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PLAYING: Healthy Food for Pregnancy

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Healthy Food for Pregnancy

Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much food, but it should mean making your food work twice as hard.

10 mins to read Sep 20, 2023

While you’re pregnant, your body protects and nurtures your baby. You can provide the essential nutrients your baby needs by eating a healthy pregnancy diet.

Your pregnancy diet not only supports your additional energy requirements (and satisfies those pregnancy cravings), but it also importantly fuels your baby’s growth and development. Make every kilojoule count by choosing nutrient-packed foods, in other words get more bang for your kilojoule buck. Focus on developing a pregnancy food chart that includes healthy pregnancy foods, with more of the good stuff – from the 5 food groups - proteins, vitamins and minerals, fibre, healthy fats, complex carbs and fluids, and less of the ‘not so necessary’ stuff – sweets, juices, high salty snacks.

In this article, Learn:

  • What a healthy pregnancy diet looks like and the foods to eat during pregnancy, including the recommended servings of each food group;
  • about which pregnancy vitamins and minerals are important and their effects on you and your baby’s health;
  • what a healthy weight gain during pregnancy looks like;
  • top tips for your pregnancy diet; and
  • the answers to commonly asked questions about pregnancy food and pregnancy vitamins.

If you have any questions or special dietary requirements, talk to your healthcare professional to get tailored advice on your nutritional needs during pregnancy.

Watch this video to learn more about healthy meal and snack ideas to add pregnancy vitamins, minerals, and variety to your pregnancy diet.

What does a healthy pregnancy diet look like?

These food group guidelines are an easy way to get started on a healthy pregnancy diet. Of course, your beginning weight, height, age, stage of pregnancy and the number of children you are carrying will determine how many kilojoules and how much and what type of foods to eat during pregnancy.

To get plenty of essential nutrients, eat a little of everything from the five food groups. Try for five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit per day.

healthy maternal nutrition what does it mean?


For more information on appropriate serve sizes, take a look at the NHMRC Australian Dietary Guidelines.

What nutrients, vitamins and minerals are important during pregnancy?

Pregnant women have increased nutritional needs (Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand)

pregnant women have increased nutritional needs


Here is a quick reference table which summarises what the key nutrients do and in which foods to find them.

Nutrient For From
Protein Important for growth and development of muscles and bones Meat, fish, eggs, cheese, dairy
Carbohydrates Supplies energy Pasta, rice, bread, cereal, legumes, potatoes
Omega 3 DHA Fat Important for baby’s brain and eye development Fish, supplements
Probiotics Contribute to a healthy gut flora Probiotic product, such as probiotic yoghurts, supplements
Vitamins For From
Folic acid Reduces risk of foetal neural tube defects Dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, avocado, fortified breads and cereals
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Important for energy production and carbohydrate metabolism Wholemeal products, fish, nuts, seeds
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Important for  transport of iron and nervous system function Dairy products, fortified breads and cereals, leafy green vegetables
Vitamin B12 Important for red blood cell formation and nervous system function Fish, meat, poultry, dairy, eggs
Vitamin C Important for immune system, collagen synthesis Citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, broccoli and sprouts
Vitamin A Important for skin structure and visual function Carrots, spinach (as beta-carotene), meat, full cream dairy products
Vitamin D Building strong bones and teeth Sunlight exposure on the skin, fish, eggs yolks
Vitamin E Protects cells against free radical damage Wheat germ/canola/olive oils, egg yolks, leafy green vegetables
Minerals and trace elements For From
Calcium Important for bone and teeth formation Milk, cheese, dairy products, bony fish, tofu
Magnesium Regulates energy metabolism, nerve transmission, muscular contraction Nuts, green vegetables, legumes
Iron Important for oxygen transport and blood formation Meats, fish, poultry, spinach, lentils
Iodine Production of thyroid hormones and brain function Iodized salt, seafood, bread
Selenium Antioxidant, maintenance of hair and nails Seafood, poultry, eggs asparagus
Zinc Cell division, immune system Meat, poultry, fish, brown rice

Top tips for your pregnancy diet!


What does a healthy pregnancy weight gain look like?

Weight gain varies from one woman to the next and what is right for you will be based on whether you began your pregnancy as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.  Your doctor can advise you on the healthiest path for you.  Weight gain during pregnancy can influence the weight of your baby at birth; remember that an extra large baby is not healthier than a baby born of average weight. Read more here.

While it does take energy to develop a healthy baby, that energy can come the food you eat, or from your existing weight stores. A mum-to-be does not need to eat twice as much.  During your pregnancy, your energy demands will increase over time. There is no need to change your energy intake during the first trimester, then in the second trimester your energy needs will increase by 1400 kilojoules per day and 1900 kilojoules per day in your last trimester. However, this can be different for you, depending on your starting weight, so it’s always good to ask your healthcare professional what is right for you.

To put this into perspective, the average adult should be consuming around 8700 kilojoules per day. So these additional kilojoule requirements in the 2nd and 3rd trimester means you don’t need to double your diet – it’s just eating a little more.

Having twins? Learn about eating for three.