What you eat during pregnancy not only supports your additional energy requirements (and satisfies those pregnancy cravings), but it also importantly fuels your baby’s growth and development. Focus on developing a healthy eating plan which includes more of the good stuff – proteins, vitamins and minerals, fibre, healthy fats, complex carbs and fluids, and less of the ‘not so necessary’ stuff – sweets, juices, high salty snacks. If you have any questions or special dietary requirements, talk to your healthcare professional to get a more tailored dietary plan for your pregnancy.
Watch this video to learn more about healthy meal and snack ideas to add nutrition and variety to your diet.
14 tips to help you develop a healthy eating plan
1. Eat a little more… but don’t eat for two
It takes energy to develop a healthy baby and that energy comes from the food you eat. 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. 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.
2. Eat a varied diet
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.
Meal and snack ideas: Add fresh fruit on cereal for breakfast, lots of salad vegetables for lunch, an apple and vegetable sticks as snacks, and lots of cooked vegetables at dinner.
3. Eat foods that satisfy you
Wholegrain cereals, legumes and pasta are high in fibre, which helps to bulk up a meal. Target these as snacks to help avoid reaching for a sugary snack mid-afternoon.
Meal and snack ideas: Enjoy wholegrain toast with peanut butter for breakfast, roasted chickpeas as a snack, and high fibre pasta at dinner – we have just the recipe for that!
4. Eat breakfast
It’s important to kick start your morning with a balanced and satisfying meal. Opt for a protein meal (egg, chicken, etc.), vegetables (tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.). Or cereal and milk to provide dairy for calcium, and wholegrain cereals. Finish with a piece of fruit.
Try one of these:
- 1 cup of milk with wholegrain cereal and some dried fruit + 1 small glass of freshly squeezed orange juice + 1 cup of coffee or tea (remember to limit your caffeine intake during pregnancy)
- 1 natural yoghurt with 1 sliced kiwifruit + 2 slices of lightly buttered wholegrain toast + 1 cup of tea.
If morning sickness has you feeling not quite up to your usual breakfast buffet, opt for something bland and easy to digest like lightly buttered toast and a banana, or a hard-boiled egg and a yoghurt.
5. Allow yourself one or two balanced snacks per day
Incorporate some ‘mini meals during the morning and/or afternoon to keep your energy levels up. Try to avoid sugary foods and instead opt for cereals, fruit and protein.
Try one of these:
- 1 cereal bar + 1 apple
- 1 slice of wholegrain bread + 1 small piece of cheese + a few strawberries
- 1 portion of natural yoghurt + 1 apple or small serve of hard cheddar cheese + some fresh fruit cubes.
6. Drink water
Drink about 9 cups (2.3L) of fluid per day while you are pregnant. This could be more if it’s summer during your pregnancy, or you live in a warmer climate. Opt for water rather than carbonated beverages and sugary drinks which provide empty kilojoules.
7. Eat fibre to keep you regular
Try prunes, wholegrain cereals, wholegrain bread, almonds, dried apricots, plus cooked green vegetables, which are easier to digest than raw. Fibre assists with alleviating irregular bowel motions, a common symptom of pregnancy.
8. Ensure you’re getting enough Folic acid
You can help to prevent one of the most common types of birth defects – neural-tube defect – by consuming enough folic acid (vitamin B9 supplement) before and during the early stages of your pregnancy. Speak to your healthcare professional about a folic acid supplement. Folate, a natural source of vitamin B9 is found mainly in fruit and vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables), legumes, nuts, fortified breads, cereals and juices.
9. Get plenty of Protein
In a healthy diet, protein is essential – usually supplied by meats, chicken, fish, beans, milk and eggs. It’s the number one building block for your growing baby’s muscles, ligaments, hair, fingernails, bones, brain tissue, blood and other tissues.
10. Feed yourself Calcium for bones and teeth
Your calcium needs are up to 1000 mg per day during pregnancy. Consuming plenty of milk and milk products will help to support both your calcium needs and the calcium needed for your baby as their body develops. It’s important to take in vitamin D (through sunlight exposure) with calcium-rich foods to help your body absorb them.
11. Pump up your Iron
Fatigue may be the result of iron insufficiency or deficiency. To ensure you’re getting enough iron, consume a healthy diet that includes lots of iron-rich foods, such as lean meats (especially red meats) and green leafy vegetables, as well as an iron supplement, if your doctor recommends one. Iron is the main component of haemoglobin, bringing oxygen to the cells. Your requirements are 27 mg per day during pregnancy.
12. Get your Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps your immune system function properly and improves iron absorption. To get enough of it, eat fruit and vegetables every day.
13. Eat the freshest food you can
Buy fruit and vegetables as fresh as possible. Eat them as soon as you can, as their vitamin, mineral and fibre content is at its highest. Wash them well before eating, but don’t let them soak, as some vitamins can leach out. To preserve the nutrients, use gentle, rapid cooking methods, such as steaming and boiling, or try using a pressure cooker.
14. Indulge yourself a little
It’s a special time and you should enjoy it! So give in to some of those cravings occasionally– just make sure you watch your diet overall.
Pregnancy diet watch outs
- Be aware of the foods and drinks you should avoid while pregnant
- Don’t skip meals. Your body needs three proper meals a day. Breakfast is important so your energy levels don’t drop at mid-morning, leaving you with cravings. If you’re really struggling to get something down, try drinking a small glass of fresh fruit juice when you wake up and eating your breakfast at around 10am. Keep it simple: try an apple, some biscuits or a piece of dry toast and some dried fruit.
- Watch your intake of caffeine. It’s okay to drink a little coffee and tea, but try to keep it to a minimum and avoid energy drinks. Put some lemon into your water, for example, to give it more taste without adding calories.