How to Make Healthy Meals

You may think you are eating well, but just how healthy are your meals? Do you know how to prepare healthy meals at home?  Healthy meals do not mean you have to be a master chef, or spend hours in the kitchen. In fact the healthiest meals are often very simple and quick to prepare.

What Should Be in a Healthy Meal?

A healthy meal should contribute to your daily needs of complex carbs, good fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.  You should always aim to include a source of grains (wholegrain if you can), a source of lean protein (like fish, lean poultry, lean red meat. tofu, eggs, lean dairy products or legumes) a source of good fat (for example seeds, nuts, avocado, olive oil, oily fish), and fruits or vegetables.  When adding the fruits or vegetables to your meal, aim to include as many colours as you can.  The more colour on your plate, the more nutrients you will consume.

Reducing the Amount of Fat You Use

A great way to make a healthy meal is to reduce the amount of fat that you use. Easy ways of doing this include:

       Use low fat or skim milk in cooking instead of full fat milk

       Use a low fat cream substitute instead of cream (reduced fat cooking cream)

       Use evaporated milk with a little coconut essence instead of coconut cream

       Use less of a stronger cheese, like parmesan, instead of a lot of milder cheese

       Spray oil onto a pan instead of pouring out of the bottle

       Remove all visible fat from meat before cooking (once cooked it may be hard to distinguish between the fat and meat)

       If your recipe uses steps always drain meat before moving onto the next step – you will be amazed at how much fat you can get rid of by doing this

Get Great Flavour Without the Extra Calories

Instead of using fats (oils, butter) or refined sugars to create flavour try using herbs and spices.  There are many different spices available in your local supermarket or store that you can use to spice up your meals.  Herbs are also easy to buy or grow and can add great flavour to your healthy meals.  A great example of adding flavour without extra energy is to use garlic and low fat milk when doing mash, instead of butter and full fat milk.  Try to make sauces from scratch instead of the jar variety that contain extreme amounts of fat, salt and preservative.  For example it is very simple to

make a homemade pasta sauce using tomatoes, chilli, garlic, onion, a little olive oil and basil – and you know exactly what has gone into it.

Reducing the Amount of Sugar You Use

Many meals can be made with less sugar.  If you are baking you can substitute pureed apple (or any other fruit) for sugar.  If you do this you also add more nutrients to your meal.  Using honey as a sweetener as it is a more natural product than refined white sugar.  It is also a good idea to simply reduce the amount of sugar used in recipes as you will find that over time your taste buds will get used to less sweetness.

Add More Fibre

Fibre is essential for a healthy digestive system and you can easily add more fibre to your meals by:

       Leave the skin on fruits and vegetables when possible

       Use whole wheat flour instead of white flour

       Add oats into recipes in place of some of the flour

       Add lentils to a casserole or mince based dish

It is not hard to make your meals healthier, plan ahead so that you know what you are having, make sure your meal has all the components of a healthy meal and look for ways to reduce the fat and sugar you use, and to increase the fibre content.

When you are cooking, make sure you have leftovers and put them in the fridge or freezer straight away so it can be a back up meal for when you simply don’t have time to cook. It will save you buying a sneaky take away meal just because you ran out of time!



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Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are everywhere these days due to being a low calorie option to sweeten foods and beverages. But like everything else, if it is artificial and not the real deal, what is it doing to our bodies? Although sweeteners do make things taste sweet without the added calories (which sugar provides) they do come with a host of side effects.


The most commonly used artificial sweetener is aspartame which has a neuro-toxic effect on the brain so it has been linked to a host of disease states such as depression, dizziness, Alzheimer’s, brain tumours and headaches. I am certainly not suggesting that you are automatically going to get a brain tumour if you use sweetener, but the toxic side effects of aspartame have been well documented.

Other artificial sweeteners include fruit acid, saccharin, cyclamate, alitame, sucralose, acesulfame-K and neotame.

