Nourishing your pregnancy
While you may not need to ‘eat for two’ during pregnancy, it is encouraged to follow a well-balanced diet to provide optimum nutrition to you and your baby.
During pregnancy and while breastfeeding, it might be necessary to increase your calorie intake by up to 500 per day to meet your body’s energy needs. What you eat becomes increasingly important during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, as your micronutrient needs increase significantly during these periods.
What should I eat?
Your body goes through amazing physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy and how well you nourish your body during this time may affect the health of both you and your baby. To keep up with the extra demands, a healthy balanced diet becomes even more important while you’re expecting.
What you eat is what the baby eats, so it’s critical to consume nutrient-rich foods to help promote your baby's growth and development.
A simple way to ensure you’re getting all the necessary nutrients is to eat different foods from every food group, every day.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines[i] recommend:
- grains for energy;
- plenty of vegetables of different colours for antioxidants, folic acid, vitamins and fibre;
- a few pieces of fresh fruit, packed with antioxidants;
- lean meats, nuts, and legumes for protein, zinc and iron;
- green leafy vegetables for folic acid, antioxidants
- dairy foods for calcium and vitamin D.
The Guidelines recommend pregnant women should also avoid:
- foods which may contain listeria bacteria like soft cheeses, sandwich meats, bean sprouts, pre-prepared salads and pâté;
- raw eggs as they may contain salmonella;
- alcohol – not drinking is the safest option;
- fish that may contain high levels of mercury (e.g. fresh tuna, swordfish, etc.).
Is my diet enough?
The need for micronutrients increases during pregnancy and, even with the healthiest diet, it may be difficult to achieve the right level of vitamins and minerals.
A recent US study[ii] found, during pregnancy, “diets are inadequate and micronutrient deficiencies are common. Although adequate food intake remains the preferred means for meeting dietary requirements for micronutrients, some nutrient needs are challenging to meet in pregnancy with diet alone.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO)[iii] recently recommended pregnant mothers ensure they focus on obtaining the right level of micronutrients including Vitamin A, B1, B2, B6, B12, C, D, E as well as folate, copper, iodine, iron, selenium and zinc.
In a 2015 review[iv], WHO found multiple-vitamin supplementation with iron and Vitamin B9 showed clear reductions in the risk of small-for-gestational age birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.
If you are planning a pregnancy, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your healthcare practitioner about diet, lifestyle, testing and potential supplements you and your baby might benefit from for optimal health.
References available on request