, eye, brain and mental health. And they are also the building blocks for the baby’s brain and eyes. Studies linking omega 3 intake in pregnancy may lead to improved IQ and cognition of children. Sources include- oily fish (sardines, salmon, mackerel) nuts and seeds, plant oils (flaxseed)

Should I need to take supplements in pregnancy?

While a well-balanced diet should enable you to obtain the micronutrients that you and your baby need, your medical team will recomend any cupliments as needed. However, there are two general one recommended.

Vitamin D - is important for bone develop for mother and baby and cannot be met through diet alone, adults make their vitamin D through sunlight exposure of which we don’t tend to get a lot of in the UK.

Folic Acid - recommended ideally 3 months prior to conception and in first trimester to reduce risk of neural tube defects


Valdes, A. (2018) Role of the gut microbiota in nutrition and health. BMJ. 316 (1) pp. 36-44.

RCOG (2015) Advice on Nutrition in Pregnancy. Available from:

RCOG (2014) Healthy Eating and Vitamin Supplements in Pregnancy. Available from:

WHO (2018) Weekly iron and folic acid supplementation as an anaemia-prevention strategy in women and adolescent girls. Available from:

WHO (2013) Essential Nutrition Actions. Available from:

WHO (2019) Nutrition Counselling During Pregnancy. Available from:

9 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

The bump into fitness programme isn’t about your weight. Do you ever wonder why? For that we have to go back to 2011. I had found out I was pregnant, it was unexpected and unplanned and shocking (we

bottom of page