Most people are attracted to artificial sweeteners because they are providing us with a lower calorie option, which means less weight gain. However, they have a strong effect

on our neuro chemistry which affects our moods. We can end up craving more carbohydrates, which could in turn lead to weight gain if the extra carbohydrates are not burnt off. Therefore, they are not really helping too much!


Foods to Watch Out For

Artificial sweeteners can be found in loads of food products so read the labels clearly: soft drinks, flavoured waters, chewing gum, diet meals, ice creams, sauces, chocolate, protein bars and desserts! Drinks are the main culprit because you can consume loads of it and still not feel full. You are more likely to down a few buddy bottles of diet soft drink without thinking twice when compared to a protein bar where you might restrict yourself to one in a day.

Healthy Options

Stevia: a South American herb which is 300 times sweeter than sugar, and zero calories.

Raw honey: nice and natural, plus a great source of minerals and has potent anti-bacterial properties.

Coconut sugar and nectar is hot on the market right now. It has a low glycemic index and tastes great! Give it a whirl next time you’re baking as it’s a great sugar substitute!

Best option: keep your food intake varied and use fruits to help sweeten more bland foods. Train your palate to enjoy more simple foods. It takes time, but eventually, you won’t even need your “sweet fix.”





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Foods to avoid for a Happy Tummy

Do you constantly have digestive issues? If you avoid some foods, you may find your tummy will thank you!

Some people treat their bodies like a designer hand bag, others, like the plastic bags you use as a bin liner. A ‘designer bag body’ is fed a healthy diet with the right mix of nutrients, water and soluble and insoluble fibre which provides good fuel enabling the body to work more efficiently. When you’re having tummy troubles like bloating or diarrhea, what to eat and what not to eat becomes equally important.

Here are foods to avoid when you are having tummy problems.

Spicy food maybe something you want to avoid if you’re experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. Spicy foods may stimulate the digestive system.They have no effect on some people, but cause problems for others. In general, you should choose bland foods when you’re having digestive problems and keep the spices at a mild level when your tummy is feeling better. Not everyone can actually digest hot spicy food.

Dairy is one food group that can be hard to digest mainly because of the naturally occurring sugar it contains – lactose. When lactose isn’t digested properly, such as in people with lactose intolerance, gas, bloating, diarrhea or even worse may be experienced. If suffering from digestive problems, it may still be okay to eat yogurt and hard cheeses because they have no or very low levels of lactose, or you can try lactose-free milk. If you are concerned about your calcium levels, there are alternatives to dairy that provide good sources of calcium.

Processed foods also often contain preservatives and artificial coloring, and people with allergies or sensitivities to these additives will feel their effects during digestive problems.

Artificial sweeteners may upset your tummy. Perhaps most associated with digestive problems is sorbitol. Once sorbitol reaches the large intestine, it often creates gas. If you are having digestive problems read the food labels and avoid food that contains artificial sweeteners, such as chewing gum, sugar free sweets and cordial, as they may give you gas, bloating and diarrhea. Afterall, they are artificial so you can’t expect the body to process them properly!

Alcoholic drinks are the last thing you should have if you’re not feeling well. Nutritionally speaking, alcohol itself has no nutrients and will also give you extra “unwanted” calories – and slow down your weight loss. Alcohol is toxic to the stomach and drinking too much can cause a variety of health problems. Drink in moderation, and preferably only once a week.

Caffeine is making contents move more quickly through your system, and excessive amounts can give anyone diarrhea. So if you already have diarrhea, caffeine will only worsen your digestive problem. Remember that tea, soda, and chocolate are other sources of caffeine, and should be put on hold until tummy troubles go away. Caffeine can also reduce your ability to sleep, so if you are already lethargic, staying up all night with a caffeine high is not going to help!


sauce and citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruits, are acidic and can cause digestive problems. Even carbonated beverages are acidic. When you have an upset stomach, avoid acidic foods.

Avoid high-fat foods, like butter, ice cream, and cheese – these foods should already be limited in your diet as they are not recommended on most healthy eating plans and will otherwise slow down your weight loss. Fatty foods can surprisingly, either slow down the emptying of the stomach and worsen constipation or speed up movement and lead to diarrhea. The effect can depend on the type of fat and your tendency toward constipation or diarrhea.

