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RCOG statement: Advice on nutrition in pregnancy

News 28 July 2015

A new study, based on fruit-flies, from the Medical Research Council’s Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London, has suggested that women may not need to ‘eat for two’ during pregnancy because the body could adapt to absorb more energy from the same amount of food.

Dr David Richmond, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) said:

“It is in fact a myth that you need extra calories for the first two-thirds of pregnancy. It is only in the last 12 weeks that women need an extra 200 calories a day.

“A healthy diet, vitamin supplementation and physical activity will benefit both you and your baby during pregnancy, it will also help you to maintain a healthy weight after you have had your baby.

“Trying to lose weight by dieting during pregnancy is not recommended even if you are obese, as it may harm the health of your unborn baby. However, by making healthy changes women who are very overweight or obese may not gain any weight during pregnancy and may even lose a small amount - this is not harmful.”

The RCOG has advice for women on maintaining a healthy lifestyle before conception and during pregnancy, including information on diet and exercise. In order to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy, our advice is to:

  • Base your meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, choosing wholegrain if possible. These foods are satisfying without containing too many calories.
  • Eat at least five portions of different fruit and vegetables every day rather than foods that are higher in fat and calories. Potatoes do not count towards your five-a-day target, and a portion of pure fruit juice only counts as one of your five-a-day, no matter how much you drink.
  • Eat a low-fat diet and don’t increase the number of calories you eat. Eat as little fried food as possible and avoid drinks that are high in added sugars, and other foods such as sweets, cakes and biscuits that have a high fat or sugar content.
  • Instead, eat fibre-rich foods such as oats, beans, lentils, grains and seeds, as well as wholegrain bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta.
  • Eat some protein every day; choose lean meat, and try to eat two portions of fish a week. Lentils, beans and tofu are also a good source of protein.
  • Eat dairy foods for calcium but choose low-fat varieties such as skimmed milk or low-fat yogurt.
  • Watch the portion size of your meals and snacks and note how often you eat.
  • Always eat breakfast.
  • Limit your caffeine intake to 200 milligrams (mg) per day, for example two mugs of instant coffee. Be aware that other drinks such as tea and energy drinks also contain caffeine.

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For further information, please contact the RCOG Media and PR team on +44 20 7772 6300 or email pressoffice@rcog.org.uk