Pregnancy Diet – A Quick Guide

When it comes to your pregnancy diet, there’s absolutely no magic formula, as everybody is different. For a healthy pregnancy, the right amount of healthy foods from the five food groups should provide the vitamins and minerals for your body and your developing baby’s need. Some women will also need some dietary supplementation or pregnancy vitamins (particularly vitamin D and folate).

What is a Healthy Pregnancy Diet?

To enumerate, your pregnancy diet will have a direct impact on a growing fetus, but evidence demonstrates that a healthy diet for your baby now, will also have a profound long-term effect on your child’s health later in their adult life. So, getting this right now is so important.

“No – you do not need to eat for two when you are pregnant”Catherine

Typically, many countries have Dietary Guidelines for pregnancy which discuss the serving sizes of certain foods to consume for a healthy pregnancy. Examples of these include the Australian Dietary Guidelines or the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  I have done the hard work for you and generalised what healthcare experts recommend that a healthy pregnancy diet should aim to prioritise.  

  • Vegetables and legumes

Aiming for different types of vegetables and different vegetable colours will help to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Vegetables can be frozen, fresh or canned (with no added salt). A quick tip when serving food is to fill up half of your plate with vegetables before you plate the rest of your food and enjoy. With vegetables the more the merrier, just add them everywhere, every meal. They can make a delicious snack as well.

Pregnancy diet
  • Fruits

Fruit is a wonderful source of energy and nutrients. Generally speaking, 2 serves of fruit per day is enough for most adults. You can meet these targets by eating a variety of frozen, canned or fresh produce. However, you should try to avoid fruit canned in sweetened juices – these can be full of excess calories/kilojoules due to their high sugar content.

  • Grains and Cereals

Grains and cereals are wonderful. They are filling and are a good source of energy and fibre, which is important for a healthy pregnancy. We all know how important it is to choose healthy wholegrain carbohydrate options (like brown rice, bread and legumes) instead of refined carbohydrates (such as white rice, bread and pasta). It is also important to not overeat this group, this can be easily done. Most female adults do not need more than 4-6 serves per day.

  • Meats, poultry and legumes nuts/seeds

As we know, massive growth and development take place during pregnancy – you are making a human! As such, it is important that you consume the optimal amount of protein that you can. During pregnancy aim for around 60 grams per day (roughly 20% of your total calories). To ensure a healthy pregnancy, you should incorporate lean protein-rich foods into your diet each day. Try and choose high iron-containing foods (such as lean red meat or tofu).

Good sources of plant-based protein include beans, nuts, legumes, lentils, nut butter, seeds, soy products, tofu and plant-based protein powders (e.g, pea protein powder). Animal-based protein, such as beef, fish, chicken, or eggs can also enrich a pregnancy diet, as they are loaded with essential amino acids.

  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives

Calcium, protein, iodine and vitamin A and D are just some of the nutrients that this food group can provide. Milk, hard cheese and yoghurt are great dairy options or look for some calcium-enriched non-dairy alternatives. Unpasteurized milk and some soft cheeses that are made from unpasteurized milk should be avoided in pregnancy.

Do I Need to Take Vitamins in my Pregnancy Diet?

prenatal supplementation

Interestingly, pregnancy vitamins and multivitamins are often taken during pregnancy and they are especially important for teenage pregnancies, vegan/vegetarians, and people who misuse substances. There is more information elsewhere on this website in regard to supplements, but suffice to say that the majority of women will require some supplementation in their pregnancy diet.  It is also great to talk to your healthcare professional about the best pregnancy vitamins that you may require.

How Much Water do I Need to Drink During Pregnancy?

Water is incredibly important for pregnant women to drink – take a bottle with you and slowly consume sips throughout the day. Aim to increase your fluid content to at least 8  glasses a day. Try and spend this time increasing your water consumption, so that when your baby arrives you can continue this healthy habit.

Foods to Reduce During Pregnancy

The majority of foods listed here are high in calories/kilojoules and poor in nutrients and they inevitable can take the place of more nutritious foods in our diet. Following are some tips on what foods to reduce in pregnancy, as a little guide.

  • Aim to reduce packaged foods as these foods can be often high in salt/sodium, calories/kilojoules and fat or sugar
  • Discretionary foods (you know the ones we mean) – chips, chocolates and cakes.
  • Soda/soft drinks, sports drinks, flavoured milks and high calorie drinks.
  • Try to consume good monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and decrease your intake of saturated and trans fats. These add calories and may lead to increased weight and increased blood cholesterol levels. Plant-based foods are great here too.
  • If you are hungry try not to eat snacks that are high in fat or sugar such as candy/lollies, cookies/biscuits or chocolate. Try and reach for a healthy snack.
  • Foods that contain added salt. Try not to add salt in cooking or at the table

Last Word on Pregnancy Diet

Above all pregnancy is physically demanding – you are growing a small human- which is an amazing effort. You can tailor your diet to meet these demands, and also support the development of your baby. A healthy pregnancy diet includes adequate foods from a varied diet. Remember putting your health and the health of your baby first will actually improve both your adult life and your baby’s life – both as an infant and as an adult in later life. If you would like to read more about diet in pregnancy click here and here if you would like to know more about food hygiene in pregnancy.

All information found on simple nutritional advice is given as general advice only. Please consult your healthcare provider for individual advice.