Pregnancy Nutrition And Health

It's important to look after your own health and wellbeing for a healthy pregnancy. Eating a variety of foods as part of a balanced diet not only helps provide you with the energy to keep going, but also provides your baby with the essential nutrients needed for growth and development. Read more in this section about pregnancy nutrition and how to achieve a balanced diet from a variety of foods. This will help give your baby the best start in life, and help give you the energy and nutrients you need to keep up!

  • Medical advice: Don't feel shy about contacting your health professional


    There may be times when you want to consult an expert – especially if this is your first pregnancy and it’s all foreign to you. Never feel embarrassed about asking for help or advice, this is an important time in your life and reassurance is sometimes all you need.

    If something is worrying you, it’s important to call your GP or lead maternity carer. It’s much better you catch a potential problem early, and get peace of mind.

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  • Breaking a sweat: what about exercise during pregnancy?

    We’ve all heard that fitness and nutrition work hand in hand for a healthy lifestyle, and this applies even more during pregnancy. Moderate intensity aerobic (e.g. walking, swimming) or muscle strengthening activities are considered safe for most people and are encouraged during pregnancy. Keeping physically active during pregnancy can help keep your weight under control, give you more strength for labour and even make it easier to recover after the birth.

    The Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults recommend pregnant women aim to do 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity spread over at least 3 days per week (preferably some activity every day). Just make sure you take it easy and consult your doctor or midwife before you start any exercise program. Also you will need to adapt your exercise activities as your body changes during pregnancy.

    Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    Active lifestyle – if you’re used to moderate intensity exercise and your pregnancy is problem free, there’s no reason you can’t carry on, so long as you’re comfortable.

    If you are competing in events or exercising significantly more at vigorous to high intensities, seek advice from a health care professional with specialist knowledge about activity during pregnancy.

    Being gentle - it’s best to avoid high risk sports and exercise like horse riding, squash and skiing until after you’ve given birth. This is because of the risk of collision, falling or injury, which could impact on your baby. You should also steer clear of exercises that put lots of strain on your abdominal muscles, like stomach crunches. 

    Mostly inactive - if you’re not used to regular exercise, now’s definitely not the time to start a strenuous regime. Start slowly and build up your activity with gentle activities like walking, swimming and yoga, which are suitable for all stages of pregnancy.  All physical activity counts too such as walking to work or for active transport.

    Keeping sensible - whatever exercise you do, you need to stop immediately if you feel overheated, sick, and faint, or you have any pain. If it doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t. If you’re in a class, just make sure that your instructor knows you’re pregnant before you start.  Also make sure you drink plenty of water when exercising.

    One exercise to rule them all - pelvic floor exercises are a good choice during and after pregnancy and done regularly can keep pelvic floor muscles strong to help avoid urinary incontinence problems. The Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults advise that pregnant women can benefit from doing stretching and pelvic floor muscle training daily. 

    Ask the experts - If you have any pre-existing health conditions, concerns or questions about physical activity, always check with you doctor or lead maternity carer. You should also run it by them before you start any new routine.


    Ministry of Health. 2020.  Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults. Updated 2020. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

    The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.

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  • Preparing your Body for Pregnancy

    Some of us just know when we’re ready. Some of us never feel like we’re ready but dive in anyway. Some of us don’t even plan on conceiving, but when it happens we’re overjoyed. Or at least equal parts overjoyed and terrified. The truth is pregnancy is different for everyone, but if you are planning on having a baby you’ll find plenty of helpful advice here.


    Good habits start early

    Everyday life takes over and it’s easy to neglect your diet and exercise regime. While conception is different for all women, here’s a simple rule of thumb that we can all follow: it’s never too early to start taking care of yourself. Healthy parents have a better chance of conceiving and giving their baby the best possible start in life.

    Eat well

    It is recommended that you follow a healthy balanced diet because eating well helps prepare your body both before and during pregnancy.  Eat three regular meals every day with a small snack in between if needed. Eat a variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups every day. Choose and prepare foods and drinks which are low in saturated fat, with little or no added sugar and that are low in salt.  Drink plenty of fluids, water is best.