Deep fried foods
similar to fatty foods and can either lead to diarrhea or causing you to feel full and bloated. In saying that, deep fried food isn’t recommended in most weight loss programs anyway. Processed foods should be avoided if you are feeling constipated because they lack fibre, which helps regulate bowel movements.

Sweet or salty foods can be hard to digest – small amounts can be included in a healthy diet. Chocolate, a sweet-tooth favorite, can cause digestive problems including heartburn.

Food poisoning is usually a very unpleasant experience and can actually be life threatening so be aware of the symptoms. Many refrigerated foods can go bad, such as dated items like eggs, dairy products and meat. Eating contaminated or overdue foods can cause digestive problems such as diarrhea, vomiting or worse.




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Foods Affect our Mood

If you find yourself feeling tired, moody or just generally run down, it could be caused by the foods you are eating.


How do Foods Affect Our Moods?


Food is made up of chemical compounds that can directly alter the brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that control our normal function on a day-to-day basis.

When we are lacking in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine or if they are inefficient in their uptake ability, low mood often results.  Surprisingly, certain food components can cause an influence on the level of neurotransmitters, meaning that what you eat can effect the management of depression.


Superfoods can Boost Your Mood

Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring contain high levels of Omega 3s that are rich in the EPA. This acts as a natural yet powerful anti-depressant.

Wholegrain cereals such as pasta, breads, oats and brown

rice help to raise tryptophan levels in the brain which is used to produce Serotonin. Serotonin is the “feel-good” neurotransmitter thought responsible for symptoms of depression if it is deficient.

       Serotonin absorption is helped by good levels of folate. Dark green vegetables, such as Spinach and peas are rich in folate so will contribute to the absorption of Serotonin.

       Chicken and turkey are two excellent meat choices that are rich in the Vitamin B6 which is essential to serotonin production in the body.

       Soy beans, hemp, lentils and edamame beans are rich in protein and help to stabilize blood sugar levels that may influence mood.

       Ground flaxseeds, which are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, and may stablise the mood by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain.

       Legumes and soy, which both contain rich amounts of the B vitamin Thiamine that is essential to a stable cognitive and sharp memory function, as well as to building healthy brain cells.

       Avocados, which are rich in both Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin E, an anti-oxidant found deficient in most Depression patients.



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Breakfast – your key to successful eating

Eating breakfast: Timing is Everything

When people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it actually has some truth in it. Modern scientific research has shown that a drop in blood sugar felt when you wake up in the morning can be controlled by early eating, ensuring the metabolism has a good kick start to the day.


Benefits to Breakfast Eaters

Compared to people who skip breakfast, breakfast eaters are more likely to be:

       Of a more normal healthy weight range.

       Able to maintain a more stable weight, without the fluctuating yo-yo diet effect.

       Be able to meet their daily nutritional requirements, such as their carbohydrate, fibre, vitamin and mineral requirements. Research has proven that the nutrients missed with breakfast are rarely ever replaced later in the day, especially if binge eating results from a poor metabolism.

       More alert, and having increased levels of concentration, memory and intellectual performance throughout the day. Breakfast has been linked to increased cognitive function.

       Are less likely to consume or binge on unhealthy snacks throughout the day, avoiding extra calories and potential weight gain. Generally breakfast eaters are in more control than those who skip breakfast.

       In a better mood, as non-breakfast eaters are often tired and irritable in the mornings, and are generally unable to improve their mood without a sugar or caffeine hit. This will contribute to the yo-yo mood swings based on what they have eaten.


Making Breakfast Convenient

Many breakfast skippers claim they simply don’t have the time as they rush out the door for work or school. Others don’t feel they are hungry in the mornings which is usually a result of late night eating. Either way, allowing 5 or 10 mins in the morning can easily set you up for a successful day, and save you heaps of time in the long run as you won’t need to rush out for that coffee hit at the drive thru or cafe.

