Nutrition during Pregnancy

Good nutrition during pregnancy. Where do I start? Do I just start eating extra? How do I know what is good and bad for me and the baby? Who can advise me on my nutrition during pregnancy?



These were all the questions I found myself asking when I first discovered I was pregnant. I had heard bits and pieces of information, but which parts are true and which are myths? I was the first of my group of friends to be pregnant, so I couldn’t even turn to them for advice.



Well after reading a lot of books, I have constructed a guideline to help you out on the best nutrition during pregnancy.


The Do’s:

Eat small regular meals. It is best to eat three meals a day plus two or more snacks. As the tummy gets bigger you will find that you need much smaller meals, but more of them.

Eat at least three different servings of vegetables a day and two different types of fruit per day. Vegetables nourish the body and the fruits help keep you regular. Pregnancy can make you constipated, so fruit will help keep you clear!

Eat at least six servings of cereals, bread, pasta or rice a day. Cereal should be whole grain and low fat and sugar. Bread should be multigrain or other seeded bread. Avoid white and wholemeal breads. Rice should be a low GI (glycaemic index) choice like Jasmine or Basmati. Avoid white rice and wholemeal as they burn too quickly leaving you hungry again in no time.

You should have two servings of dairy products every day such as milk, yoghurt or cheese. Keep these low fat and low salt (cheese).


Eat at least one serving a day of lean protein which includes fish, chicken, eggs, meat, nuts and pulses. Again, lean cuts of meat are best, ensuring it is cooked well (no blood). Nuts should be unsalted.

Drink between one and a half and two litres of fluids every day. Limit coffee in this equation. Water or non caffeinated herbal tea is the best choice. (Ensure herbal tea is completely safe for pregnancy. If unsure, stick to water.)

The Don’ts:

Ensure all food is freshly cooked and prepared in the last 12 hours. Otherwise there is a risk of listeria bacteria which can cause listeriosis, a flu-like illness that can be harmful.

Avoid chilled or raw seafood, pate, pre-cooked chicken, ham and other chilled pre-cooked meats (deli meats). Don’t eat stored salads, coleslaw and unpasteurised milk.

Avoid soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert.

Ensure all fresh foods are washed thoroughly.

Avoid swordfish, tuna and marlin as they may contain high levels of mercury.

Dramatically reduce alcohol consumption, especially in the first trimester. Often women drink early in the pregnancy unaware that they are even pregnant. If you plan to become pregnant, reduce alcohol intake prior to conception. Also avoid other drugs including tobacco as these are harmful to the unborn baby.



How much do I need to eat?


It depends on your age, height, build, pre-conception weight and activity level as to how many kilojoules you will need for your nutrition during pregnancy. It is nearly a certainty that everyone will need to put on weight during pregnancy. It is certainly not the time to go on a weight loss diet or to fast. Either could be dangerous to you or your baby.


Some women may not need to increase their energy intake by much, others may need to increase it by a lot. The average recommended increase is about 700kJ per day. More should be added if you are a teenager, underweight at conception or if you are carrying a mulitple pregnancy. It is best to discuss your individual food requirements with a health care professional.


Pregnancy is the perfect time to eat quality kilojoules. This will help keep weight gain within recommended limits. It will also help give the baby everything it needs and help you avoid hunger pains!


Eat plenty of fresh, seasonal food including fruits, vegetables and well cooked meats. These foods are far more nutritious than highly processed convenience and junk foods.


A well-planned, balanced and varied diet will give most people all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals necessary for a healthy pregnancy. The vitamins and nutrients you eat are always better for you than commercial tablets or capsules.


But how many of us actually eat a perfectly balanced diet? Most of us don’t have the time, money or energy to eat perfect nutrition during pregnancy. Also, morning sickness and vomiting can leave you depleted of vital nutrients.


Dietary restrictions such as a vegan diet (no animal products) can also leave you short of necessary nutrition during pregnancy and is really inadequate

for foetal development.


If you are looking towards taking supplements to help improve your nutrition during pregnancy, be sure to talk to your doctor first. Everybody’s needs are different, and you need to be certain what you are wanting to take is safe for pregnancy. Your early routine blood tests may identify pre-existing deficiencies in folate, vitamin B12 and iron, so your supplement requirement may be fairly specific.

Be sure to read labels carefully. Multi-vitamin supplements are generally ok for nutrition during pregnancy, but it is vital to check whether they have vitamin A added. Excessive levels of Vitamin A has been associated with birth defects including heart malformation and cleft palate. Ensure you avoid vitamin A supplements or multi-vitamins that have vitamin A in it.