    Folic acid is a must

    Folic acid is an essential B-vitamin that is important during conception and pregnancy to help prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Take one 800ug folic acid-only tablet daily for at least four weeks before pregnancy, and until the end of the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid is found in some foods like green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, legumes and grains. You don’t get enough folic acid from diet alone during pregnancy, and that’s why you need to take a folic acid-only supplement. Your doctor or midwife will recommend a folic acid-only supplement to take before and during pregnancy.

    Fitness counts

    Try to achieve a healthy body weight with heathy eating and regular physical activity.  Work on improving your fitness, as carrying excess weight can put extra strain on your body. Even small amounts help, so when you get a chance to add exercise into your day – take it! It is recommended that you do at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity or 1 ¼ vigorous-intensity physical activity spread throughout the week before pregnancy.


    Aim to quit well before you start trying for a baby. There are a lot of resources to help you take that healthy leap.

    If you’re concerned about your diet, weight or fitness, see your health professional for advice or referral to a dietitian. 


    Ministry of Health.  2020.  Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults. Updated 2020. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

    The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.

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  • Morning Sickness, Constipation & Other Changes During Pregnancy

    Hormonal changes with pregnancy mean you might also be experiencing nausea, food cravings, a heightened sense of smell and differing tastes.

    It’s not unusual to change your mind about food from time to time, but you might find your palate changing a lot during pregnancy. This is due to hormonal changes – you can experience a whole range of cravings during pregnancy. It should settle down once you’ve given birth.

    A lot of women will experience a heightened sense of smell during pregnancy, and since aroma can shape taste, you might find this affects what you feel like eating.

    Morning sickness

    A surge of pregnancy hormones arrives in your first trimester.  Unfortunately, this can trigger a feeling of nausea, commonly called morning sickness. It generally peaks around week 10, and it should settle down by weeks 14-16. Although there are also some mums-to-be who experience morning sickness right through till the very end of their pregnancy.

    While it’s named ‘morning sickness’ it can actually hit you at any time of the day. You might find yours is more like ‘after lunch’ or ‘early evening sickness’. Try to remember, usually morning sickness will pass.

    Everybody is different and what you can eat and drink will largely depend on what you feel like, what you can hold down and the health and medical needs that are particular to your situation. 

    In the meantime, here are a few tips on ways to try and help reduce the nausea:

    • Easy does it – if you feel sick in the morning, get out of bed slowly so your body doesn’t change position too quickly.  
    • Try a plain snack - like a cracker or piece of toast before getting out of bed, because morning sickness can be made worse by low blood sugar levels.
    • Rest up - being really tired can sometimes make your nausea worse. Try to get plenty of sleep - if there’s ever been a time to take it easy it’s when you’re pregnant!
    • Hydrate – drink enough to keep you well hydrated, it will help you feel better and also replenish lost fluids if you have been vomiting. Cold water, sparkling water, diluted juice, electrolyte drinks can be good choices.
    • Small meals and snacks - eating small meals and snacks over the day (so you always have a little food in your tummy) can help improve feelings of nausea.
    • Hold your nose - avoid smells that make you feel worse such as cooking odours, perfume and cigarette smoke which are common triggers for morning sickness.
    • Get a kitchen helper – if you can, have someone cook for you when you’re not feeling so great.
    • The more bland the better – if you’re having trouble keeping food down, go for plain carbohydrate options like pieces of toast, crackers, breakfast cereal, plain pasta or rice dishes. Be wary of spicy, fatty and highly flavoured meals as they can make you feel worse.
    • Grab a bite before bed – having a light, plain snack before you go to bed can sometimes help. Don't overdo it though as late meals (especially if large) can also give you a bit of heartburn. 
    • Get your stretchy pants on – go for comfort all the way and wear loose waist bands. Clothing that’s tight around your middle can worsen nausea.