A healthy breakfast takes a little forward planning and a tiny amount of effort, so here are some easy tips to get your body, mind and pantry ready for the most important meal of the day:

  • Don’t eat late at night. Sitting in front of the telly with a bowl of ice cream or crisps only leads to useless calories consumed and the chance you are going to bed on food that is not digested properly. The general rule of thumb is to not eat at least 2-3 hours before bed. Instead try drinking lots of water and herbal teas instead. That way you will wake up needing to eat allowing your metabolism the kick start it needs.


  • Keep a good supply of wholegrain cereals and breads in the house. There are quick to prepare, nutritious, and unlike their refined counterparts ensure lasting energy levels throughout the day. Wholemeal is not the same as wholegrain, so make sure your selection is actually grainy!


  • Shop regularly. Fruit and dairy products in particular are better bought fresh. This also enables you to keep up the variety

    so you won’t get bored with your choices.


  • Prepare half a dozen boiled eggs at the beginning of the week and store them back in your fridge. They can then be quickly peeled in the morning to mash up on to a piece of wholegrain toast.


  • Stock up on food at work. More often than not, there is a 5-10 minute window after arriving at work where we can make ourselves a cup of tea while toasting a piece of wholegrain bread or making a bowl of wholegrain cereal, fruit and yoghurt. Most people check emails (or Facebook!) as soon as they get to work, so eat while looking at the computer.


Easy Ideas for Breakfast

       A bowl of wholograin cereal with low fat milk, topped with berries, yoghurt or any other fresh fruit you may prefer.

       A fruit smoothie made your blender with fresh fruit, honey, low-fat or soy milk. You can add oats to bulk it up, or a good quality protein powder.

       Wholegrain toast topped with either tomato, avocado, boiled eggs, mushrooms, organic baked beans, spinach or cottage cheese. All these choices are quick and easy and can be done while getting ready in the morning. Put the bread in the toaster, go and pack your bag / briefcase etc and come back to top your toast.

       Gluten-free, Bircher or any untoasted muesli topped with berries and half a banana with a scoop of low fat yoghurt or dash of milk.

       A vegetable omelette cooked in the pan with olive oil and left over vegetables from dinner the night before. You could be making the kids lunches while this is cooking!

       Eggs and tomato, whether they be poached, fried (in olive oil) or hard-boiled. Add mushrooms, spinach or baked beans and share with your mate.


Overall, whatever you choose, breakfast doesn’t need to take a tonne of time to prepare and eat. We all live busy lifestyles, but with a small amount of pre-planning, eating breakfast can improve your chance of success with your weight loss journey, can improve your productivity at school or work and can improve your health in a big way. Don’t waste your time and money on diet pills, meal replacements and frozen meals. You are better spending a valuable 10 mins of your day eating a nutritious breakfast and you will save money on all those other non-essential items.



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How do I Avoid Processed Foods?

If a food has been completely changed from the natural state that it was originally grown, then it is a Processed food.  They may have been changed in order to improve their shelf life, texture, flavour or profit level. We all know we should stay away from processed food, but it becomes difficult when we are unsure about what constitutes a processed food, and what is natural. The following is a list of the best ways in which to avoid processed foods:

1.    Check out the ingredients and see how many of them you actually know. If the foods you are buying have ingredients with a pile of numbers attached, or if the list of ingredients include too many unfamiliar names or chemical based names, chances are, it is highly processed;

2.   Try increasing your consumption of

whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, especially home grown ones. This way you will naturally decrease your consumption of processed foods;

3.    Be mindful of the quantity of ingredients in each product. Think about what you are actually eating and consider whether it would actually take so many ingredients to make that product. Why would it take over 15 ingredients to make bread when all you need is just a handful?

4.    Don’t believe everything you read or see on TV! Look at the ingredients to make sure it is really natural and healthful! Remember, marshmallows are marketed as 99% fat free, and we all know they are not healthy! So don’t just assume because it is marketed as a “health” product, low in fat or low in sugar that it is actually healthy!