Avoid foods like liver or pate as they are a good source of vitamin A, and sometimes may have chemicals in them such as cadmium.






Magnesium is essential nutrition during pregnancy or you don’t get full benefits from the calcium and protein you consume. Magnesium can also be prescribed by a doctor to help with pre-eclampsia – a pregnancy-related high blood pressure condition. Good food sources of magnesium include whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, muesli, spinach, raw parsley, beetroot leaves and silverbeet.


It is crucial to have magnesium included in any calcium supplement you may be taking as it helps the bones to retain calcium. Normal diets are often deficient in magnesium, so supplements can be helpful to boost nutrition during pregnancy.




You will need to increase your zinc intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding (lactation). Zinc is used to help the foetus build an immune system, brain and nerve formation and for enzyme production. Adequate zinc levels during pregnancy have been known to increase the chance of safer birth weights and less premature babies.


This mineral is often quite deficient within a pregnant woman’s diet. Good food sources include wheat germ, wheat bran, dried ginger root, dried peas and other legumes, red meat, chicken, fish, wholegrains, cheeses (in particular parmesan cheese), brazil nuts, hazel nuts and peanuts. Other nuts have smaller amounts of zinc.


You may need zinc supplements, especially if you are taking iron supplements. This is because iron can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb zinc.


Vegans and vegetarians may need a zinc supplement as they won’t get zinc from meat and poultry sources. Zinc supplements are often recommended during breastfeeding.


Folate (Folic Acid)


Folate is a B group Vitamin which is well known as a supplement for women considering pregnancy. It should be taken at least one month before conception, and for at least three month after conception.


Folate has been medically proven to dramatically reduce the chance of neural tube defects, including spina bifida, by as much as 70%. The instances of spina bifida is approximately one in 600 pregnancies.


Good food sources of folate include green leafy and yellow vegetables and wholegrain cereals. It is important to note, however, that up to half of the folate in these foods can be lost during cooking or storage.


In order to be sure you are getting enough folic acid, it is best to take a supplement rather than relying on the food sources. You should be aiming for a daily dose of at least 400 micrograms (ìg) – not 400 milligrams (mg). Milligrams is the usual measurement for most supplements. Your doctor will prescribe a higher daily dose of folate supplements if you have a previous history of pregnancies with neural tube defects.


If you are already taking a multi-vitamin, check that the folate component is at least 400ìg daily. If it isn’t, you may consider folate supplements as well.

B Group Vitamins

Vegans and vegetarians will need to take vitamin B12 supplements as the vitamin is found naturally in animal products. Alternatively, they may like to drink loads of soy milk fortified with B12. Vitamin B12 is vital for the developing baby’s nervous system, brain and red blood cells.


Taking a supplement containing B group vitamins can help maintain good energy levels and nutrition during pregnancy.






You do need fats through your pregnancy for healthy foetal development. Just stay clear of saturated fats.  It is best to use monounsaturated vegetable oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, for cooking and salad dressings.


Your body also needs fatty acids. Good food sources include nuts and dark green vegetables, linseeds or linseed oil, pumpkin seeds, oily fish, walnuts and pecan nuts, seeds, seed and vegetable oils. Try to avoid frying or roasting in fat. It would be better to steam, grill or stir-fry.



Sugar and Salt


Where possible, try to avoid refined sugars. It is fairly normal to crave sweet foods, or even weird and wonderful combinations of foods. Try not to give in to all cravings. We all know eating a big block of chocolate in one sitting is far from ideal!


Reducing your salt intake is also recommended. There is generally enough natural salt in foods, so adding extra is not necessary.






During pregnancy, you have more blood pumping around your body. You also have amniotic fluid surrounding the developing baby that is always being replaced. This means that your fluid intake should be increased to avoid constipation and urinary tract infection. Drinking at least 2 litres of water every day will help keep your body functioning as it should.


Do not use diuretic drugs during your pregnancy as they unsafe. If you are looking to relieve fluid retention, try natural alternatives like dandelion-leaf tea. (Don’t confuse this with Dandelion-root coffee substitute).

Another little tip: just because you are eating for two does not mean that you have to double your intake of food. Most pregnant women will feel like eating more quantity of food, but the real importance is on the quality of food. Ensure you choose quality nutrition during pregnancy and you and your baby will get what you need. Sure, it is fine and quite normal to crave some strange foods. Go with it! No one will criticise your pickles and ice cream fetish either! Just make sure the majority of your intake has the nourishment you both need.



Powered by Facebook Comments

Comments are closed.