    A few foods and drinks that might help relieve your morning sickness: 

    • Ginger containing food or drinks may be helpful (e.g. ginger ale, ginger biscuits)
    • Ice-cold water, sparkling water, diluted fruit juice, electrolyte drinks
    • Milkshakes or fresh fruit smoothies
    • Soups
    • Plain toast or crackers 
    • Natural yoghurt
    • Plain biscuits
    • Raw vegetables like carrot and celery sticks
    • Frozen ice blocks or frozen fruit juice.

    Even if you can’t eat much, it's important you stay hydrated. Your baby will take the nutrients they need from you even if you don't manage to eat much solid food.  Keep sipping on drinks throughout the day and taking in small amounts of food. 

    If you’re being sick several times a day, and you can’t keep any decent amount of food or drink down, it’s time to see your doctor or midwife for advice.


    Constipation can be common in pregnancy. There are several reasons why, including higher levels of the hormone progesterone which relaxes your digestive tract making food pass through it more slowly. Another factor is the pressure from your growing uterus, and also constipation may be a side effect if you’re taking iron supplements.

    Make sure you have a balanced diet with plenty of food high in dietary fibre.  Drinking plenty of water (nine glasses a day) can help.  It’s a good idea to keep active on a daily basis and go for a walk, a swim or even try some yoga – gentle regular exercise can help get your bowels moving.

    Tips for including more fibre in your meals:

    • Choose wholegrain cereals like wheat biscuits, muesli or porridge
    • Choose wholegrain bread, pasta and rice instead of white
    • Snack on nuts and seeds, a small handful is a handy source of fibre
    • Legumes – cooked beans and lentils. You can use these in soups, casseroles or even salads, be creative!
    • Bulk up your dinner with vegetables and salads (just wash thoroughly).  Have plenty of frozen veges on hand, these are convenient and quick to add to cooking.
    • Add fruit to your breakfast and snacks. Sliced banana on wholegrain bread is delicious.  Try kiwifruit for a snack.

    If you find you’re still having problems, it’s a good idea to chat to your doctor or midwife.



    Heartburn and indigestion are very common in pregnancy, more so in the later stages. For many women it feels like an uncomfortable burning sensation due to acid passing up the stomach into the esophagus (food tube). This is mainly due to hormonal changes which relax the valve to your stomach so acid can pass back into your esophagus.

    Your growing uterus pressing against your stomach can also increase the symptoms of heartburn, especially in your third trimester. It’s more likely to strike you after a meal, but don’t be surprised if it sneaks up on you at other times too.

    Heartburn isn’t dangerous to you or your baby, but that doesn’t make it comfortable! It can be painful and it can make it difficult for you to relax and get a decent night’s sleep. There are a few tips to try to ease it, but if it’s a problem ask your doctor or midwife for advice.

    In the meantime, try these tips to be more comfortable:

    • Perfect posture –sitting up straight while you’re eating and not lying down soon after eating can help by taking pressure off your stomach.
    • Take a break from rich food – things like fried or spicy foods can trigger heart burn, try foods with less fat and spices.
    • Graze – try eating smaller meals more often, rather than three big meals a day.
    • Love milk – a cold glass of milk can work wonders for soothing heart burn.
    • Raising the head of the bed – raising the head of the bed by 10-15cm or propping yourself up slightly and comfortably with pillows can sometimes help.

    The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.



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  • Snack and meal ideas when pregnant and breastfeeding

    Feeling extra hungry?

    You may be surprised at how hungry you get in the later stages of pregnancy and when you're breastfeeding. Breastfeeding especially can burn up a lot of calories as your body needs extra fuel to produce a constant supply of precious breast milk to feed your little one.

    Eating regular healthy meals and snacks is essential to supply you and baby with the energy you need, so it's important to stay well fed and hydrated.  Try to avoid filling up on high sugar, salt or fat foods and snacks - these typically are nutrient poor foods with lots of 'empty' calories which can lead to too much weight gain during pregnancy. This can make it difficult to get back to your normal weight once baby is born and you are busy being a mum.

