What to eat when pregnant

Some of the old cliches about pregnancy just aren't true like ‘eating for two’ for instance. But even though you don’t need to eat ‘double’ everything, you do need to pay extra attention to your food intake to make sure both you and your baby are getting the nutrition you need.

Every day, choose a variety of foods from all four food groups to make sure you get a wide range of essential nutrients and energy. Remember that although some supplements like Folic acid and Iodine are recommended during pregnancy, most of the nutrients you and baby need will come from a balanced diet full of healthy food choices.

What to eat when pregnant

Below is a list of food groups, and a guideline for how many serves you should aim for every day. Some women may need a bit more food, and some women may need a bit less. Watching your weight gain is on track will be your best guide to let you know if you are eating the right amount!

Top foods for Mum's Tum

Fruit and vegetables

Eat at least six servings per day: at least four servings of vegetables and at least two servings of fruit. Whether they’re fresh, frozen or canned they all contain vitamins, minerals and fibre. Slice a pear over your morning muesli, throw a banana in your handbag for a mid-morning snack, have a tomato in your lunch, a mandarin in your afternoon tea, three different coloured veges with your dinner and treat yourself to grapes or strawberries for dessert. Eating a variety of veggies gives you and your baby a variety of nutrients. Each colour provides different vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants- it’s nature’s colour coded guide to your health.

Breads and cereals (e.g. breakfast cereals, breads, grains, rice and pasta) 

Eat at least six servings per day, choose wholegrain options for more fibre. Simple staples like wheat biscuits, porridge and natural muesli are great to include every day. They’re great value, filling and a healthy choice. Try grainy breads, or brown rice or wholemeal pasta instead of white. Look at the nutritional panel on the side of the box and choose one with a higher fibre content to keep you fuller for longer and to help prevent the dreaded pregnancy constipation! If morning sickness means you just can’t face eating breakfast, try having a small bowl of cereal for morning or afternoon tea instead, so you don’t miss out on all that wholegrain goodness.

Protein rich foods - lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds

Eat at least two servings per day. These all contain protein, zinc, iron and other minerals. Meat and chicken are both excellent sources of high quality protein. Look for lean meats with the fat trimmed off, and remove the skin from chicken for a healthier option. Avoid raw, cured and undercooked meat, including deli meats. Fish is an excellent food and certain varieties, like salmon, are high in Omega-3 oil which is important for your own health and your baby’s development. But to be on the safe side, you’ll need to stick to fresh cooked salmon during pregnancy, rather than raw or smoked. Here’s more information on safe fish consumption during pregnancy. Legumes like beans and lentils are a source of protein and fibre. Try adding them to homemade rice dishes or salads. For more information on food safety during pregnancy check out this article on foods to avoid when pregnant.

Milk and dairy products (e.g. milk, cheese, yoghurt) 

Eat at least three servings per day; choose low or reduced-fat options. These are great sources of calcium and protein. Within the first 6 weeks of pregnancy, your baby’s bones will start to form so it’s important you have plenty of calcium stores in your body. Calcium is also important to help your baby’s muscle, heart and nerve development. If you like milk, try mixing with fruit to make smoothies, or pottles of yoghurt make good snacks too. Firm cheeses like Edam or Cheddar are ok when you’re pregnant, but stay away from softer varieties for the next 9 months, as these may contain Listeria, a bacteria which can seriously harm your unborn baby. Soft cheeses include brie, camembert, blue, ricotta and mozzarella. So stick to your trusty Tasty or Colby for now! And buy smaller blocks so you’re sure to be using it up while it’s still fresh.

Drink water to keep well hydrated, aim for least six to eight glasses of water each day if you can.

Avoid fruit juices, soft drinks and glucose drinks. They may taste great, but they contain a lot of extra sugar and calories you just don't need on a day-to-day basis.

A few things to take note of for a healthy pregnancy:

  • Alcohol - safe limits are unknown, so many health professionals say it’s best to avoid alcohol completely. 
  • Caffeine - too much caffeine can lead to low birth weight, and it’s also been linked with miscarriage. Limit your intake to a maximum of 300mg a day (Ministry of Health. 2006. Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women. A background paper. Wellington. Ministry of Health).This is roughly equivalent to three cappuccinos, or one large long black (or 400g of chocolate!). When you’re making your cuppa at home, have a daily maximum of six cups of tea, or six cups of instant coffee.
  • Smoking – aim to quit well before you start trying for a baby. There are a lot of resources to help you take that healthy leap.
  • Be careful of 'empty calories' - stay away from foods that are high in fat and sugar like biscuits, chocolate, chips, cakes and lollies. Remember that carrying excess weight can put a strain on your body and may affect the long term health of your baby.

For more yummy and healthy ideas for mum’s tums, check out our snack and meal ideas and eating plan for Mums. 


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