5.    High fructose corn syrup, MSG, trans fats are clear markers for a highly processed food. Avoid these at all costs! Even be mindful of artificial sweeteners, fruit acid and nutrasweet. None of these are natural!

6.     Avoid take away foods such as French fries, hamburgers and pizza.  There is nothing healthy about them as they are all bursting with highly processed items in the oils, cheese and even the meat has processed products in the preparation of it.  The kid’s menu very often consists of hot chips, nuggets and processed white pasta.  Instead, make a meal up by ordering a baked potato and vegetables, or a small serve of wholemeal pasta with tomato based sauce;

7.    It is important to eat fruits and vegetables that are in season, this way you they are at their peak nutritionally (and cost effective).  The best way to get these are at the local farmer’s market, or even better still, grow them yourself to eliminate any use of pesticides;

8.    By making our own ‘treat foods’ such as cakes, muffins, biscuits, we are decreasing the consumption of processed foods as we prepare it with real butter, eggs etc rather than trans fats, preservatives and colour. Kids love to bake, so it can be a real treat to have a home baked cookie included in their lunch! Fill the cakes, muffins or biscuits with fruits and nuts to increase flavour and nutrition.



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Benefits of Berries

The health benefits of berries have been well documented, but which variey should you eat, and for

what reason? The good news is that all berries are good for you, containing high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants, but some varieties have extra therapeutic properties.


Strawberries are versatile, delicious and when they are in season, they are inexpensive to buy. They are also reasonably easy to grow, so would make an excellent addition to your home veggie garden. Strawberries are packed with natural nutrition, and studies have found that they can protect the stomach lining from damage caused by alcohol consumption. (And no, this is not giving you permission to drink more alcohol!)  


Blueberries are also packed with nutrition, and are full of antioxidants. In particular, they contain anthocyanins which are great at reducing oxidative stress that contributes to ageing. Blueberries have also been attributed to reducing the impact of gout which is caused by an increase in uric acid in the system.

Maqui Berries

The purplish pigment of maqui berries contain specific anthocyanins called delphinidins that help reduce inflammatory activity withing the body. Other purple berries and flowers contains anthocyanins too, but it is the maqui berries that are like super foods and can help inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells, and may also help reduce bacterial diseases too.

Goji Berries

Goji berries are convenient to eat as they are sundried and eaten like sultanas. In Australia, goji berry juice is more commonly used, but it needs to be from a reputable supplier in order to keep the juice as natural as possible without too much added sugar, and keeping all the natural goodness of the goji berry itself.

Acai Berries

Acai berries have twice as many antioxidants as blueberries and the highest ORAC level of any berry (ORAC is an antioxidant measurement). Acai berries are also high in protein, contain essential fatty acids similar to those found in virgin olive oil and are high in trace and macro minerals.



Cranberries have been well recognised in the past for their amazing health benefits, especially when it comes to urinary tract diseases and their prevention of periodontal gum disease and ulcers. Studies have also shown that regularly drinking cranberry juice may also help prevent prostate and other cancers. 


Why not mix and match your berries to add flavour, colour and plenty of nutrition!



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Fighting Fatigue with Food

Are you always tired, drained, worn out?  These are just some of the words used to describe a feeling of just being plain old ‘buggered’.  No matter which way we look at it and no matter which words we use to illustrate, the simple fact of the matter is that life is moving at an alarming rate leaving us gasping for air and heading for the nearest pillow.

Are you one of the many people that just dread the morning alarm? Or you just can’t get through a full day without the mid-afternoon “nanny-nap”? Or is it straight after dinner that you turn into a complete couch-potato, unable to remove yourself from the couch, stuck in front of the TV?

Whichever time of the day renders your ‘slump’, food is often one of the reasons why you feel this way.  Research suggests that a poor diet lacking in important vitamins and minerals and high in processed foods is often the cause of sluggishness and fatigue.  A nutritionally dense diet, however, often boosts energy levels.