    You can expect your appetite to change from day to day. Aim to fill up on fruit, vegetables and wholegrains when you are hungry, just make sure you wash fresh fruit and vegetables well, especially if you are pregnant.

    Remember to drink plenty of water to keep well hydrated, aim for nine cups of fluids (including plain water and milk) when pregnant, and ten cups of fluids per day when breastfeeding.


    It may be easy to skip breakfast, but it means you miss out on that energy boost to start the day. Experts also believe it helps to kick start your metabolism after being asleep. Here are some wholesome suggestions:

    • Wholegrain cereal e.g. wheat biscuits, porridge or natural muesli with low fat milk, yoghurt and fruit
    • Toast with a fruit spread, or an avocado, or a hardboiled egg. Wholemeal or wholegrain bread is good because it’s higher in fibre and B vitamins
    • Add in a piece of fruit – this can count towards the recommended 2+ serves of fruit a day


    Being organised with healthy snacks is often the key to eating well. Here are a few food suggestions and tips to make it easier for you:

    • Small handful of dried fruit – sultanas, apricots, dates
    • Sandwiches or toast
    • Vegetable sticks with guacamole to dip
    • Fresh fruit or canned fruit (with no added sugar)
    • Hard-boiled eggs
    • Popcorn
    • Low-fat yoghurt
    • Fruit and yoghurt smoothies
    • Low-fat crackers with cheese, tomato or avocado
    • Small handful of nuts e.g. raw almonds or homemade trail mix


    Lunch time, especially for those working away from home throughout their pregnancy, can be a tricky time for making healthy and safe food choices. Avoid high risk foods from buffets, delis and pre-prepared sushi, sandwiches and salads. Here are some lunch ideas:

    • Freshly made wraps, pitas, sandwiches or toast using wholegrain options with the following toppings or fillings:
    • Peanut or other nut butter
    • Canned salmon or tuna
    • Lettuce, grated carrot, avocado, tomato, beetroot (wash salad ingredients)
    • Baked beans and low-fat cheese
    • Cheese and tomato relish
    • Sliced banana
    • Mashed egg (make sure they are well cooked)
    • Canned, pouch or home-made soups, with wholegrain toast
    • Baked potato - microwaved and topped with cheese, beans or tuna
    • Canned, pouch or frozen prepared meals to be heated at work (heat until piping hot)

    If you’re grabbing takeaways, choose piping hot food and well-done meats which have been freshly cooked immediately before eating. Try to choose baked foods (e.g. lasagna, pizza) or grilled or stir-fried meals, as a lower fat option than deep fried or battered takeaways. Thai or Chinese takeaways along with plenty of cooked vegetables are also better choices, especially if served with piping hot steamed rice.


    Ministry of Health.  2020.  Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults. Updated 2020. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

    The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.

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  • Pregnancy energy needs for each trimester

    When you are pregnant, your body forms a growing baby and lays down extra stores for breast feeding later on. As well as needing extra fuel for your own body and your growing baby, more nutrients are required for the increased tissues of the uterus, placenta and blood cells.  You may notice your appetite increases to ensure you eat enough for you and your baby. This doesn’t mean you need to eat for two! In fact, gaining too much weight when you’re pregnant may cause pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and a larger baby.

    In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, you generally don’t need any extra food than usual, just try to eat a variety of nutritious foods every day.

    You'll need to eat a little extra food over the 2nd and 3rd trimesters, but choose nutritious foods to ensure you achieve a healthy weight gain during pregnancy that is within the recommendations provided by your health professional.  

    If you started your pregnancy at a healthy weight, although you don’t need to start counting calories, the extra energy you need each day is around 1400kJ in your 2nd trimester, and 1900kJ in your 3rd trimester. 

