Nutrition for Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when what you eat and drink becomes even more important. It’s no excuse to eat for two – the food and the nutrients food provides, will help with the baby’s growth and development as well as keeping you in the best possible shape. That’s why you need to focus on eating a variety of nutritious foods, particularly those that pack a strong nutritional punch!

In some instances it will be challenging to meet the nutritional demands of pregnancy without the use of supplements. This is where it is beneficial to consult a dietitian to discuss your individual needs.

Let’s have a look at the nutrients you need to focus on, the foods that you need to eat a little more of, as well as giving you a heads up on what you need a little less of to ensure (as best that we can) the health of you and
your baby.

What nutrients you need more of:

Folate ( Folic Acid – A B group Vitamin) Healthy development of babies in the first trimester. Reduces risk of abnormalities such as Spina Bifida(where baby’s spinal cord doesn’t form properly) At least 400 micrograms daily at least 1 month before conception and 3 months following.
Ask your doctor for advice, especially if you have a family history of neural tube defects.
Green leafy vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, spinach and salad greens)
Some fruits.
Fortified cereal, fruit juice, bread.
Vitamin supplements.
Iron Helps form red blood cells that carry oxygen needed for baby to grow. Much more than when you were not pregnant –27mg.
Absorption of iron is lower in vegetarians so intakes may need to be 80% higher.
Liver, lean(particularly red)meats.
Fortified cereals.
Green leafy vegetables, legumes. (note that iron is less readily absorbed through leafy vegetables, therefore vegetarians may need to consult a dietitian to ensure adequate iron intake).
Calcium Bone mineralisation, nerve and muscle function, Blood Pressure control. 100mg per day.
At least 3 serves of calcium-rich food each day.
Milk, Cheese, Yoghurt or Soy and other non-dairy milks with added calcium.
Vitamin D Bone and Growth Development. Immune system development. 5 micrograms (200IU) per day.
Some studies are suggesting at least 35 micrograms (1400-2000 IU) per day.
Safe sun exposure. Oily Fish. Full dairy diet. Egg Yolk. Fortified foods.
Omega 3 (DHA & EPA) Baby’s brain, eye and central nervous system, development of the growing baby.
In high-risk pregnancies a higher intake of DHA has also been shown to reduce the risk of premature births (less than 34 weeks).
At least 200mg per day. 2-3 serves of oily fish weekly, apart from varieties high in mercury.

What foods should be eaten during pregnancy?

Bread, cereals, rice, pasta & noodles 4-6, at least half should be wholegrain 2 slices of bread
1 medium bread roll
1 cup cooked rice, pasta or noodles
1 & 1/3rd cups of breakfast cereal flakes.
Vegetables and Legumes 5-6 1 sml potato
1 cup salad vegetables
½ cup cooked vegetables
½ cup cooked legumes
Fruit 4 1 medium fresh fruit (apple, pear, orange, banana)
1 small fresh fruit (apricots, plums, kiwi fruit)
Dairy 3-4 250ml milk or yoghurt drink, 200g yoghurt, 2 Slices (40g) cheese
Meat, fish or poultry 1-2 ½ cup lean mince, 2 small chops, ½ cup legumes, 1 small fish fillet, 2 small eggs.
Extra foods 0-2 ½ 2 tbsp cream or mayonnaise, 4 plain sweet biscuits, 1 tbsp oil or margarine, 1 can soft drink.

While pregnant, try to avoid:

Too much caffeine: Caffeine takes longer to break down in the body during pregnancy, and high intakes may increase the risk of miscarriage and your baby having a low birth weight. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, some soft drinks, energy drinks and some medicines.
Aim for no more than:

  • 1 regular espresso style coffee; or
  • 3 cups of instant style coffee; or
  • 4 cups of tea.

Possible food poisoning: As hormone changes may weaken your immune system, avoid Listeria containing foods (mostly chilled, ready to eat foods):

  • Soft cheeses (e.g. ricotta, brie, camembert)
  • Take away chilled cooked chicken (e.g. chicken sandwiches)
  • Cold meats
  • Pre-prepared salads
  • Paté
  • Raw or smoked seafood (e.g. smoked salmon) – canned seafood is safe.
  • When eating out, avoid food served lukewarm choose hot foods only.

Foods and drinks that prevent your body absorbing iron:

  • Too much tea/coffee (especially with meals) and unprocessed bran.
  • Avoid taking iron supplement with a meal containing milk, cheese and yoghurt.

Mercury in fish: Some fish may accumulate levels or mercury that may be unsafe for your baby’s development. Food standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) recommends the safe fish intake for pregnant women and women planning pregnancy where 1 serve = 150g:

  • 1 serve per fortnight of shark (flake) or billfish (swordfish/broadbill and marlin) and no other fish that fortnight.
  • OR
  • 1 serve per week or orange roughy (deep sea perch) or catfish and no other fish that week.
  • OR
  • 2-3 serves per week of any other fish and seafood not listed above.

What can help:

Nausea and vomiting:

  • Eat small, frequent, regular meals and have small frequent drinks between meals.
  • Avoid foods if their smell, appearance or taste makes you feel sick.
  • Food has a stronger smell when it is heated, that may make nausea worse. Prepare you food during times that you feel better, or ask others to help with the cooking.
  • Limit fried, fatty and spiced foods.
  • Eat more nutritious foods, such as dry toasts, crackers, breakfast cereals or fruit, and less sugary and fatty foods.


  • East small, regular meals and snacks.
  • Avoid fatty, fried or spicy foods.
  • Separate eating from drinking. Drink in between meals or snacks instead.
  • Avoid tea, coffee, cola drinks, chocolate drinks and alcohol.
  • Sit up straight whilst eating and avoid bending after meals.


  • Have enough fibre (from vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, nuts, seeds and legumes).
  • Keep up your fluid intake.
  • Keep physically active.

Keep weight in check:

Even though obesity negatively affects pregnancy outcomes for both mother and baby, weight loss is safer before or after pregnancy:

  • Try to minimise weight gain during pregnancy if you are overweight or obese; aim to only gain a little in the first trimester, most in the last when the baby gains most weight.
  • Depending on your pre-pregnancy weight, aim to only gain.
  • Between 10-13kg if you are in the healthy weight range.
  • No more than 10kg if your BMI greater than 30.
  • No more than 7kg if your BMI is greater than 40.

Manage your weight by:

  • Exercising throughout your pregnancy, particularly during the first two trimesters.
    Seek advice from your doctor to ensure there are no medical reasons to limit activity – but walking, swimming, low impact exercises and many other activities are safe for most pregnant women.
  • Consulting an accredited practicing dietitian, your doctor or midwife for assistance with weight management.

Keep weight in check:

It is vital to eat healthy, nutritionally – balanced food, and to look after yourself so you can provide the best care for your baby. Producing breast milk increases appetite and nutritional requirements (such as kilojoules, protein, zinc, iodine, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin B12) for the mother.

  • Limit caffeine to 1 regular expresso style coffee, or 3 cups of instant style coffee or 4 cups of tea a day.
  • Better not to drink alcohol, at least for the first month. If you have a drink, aim for no more than 2 standard drinks a day, and drink after a breastfeed. (it can take more than 3 hours for alcohol from 2 standard drinks to be cleared from breast milk, so try to plan ahead and express some breast milk to feed your baby before you drink).
  • Keep exercising regularly: Choose something you enjoy and can combine with your busy day or with your baby: walking, an exercise DVD or resistance activities.
  • Get enough rest and if you have any problems, ask for help and advice.