Food is our fuel.  Therefore, what we choose to fuel our bodies is going to impact highly on its ultimate performance.  As we wake up and get out of bed, our day has begun and our bodies need to be refueled after a fast.  Breakfast is the breaking of the fast, and to say that this is the most important meal of the day is definitely an understatement!

In order to get your body prepared for the day it is important to choose foods that are wholegrain.  Choosing a combination of carbohydrates, a healthy fat and protein will ensure endurance and energy and decrease the chance of morning fatigue.  Some ideas are:

       Poached egg on wholegrain toast with

real butter;

       Protein shake loaded with natural yoghurt and fresh berries;

       Oatmeal with yoghurt, flaxseeds and raisins (or a fruit of choice).

Eating healthy at the start of the day should be a catalyst for the rest of the day.  Such foods such as carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, butter should be included in the daily diet.  This sort of eating improves memory, decreases fatigue and boosts energy. It will also improve your waistline, decrease your risk of most chronic illnesses and improve the tone of your skin.

Snacks need to consist of fruit, nuts and seeds.  Sliced raw vegetables such as carrots dipped in humus or avocado dip makes for an excellent snack.  Steer away from the simple carbohydrates such as lollies, cakes as these will give you a quick energy fix, but leave you feeling tired and fatigued after a while.

Try and add lean protein into some snacks to help you feel satisfied. Turkey breast, lean ham or beef strips with vegie dip can make a quick nutritious snack. Lentils, chickpeas and tofu can also provide quick and easy meals and snacks.

The important thing to remember is variety. Your body needs a range of different vitamins and minerals to remain healthy so be sure to include plenty of colour when choosing your snacks, and this doesn’t mean several different colours of icing on the donut!

Eat well, eat often and ensure plenty of proper good quality hours of sleep, and your energy levels will return to normal. Feeling better and looking good starts and finishes with your nutrition. Get it right, and you will be thankful for it!



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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.



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Foods High in Iron

There are many foods high in iron, but first we need to discuss the types of iron.

 There are two types of iron in food:


  • Haem Iron: is readily absorbed by the body. Sources of haem iron include lean meat, chicken and fish.


  • Non-Haem Iron: is more difficult for the body to absorb. Foods high in iron include leafy vegetables, eggs, dried fruit, legumes and iron fortified breakfast cereals. In order to maximize iron absorption, these foods should be consumed in combination with a vitamin C food source (e.g. pineapple, orange, rock melon, lemon juice, strawberries and capsicum). It is also best to eat haem and non-haem iron foods together, as this enhances iron absorption even more.  Iron absorption can be reduced by consuming wheat bran as well as tea and coffee.

    The body is also able to adjust when it is iron deficient. It can absorb 10 – 20% more iron from foods than when it is not iron deficient.

    Foods High in Iron

    Animal Sources (good sources of haem and non-haem iron)

      Serving Size Amount of total iron per serve (mg/serve)
    Liver, cooked (75g) 8.3
    Lean, cooked beef 2

    slices (75g)

    Lean, cooked lamb 2 slices (75g) 1.0
    Eggs 1 boiled egg (55g) 1.0
    Tuna, dark flesh 75g 0.7
    Lean, cooked pork, ham 2 slices (75g) 0.6
    Lean, cooked chicken (no skin) 1 small breast 0.5
    Fish, white flesh 1 average piece (75g) 0.3



    Plant sources (good sources of non-haem iron

      Serving size Amount of total iron per serve(mg/serve)
    Commercial breakfast cereal (iron enriched) Average serve (60g) 5.6
    Nuts (e.g. cashews, almonds) 50g 1.6 – 3.1
    Sweet corn 1/2 cup (120g) 2.1
    Lentils, cooked 1/2 cup (120g) 2.0
    Baked beans in sauce 1/2 cup (120g 1.8
    Porridge, cooked oats 1 cup 1.6
    Bread (wholemeal) 2 sandwich slices (60g) 1.4
    Potato 1 medium 1.4
    Green leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach, silverbeet, cabbage) 1/2 cup (120g) 0.8 – 1.2
    Milk chocolate 50g block 0.7
    Bread (white) 2 sandwich slices (60g) 0.7
    Dried fruit (e.g. prunes, apricots) 5-6 (50g) 0.6
    Fruit (fresh) 1 average piece 0.3-0.5