    Here are some examples of the extra food you need to eat each day, just choose one per day, in addition to your normal diet:

    2nd Trimester:

    • Handful of raw nuts & 1 piece of wholegrain toast topped with edam cheese
    • One cup of vegetable soup & 2 slices of wholegrain toast with margarine spread
    • 3 wheat biscuits with 200mL low-fat milk & a small sliced banana

    3rd Trimester:

    • Large handful of nuts & an orange & 3 crackers topped with low-fat cheese slices
    • Homemade egg and salad sandwich & a fruit yoghurt 
    • Cheese and tomato toasted sandwich & an apple 
    • Mixed berry, milk and yoghurt smoothie & 2 slices of fruit toast with margarine spread.

    As you can see, you don't need to 'eat for two,' but a little extra nutritious food each day will make sure you keep up the energy and nutrients needed for your growing baby!

    Remember gaining an appropriate amount of weight is a normal part of pregnancy and helps to achieve a healthy outcome for you and your baby. An appropriate weight gain during pregnancy, if you have a healthy weight Body Mass Index (BMI) before becoming pregnant, is approximately 11.5kg to 16kg, but can vary significantly from one woman to another.  If you were underweight before pregnancy, you may need to gain more weight. If you were overweight, then you may need to gain less. Talk to your midwife or doctor about the right amount of weight to gain during pregnancy, this amount is different for every person.


    Ministry of Health.  2020.  Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults. Updated 2020. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

    Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand (Including Recommended Dietary Intakes)Revised 2017.  Australian Government Department of Health and New Zealand Ministry of Health.

    The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.

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  • Folic Acid, Iodine, Vitamins & Minerals During Pregnancy


    As expected, there are several nutrients you need more of during pregnancy for both you and your baby.  In most cases the best source of these extra vitamins and minerals is a good balanced diet. The reason you need to eat a variety of foods each day from the five food groups, is to make sure you are getting the full spectrum of nutrients required. Each food group provides its own unique array of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and carbohydrates.

    Other than folic acid and iodine, other supplements or multivitamins are not recommended during pregnancy unless on the advice of your doctor or midwife.

    Folic Acid

    There’s one particular nutrient that’s vital to take as a supplement from even before you get pregnant: folic acid. In a nutshell, folate is an essential B vitamin that helps with the formation of red blood cells and the growth of new tissues. It acts as an important building block during the rapid growth and development stages of your baby.

    In New Zealand it’s recommended that a daily 800 microgram folic acid-only tablet is started at least 4 weeks before pregnancy, and until the end of the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

    Low folate levels in early pregnancy are associated with a higher risk of neural tube defects (NTD’s) like spina bifida in babies. Research has shown that folic acid supplementation can help to prevent NTD’s.

    Talk to your doctor if you've already had a pregnancy that was affected by a neural tube defect, or if you’re at a higher risk of having a pregnancy affected by an NTD. You may be prescribed a higher dose folic acid tablet for the same period.

    As well as taking a folic acid-only tablet every day, it’s also important to eat a healthy diet including folate containing foods. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and broccoli), oranges, lemons, legumes and fortified breads and cereals.  Diet alone will not provide you with all of the folate you need during pregnancy, and this is why you need to take a daily folic acid tablet.

    Talk to your midwife or doctor for further information about a folic acid-only tablet.


    Iodine is an essential mineral that is important for your baby's growth and in particular, brain development.   It can be difficult to get enough iodine from foods and most New Zealand soils are low in iodine, so locally grown foods can also be low in iodine.  To meet pregnancy and breastfeeding needs, it is recommended to take a 150 microgram iodine-only tablet right from the start of pregnancy, through until the end of breastfeeding.

    It is also important to regularly eat foods which contain iodine such as bread (as iodised salt is used in most breads except organic and unleavened breads), milk products, eggs and cooked fish. If using salt in cooking, choose iodised salt.

    Your doctor or midwife can give you a script for both iodine-only and folic acid-only tablets so you can purchase them at a lower cost at the pharmacy. Otherwise talk to a pharmacist about which folic acid and iodine tablets you can buy over the counter for pregnancy and breast feeding.

