It is a very exciting phase in a couple’s life when they find out they are pregnant, but excitement is only one aspect of pregnancy. Every woman wants to deliver a healthy child and for that she must be mindful of what she is eating. Eating a balanced diet when you’re pregnant is very important but what’s more important is keeping in mind that you’re eating for two now.

There is no magic formula for a diet during pregnancy. The basic principles remain the same i.e. get plenty of fruits, vegetables, fluids, healthy fats and proteins. Having said that there are some nutrients that take preference over the others. Here are the top 5..

1)     Folic Acid

This nutrient tops the list and is extremely important during pregnancy. It helps close the neural tube thereby reducing the risk of any neural tube defect and abnormalities of brain and spinal cord.

How much do you need?

 400 to 800 micrograms a day of folate or folic acid before conception and throughout pregnancy


Oranges, orange juice, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, spinach, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, fortified cereals, peas, pasta, beans, nuts.

2)     Vitamin D

This vitamin not only helps build strong bones and teeth, but it also helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus which in turn aid bone production as well.

How much do you need?

600 international units (IU) a day


Fatty fish, such as salmon, is a great source of vitamin D. Other options include sunlight, fortified milk and orange juice.

3)     Calcium

You and your baby need calcium for strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps your circulatory, muscular and nervous systems run normally.

How much do you need?

1000-1300 mg a day


Dairy products are the best absorbed sources of calcium. Non-dairy sources include broccoli and kale. Many fruit juices and breakfast cereals are fortified with calcium, too

4)     Iron

It is not only essential for your baby but for you as well. Iron helps prevent iron deficiency anaemia as it is used to make more blood for you and your baby. Not only that it helps prevent premature birth and postpartum depression.

How much do you need?

 27 milligrams a day


Beef, meat, dried beans, spinach, dried fruits, wheat germ, oatmeal or grains fortified with iron

5)     Protein

Helps in the production of amino acids; repairs cells and is crucial for you and       your baby.

How much do you need?

 71 grams a day


Most animal foods, meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, veggie burgers, beans, legumes, nuts are good sources of protein.


Apart from the top 5 there are others which are important for a pregnant female and her baby for example:

Vitamin A                         Source

Helps bones and teeth grow Liver, milk, eggs, carrots, spinach, green and yellow vegetables, broccoli, potatoes, pumpkin, yellow fruits, cantaloupe

Vitamin   E                                                                             Source

Helps body form and use red blood cells and muscles Vegetable oil, wheat germ, nuts, spinach, fortified cereals

Vitamin C                                                                                            Source

An antioxidant that protects tissues from damage and helps body absorb iron; builds healthy immune system Citrus fruits, bell peppers, green beans, strawberries, papaya, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes

Vitamin B12                                                           Source

Important factor in DNA synthesis Shellfish, fish, beef, liver, meat, eggs, dairy, poultry

Zinc                                                     Source

Helps produce insulin and enzymes Red meats, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals, oysters, dairy products

 So, it is a good idea to include a large variety of foods and maintain a balanced diet. This would help you to receive all the nutrients required during pregnancy. Taking vitamin supplements is also an option but they work best only when taken along with a healthy diet to ensure that the pregnant woman is receiving all her required daily nutrients.


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By Aniza Hussain


Northbrook Clinic

15a Northbrook Road


Dublin 6

01 406 8173

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