Updated: Feb 5, 2019
Good nutrition is important for both you and your baby during pregnancy, and also if you are planning a pregnancy. It is best that you have a healthy, nutritious diet from before you become pregnant.
Here are some simple tips on what foods you should eat, and what you should avoid eating.
What foods should I eat?
Having a balanced diet by incorporating a variety of foods from each of the 5 important food groups is the most important thing when planning your meals. Each of these food groups gives you different nutrients that are important for both you and for your baby.
These 5 groups are:
1. Grain (cereal) foods – bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles
2. Vegetables and legumes
3. Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts etc.
4. Dairy – milk, yoghurt, cheese
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating can help if you’re unsure what kinds of foods are good to eat, and what falls into each food group. You can find this at the following link: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating.
It is also important to drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.
Food and drink such as chocolate, lollies, cake, chips, alcohol and soft drinks should only be eaten/drunk in small amounts, and only sometimes. Your body doesn’t need them, and they can be unhealthy if consumed in large amounts or often.
How much do I need to eat?
The idea that you need to ‘eat for two’ is actually a common misconception! When you’re pregnant, your energy needs are only a little bit higher than before you were pregnant. The quality of your diet is much more important than how much you eat.
What foods/drinks should I avoid?
Listeria contamination: Avoid foods that may be contaminated with a bacteria called ‘Listeria’, as you could get a listeria infection. It is uncommon and rarely causes problems in healthy people, but can be dangerous in pregnancy, as there is a high risk it can be transmitted to your unborn child. This can then lead to a miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, or can cause the newborn baby to become very ill. High risk foods that you should avoid include ready-to-eat chilled foods such as cold deli meats, pâté and soft cheeses (such as Brie). You can also reduce the risk of listeria infection by taking simple food hygiene steps at home, and being careful about food prepared by others.
Certain types of fish: Fish is a good source of nutrients and is recommended as part of a healthy diet in pregnancy. However, you should limit certain types of fish, as they can be high in mercury, which can affect the baby’s developing nervous system. Please see the Women’s and Children’s Hospital ‘Nutrition for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding’ resource further below for specific recommendations.
Caffeine: Limit caffeine, which is found in coffee, tea, and cola drinks.
Alcohol: Avoid alcohol during all stages of pregnancy, as it can have a negative effect on your baby’s development.
Are there any extra supplements that I need to take during pregnancy?
There are some nutrients/vitamins that are incredibly important during pregnancy, which you need to make sure you are consuming. These include: calcium, iron, iodine and folate. Folate supplementation in the form of a tablet is recommended from as early as possible in ALL pregnancies (from when you start planning the pregnancy), and for the first 3 months of the pregnancy, in addition to eating foods that contain folate (such as green vegetables). Calcium, iron or iodine supplementation may be also recommended by your doctor, but depends on your diet and/or the levels in your blood.
If you are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant, please come and talk to one of our friendly doctors about your diet, or if you have any other concerns.
Eat for Health 2017, ‘Australian Guide to Healthy Eating,’ Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating
SA Health 2017, ‘Healthy eating when pregnant and breastfeeding,’ SA Health, http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/healthy+living/healthy+eating/healthy+eating+at+different+ages+and+stages+of+your+life/healthy+eating+when+pregnant+and+breastfeeding
Women’s and Children’s Hospital 2014, ‘Nutrition for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding,’ Women’s and Children’s Hospital, http://www.wch.sa.gov.au/services/az/other/nutrition/documents/Pregnancy_Breastfeeding.pdf