    Vitamin D

    Vitamin D is essential for good health and helping your body absorb calcium from food for strong bones and teeth and muscle function. The main source of Vitamin D is through skin exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun - remember to always follow the recommendations for safe sun exposure.  It can be difficult to get enough Vitamin D from diet alone because few foods contain or are fortified with Vitamin D. The best food sources include oily fish (freshly cooked or canned), fortified foods (margarines, milk, yoghurt), full-fat milk, egg yolks (well cooked). 

    If you are concerned you are at high risk of Vitamin D deficiency consult your doctor, midwife or dietitian for Vitamin D supplement advice. 


    Iron is a mineral that helps you produce red blood cells which carry oxygen and nutrients through your body and is critical to support your baby’s growth and development. During pregnancy, you need more iron in your diet to support your higher blood volume and your growing baby’s needs.

    Make sure you eat plenty of iron-rich foods every day.  Iron is found in a wide range of foods like meat, chicken, fish, legumes, green leafy vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals.

    The best sources of iron are animal meats such as lean red meat, chicken and fish, because the ‘haem-iron’ found in these foods is more easily absorbed by your body. In fact, the redder the meat, the better the iron content.

    Legumes, vegetables, nuts, wholegrain breads and fortified breakfast cereals contain a type of iron called 'non-haem' iron which your body doesn’t absorb as easily. Eating fruits and vegetables which are high in vitamin C (like oranges, broccoli, tomatoes or capsicums) as part of your meal can help you better absorb the non-haem iron from plant sources. The protein in meat, fish and poultry can also help the absorption of non-haem iron from plant foods, so eating mixed meals of meat, vegetables and grains is another great way to help the body absorb as much iron as possible.

    Avoid drinking tea and coffee with your meals as the tannins present can reduce your iron absorption.

    If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, eat a range of foods from each food group, including iron-fortified foods. You may want to ask your health professional for extra information and support to ensure you are getting enough iron.

    If you are concerned you are low in iron, have a chat with your midwife or doctor.  They may advise a blood test to check if your iron levels are low, to diagnose if an iron supplement is required.

    Other supplements are not recommended

    Other than folic acid and iodine, the New Zealand Ministry of Health does not recommend taking any other supplements or multivitamins during pregnancy unless they have been prescribed by your doctor because you are at risk of a deficiency. Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, milk and milk products and protein rich meat and meat alternatives will usually ensure you get all of the vitamins and minerals you need for pregnancy and breastfeeding.


    Ministry of Health. 2020.  Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults. Updated 2020. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

    The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.

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  • What to eat when pregnant

    Whether you are planning pregnancy, already pregnant or breast feeding, healthy eating patterns are important for you and your baby. Although there will certainly be some nutrients you need more of, generally the key to eating well is including a variety of nutritious foods from the five major food groups each day 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.


    Below is a list of food groups, and a guideline for how many serves you should aim for every day from the New Zealand Eating and Activity Guidelines serving advice for pregnancy.


    During pregnancy aim to eat at least two servings of fruit per day. Whether they’re fresh, frozen or canned (in juice, rather than syrup), choose a variety to provide different vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.  Slice a pear over your morning muesli, throw a banana in your handbag for a mid-morning snack, or a mandarin for afternoon tea, and treat yourself to grapes or strawberries for dessert.


    Eat at least five servings of vegetables per day. Have some carrot sticks for a snack, have a tomato or salad vegetables (washed and home prepared) in your lunch, include three different serves of vegetables with your dinner. Eating a variety of colourful veggies gives you and your baby a range of nutrients.  Frozen vegetables can be a great option – they are easy to store and always on hand and can offer seasonal variety.