    Iron (Mg) In Food

    Meats, Seafood, Egg  
    Liver 100g 10.0
    Lean beef 100g 3.5
    Lean lamb 100g 3.5
    Lean pork 2.0
    Chicken leg no skin 100g 1.2
    Chicken breast no skin 100g 0.6
    Fish grilled average 100g 0.6
    Tuna 100g 1.0
    Salmon 100g 1.0
    Egg, 1 whole 0.7
    Shellfish average serve 1.0
    Pate 1 Tbsp 2.0
    Milk 0.0
    Milo, 2 rounded tsp 1.0
    Ovaltine 2 tsp 1.0
    Sustagen 250ml 4.0
    Breakfast Cereals  
    Weet-Bix 2 biscuits 2.5
    Vitabrits 2 biscuits 1.0
    Good Start 2 biscuits 3.0
    Sportsplus ½ cup 3.0
    Cornflakes 1 cup 2.5
    Just Right 30g 2.5
    Sultana Bran 30g 2.0
    Sustain ½ cup 2.5
    Porridge ¾ cup 1.0
    Wheatgerm, 1 Tbsp 0.6
    Breakfast bars, 1 average 2.5
    Wholemeal bread 1 slice 0.6
    Fruit loaf 1 slice 0.6
    White bread 1 slice 0.4
    Muesli bars 1 average 2.0
    Rice ½ cup 0.3
    Pasta ½ cup 0.4
    Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Seeds  
    Baked beans ½ cup 2.0
    Kidney beans, lentils ½ cup 2.0
    Vegetables average serve 0.5
    Potato 1 medium 0.8
    Spinach 100g 3.0
    Peas ½ cup 1.3
    Dried apricots 5 pieces 1.3
    Raisins 2 Tbsp 0.6
    Fresh fruit 1 serve 0.5
    Fruit juice 250ml 0.4
    Sunflower seeds 1 Tbsp 0.8
    Peanuts 30g 0.5
    Almonds 30g 1.0
    Milk chocolate 100g 1.5
    Licorice 50g 4.0

    Note: Tbsp – tablespoonTsp – teaspoon

    Glenn Cardwell – Gold Medal Nutrition, Second Edition p.75 

    Iron Requirements

    Girls 8-11yr 6-8mg
    Women 12-15yr 10-13mg
    Women 16-18yr 10-13mg
    Women 19-54yr 12-16mg
    Women Pregnant 22-36mg
    Women Nursing 12-16mg
    Women 54+yr 7mg
    Boys 8-11yr 6-8mg
    Men 12-15yr 10-13mg
    Men 16-18yr 10-13mg
    Men 19+yr 7mg


    Glenn Cardwell. Gold Medal Nutrition, Second Edition 1999 p.75

    The table above shows the RDI for iron depending on the age and gender of the person. You will note that females require more iron than men once they are 19 years+ due to the increased iron loss through menstruation and child bearing. So it is vital that this group of people consume adequate amounts of foods high in iron.


    Iron deficiency is a greater risk for particular people including:

  • females (due to blood loss through menstruation, and lower overall intake of all nutrients).
  • vegetarians (due to reduced intake of haem iron).
  • frequent blood donors.
  • people with a low intake or iron, or poor absorption of iron-rich foods.
  • fad dieters, or strict calorie counters.
  • people who choose all natural foods – these people avoid processed food (e.g. iron fortified breakfast cereal).
  • those who have suffered injury with blood loss Iron deficiency causes lethargy, pale skin, persistent infections, fatigue, dizziness and weight loss. You should only consider iron supplements if prescribed by a doctor or health professional, as iron overdoses can be toxic to some people.


Be cautious! Iron overload can actually cause damage, so be sure to be checked out by your doctor before starting any supplementation for Iron Deficiency.



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