Nutrition During Pregnancy

Published: 10-Apr-2017      Updated: 02-Aug-2018 By Jim Ferry
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Any recommended dietary changes will vary, to some extent, from one woman to another.  If you are usually healthy and already on a nutritious, healthy diet then few if any changes may be required.  However you should consult your Health Professional if you believe there is reason for concern or if any of the following situations apply to you:

  • If you have given birth or had a miscarriage in the last 18 months
  • If you have an injury or illness for which you take regular medication
  • If your daily life involves high stress, hard labour or exposure to hazards
  • If you are seriously under- or overweight, or are physically run down

General Guidelines

  • Eat a variety of fresh, healthy nutritious foods
  • Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and fresh salads
  • Use wholegrain breads and cereals
  • Include yoghurt and low fat dairy in your diet
  • Include lentils, chick peas and other legumes
  • Include fish but ensure it is low in mercury; avoid raw seafood (eg oysters)
  • Ensure adequate fluids, eg water, juices, smoothies, herb teas, decaf coffee
  • Minimise fatty, sugary junk food and overly processed food

Some of the Best Foods During Pregnancy

Some foods are especially helpful, both for you as a mother-to-be and for your developing baby.  These include: 

Rich in calcium, protein and folic acid, yoghurt can be used as a replacement for sour cream, mayo, dressings and some dips, as well as supplementing your breakfast or other main meal.   

Whole Grains and Legumes
Whole grains such as rice, barley and oats or oatmeal, as well as lentils, chickpeas (eg in hommous) and other legumes, can all help supply folic acid and other vitamins and minerals. 

Fish (with some cautions)
Generally, fish is an excellent food for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.  However you need to choose your fish with care and ensure it is properly cooked.   As well as protein and B vitamins, fish contain essential fatty acids that are vital for the healthy development of your baby's central nervous system.  Certain fish, however, contain high levels of mercury which can impair the development of the nervous system.

Avocados, Mangoes & Papaya
These are abundantly available in season in Australia and contain some of the most essential vitamins and nutrients that your growing baby needs.  Mangoes are extremely rich in vitamins A & C  while avocados supply folic acid and B6 as well as other vitamins. Papaya can help sooth your digestive system if you are experiencing morning sickness.

Green & Leafy Vegetables
Broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, asparagus, parsley, cabbage, cauliflower and leeks are all excellent sources of folate, which is essential for the healthy development of your baby's brain and nervous system.  As well, your greens are a good supply of vitamins A & C and calcium and other minerals.

Foods to avoid or treat with caution when pregnant

Raw seafood:    Raw seafood carries several risks including Listeria, which can result in harm to your baby.  Oysters and other shellfish should only be eaten if they have been very well cooked.  As well, the NSW Food Safety Authority recommends that you avoid buying sushi or sashimi while pregnant, or if you make sushi yourself use cooked ingredients only. 

Fish with high mercury levels:  Generally the largest ocean fish have the highest amount of mercury and should be avoided.  These include shark, yellow fin tuna and orange roughy.  Fish with lowest levels include most shellfish and crustaceans, sardines, and also salmon.  Canned tuna is generally okay as is snapper.

Raw or rare meat or poultry:  Rare or undercooked meat should be avoided due to risk of contamination from salmonella, coliform bacteria, or toxoplasmosis.

Cold cuts, deli meats and processed sausages:  These carry the risk of Listeria contamination, which can be countered by cooking the meat well.  Also, processed meats such as salami, pepperoni, etc have additional ingredients including added nitrates. High levels of nitrates can potentially cause health problems, particularly in infants.

Products made from raw eggs:  Raw or undercooked eggs and products made from them (eg home made mayonnaise and some icecreams) can carry a risk of food poisoning from salmonella.

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