5 April, 2022
What to eat and what to avoid during pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time when the body goes through rapid changes and growth. Ensuring you are providing yourself and your developing baby with the ideal nutrients preconception, during pregnancy (which is what this blog will be focusing on) and postpartum can help with good lifelong habits for now, and in the future.
Benefits of Healthy Eating During Pregnancy
Obtaining a variety of nutrients for, not only your growing baby, but also yourself is one of the main benefits of healthy eating during pregnancy. As your nutrient stores will be depleted during foetal development, it is recommended to replenish to ensure neither of you experience nutrient deficiencies preconception, during pregnancy or postpartum. It is always worth consulting an Accredited Practicing Dietitian to see what your diet is like during and if any suggestions are made to ensure optimal nutrition for you and your growing baby.
What to Eat During Pregnancy
The 5 food groups, which are part of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating are a great resource to guide you into including varied and wholesome food choices and a healthy lifestyle during all stages of life, not just pregnancy.
Here is a section of the recommended guidelines during pregnancy:
- Vegetables and legumes/ beans: 5 serves a day
- Fruit: 2 serves a day
- Grain foods: 8-8 ½ serves a day
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans: 3 ½ serves a day
- Milk, yoghurt cheese and/or alternatives: 2 ½ - 3 ½ serves a day
So what's a serve?
A Serve of Vegetables
- 1/2 cup of veggies (fresh, frozen or canned)
- 1/2 medium potato
- 1 cup of salad
A Serve of Dairy
- 1 cup of milk or alternative
- 2 slices of cheese
- 3/4 cup of yoghurt
A Serve of Grains
- 1 slice of bread
- 1/2 cup of cooked rice, noodles or pasta
- 2/3 cup of cereal
A Serve of Protein
- 65g of red meat
- 80g of white meat
- 100g of fish
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup of beans
A Serve of Fruit
- 1 medium piece of fruit such as an apple or banana
- 2 small pieces of fruit such as kiwis and nectarines
- 1 cup of canned fruit
More information on serves can be found here.
What are the Key Nutrients to Consume During Pregnancy?
Iron, iodine, and folate are the vitamins that increase during pregnancy, however consuming a varied diet from the 5 food groups can help with ensuring you are providing yourself and your baby with an array of vitamins and minerals.
You may need to chat with your health care provider regarding increasing your iron, iodine, and folate through a prenatal supplement to ensure your increased needs are met.
Drink plenty of water is also very important!
That sounds a bit difficult
Pregnancy can be a difficult time to consume food (in general) especially during the first trimester due to many hormonal changes which could result in food aversions, cravings, nausea and morning sickness. Following the guidelines during this time may seem completely unrealistic, and that is understandable. This is where optimal preconception nutrition is key to instilling great behaviours so once you are starting to feel better, you can get back into your usual healthy eating habits.
Tips to assist with maintaining adequate nutrition especially during the first trimester (and beyond):
- Eat small, frequent meals, snacking often
- Limit spicy and rich meals which could contribute to your unwell feeling and getting heartburn
- Limit fried food
- Stay hydrated with water
- Try not to lie down straight after eating
- Continue daily movement (discuss with your GP or your pregnancy chiro)
If you struggle to keep food down and notice symptoms are affecting your overall dietary intake, please consult your health care professional.
What foods to avoid during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, it is recommended to reduce your risk of food poisoning by preparing and storing foods carefully. There are also foods that contain listeria, salmonella, e.coli and other bacteria which could be harmful to your developing baby.
Here are some of the common foods to avoid:
- Soft cheeses (brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue cheese) and any unpasteurised dairy products
- Processed deli meats (salami, ham etc), bean sprouts, pate and pre-made salads (for risk of not being washed properly)
- Raw eggs or undercooked eggs (when the yolk is still runny) as they may contain salmonella
- No alcohol is the safest option
- Limit caffeine intake
- Be mindful of mercury content in fish
How to prepare foods to avoid infections?
Good food hygiene is the best way to avoid infection and reduce the risk of becoming unwell.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after
- Keep kitchen clean
- Do not let uncooked food contaminate cooked food such as using different cooking utensils
- Wash raw foods before eating such as fruit, vegetables and salad
- Cook food thoroughly - no rare steaks or runny eggs!
- Keep pets away from the kitchen and using gloves when handling cat litter trays or gardening
- Store food appropriately such as in airtight containers in the fridge
- Reheating leftovers to piping hot
About the Author
Carla Battaglia - Senior Accredited Practicing Dietitian & Accredited Nutritionist
Accredited Practicing Dietitian Carla specialises in gut health. She's passionate about eating food to enrich our lives and health. She regularly helps with gut disorders, women's health and chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. She's completed post graduate studies in the FODMAP diet for IBS and has many years experience working with gastroenterologists.