    Grain foods (e.g. breakfast cereals, breads, rice and pasta) 

    Aim to eat eight and a half servings per day, choose mostly wholegrain and those naturally high in fibre. One serve is about the same as one slice of wholegrain bread, ½ medium wholegrain roll, 3 wholegrain crackers, or ½ cup cooked rice, pasta or noodles, or 2 wheat biscuits. Simple staples like wheat biscuits, porridge and natural muesli are great way to start every day - they’re great value, filling and a wholegrain choice! Try grainy breads, brown rice or wholemeal pasta instead of white. Look at the ingredients and nutritional panel on the label and choose one with wholegrains and a higher fibre content, this is a better option than refined grains and also to help prevent the dreaded pregnancy constipation!

    Protein foods – legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and other seafood, eggs, poultry and/or lean red meat

    Aim for three and a half servings per day. One serving is about the same as 2 large eggs, or 1 cup of canned legumes, or 80g cooked chicken, or 30g nuts, seeds or nut butter, or 100g cooked fish, or 65g cooked lean red meat. These protein foods contain zinc, iron and other minerals which are important for baby’s development.  Look for lean meats with the fat trimmed off, and remove the skin from chicken for a lower fat option. For food safety in pregnancy avoid raw, cured and undercooked meat, including deli meats.

    Cooked fish is an excellent food to eat while you are pregnant and breast feeding as it’s low in saturated fat, a source of protein, and certain varieties like salmon and tuna can provide omega-3 fatty acids. However, to be on the safe side, you’ll need to stick to canned or fresh cooked fish during pregnancy, rather than raw or smoked. In New Zealand recommended servings for different types of fish have also been developed for when you are pregnant to minimise mercury intakes. 

    Legumes like beans and lentils are a source of protein and fibre. Try adding them to homemade rice dishes, curries or salads.

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

    Eat at least two and a half servings per day of low fat milk and milk products like yoghurt and cheese; 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 yoghurt makes a great snack too. Choose pasteurized milk and hard cheeses like Edam or Cheddar or soft cheeses like cottage or cream cheese when you’re pregnant, and buy smaller blocks so you’re sure to be using it up while it’s still fresh.  Stay away from softer varieties like brie, camembert, blue, ricotta and mozzarella for the next 9 months, as these may contain listeria, a bacterium which can harm your unborn baby

    If you don’t eat cow’s milk products, choose plant-based milk alternatives that are fortified with calcium and vitamin B12.  Fortified soy milk is recommended over other plant based milks because it is higher in energy and protein.

    Other tips

    Unless you have a pre-existing food allergy, there is no evidence that pregnant women need to avoid foods associated with allergies to prevent your baby from developing a food allergy.

    Good calories – these are the ones that matter most! If you make up the bulk of your diet from nutritionally dense food it can help you keep your weight in check. It means you’re eating just what you need to, and not a load of extras.

    Hollow victories – empty calories are simply that. These come from foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar, without much else in the way of nutrients. Examples include sugary drinks, biscuits, chocolate, chips and cakes.  So while you still need to burn them off, your body doesn’t get the benefit of a good range of nutrients.  Making these occasional treats, not regular snacks will help you maintain a balanced diet and appropriate weight gain.  Also prepare foods and drinks that are low in fat (especially saturated fats), and with little or no added sugar and salt.


    Drink plenty of water to keep well hydrated, in pregnancy aim for least nine cups of fluids (including plain water and milk) each day if you can.

    Caffeine - too much caffeine can increase the risk of a low birth weight baby, and it’s also been linked with miscarriage. During pregnancy limit your caffeine intake to less than 200mg a day, and do not drink energy drinks.  This is roughly equivalent to 1 cappuccino or 4 cups of black tea.

    Herbal teas – use these with caution as some can be harmful and should be avoided during pregnancy.  For further information on herbal tea varieties speak to your lead maternity caregiver. 

    Avoid unpasteurized or raw milks or juices.

    Alcohol – stop drinking alcohol if you are pregnant or are trying to get pregnant.


    Ministry of Health.  2020.  Eating and Activity Guidelines for New Zealand Adults. Updated 2020. Wellington: Ministry of Health.

    The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.

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