Eating a well-balanced diet when you’re pregnant will help keep you healthy and help give your baby the nutrition it needs as it develops.
In the first 3 months, you shouldn’t need to eat more than you did before you became pregnant – even if you feel like it. However, in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, you may need an extra 600 kJ a day as your baby starts to put on weight. That’s the equivalent of 2 extra pieces of fruit a day.
What should you be eating?
It’s important to be aware of what you eat during pregnancy, so try to focus on the quality of your diet.
The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines5, published by the National Health and Medical Research Council, recommend the following quantities of the 5 main food groups to eat during pregnancy.
|Food group||Minimum Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)||Serving Size|
|Vegetables||5 serves of different types and colours|
A standard serve is about 75 g
- ½ cup of cooked green or orange vegetables, or
- ½ cup of cooked beans, peas or lentils, or
- 1 cup of raw salad vegetables.
A standard serve is about 150 g (350 kJ), which equals:
- 1 medium apple or banana, or
- 2 small plums or apricots, or
- 1 cup of canned fruit (no added sugar).
Grains (breads, cereals, rice, pasta, oats, etc.)
|8.5 serves, preferably wholegrain/ high fibre|
A standard serve is about 500 kJ, which equals:
- 1 slice (40 g) of bread, or
- 1/2 cup (75–120 g) of cooked rice, pasta or noodles, or
- 1/4 cup (30 g) of muesli, or
- 3 (35 g) crispbreads.
Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
A standard serve is 500–600 kJ, which equals:
- 65 g of cooked lean red meats like beef, lamb, veal or pork, or
- 80 g of cooked lean poultry like chicken or turkey, or
- 100 g of cooked fish fillet or one small can of fish, or
- 2 large (120 g) eggs, or
- 170 g of tofu.
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives
|2.5 serves, mostly reduced fat|
A standard serve is 500–600 kJ, which equals:
- 1 cup (250 ml) of milk, or
- 2 slices (40 g) of hard cheese, like cheddar, or
- ¾ cup (200 g) of yoghurt.
In addition to the healthy food plan above, the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines also advise you to:
- Switch from saturated fats like butter and cream to unsaturated fats like oils and spreads.
- Cut back on processed and fast food as it’s full of saturated fats, and added salt and sugar. Limit the number of takeaways you eat and steer clear of biscuits, cakes, processed meats, chips, sweets and soft drinks.
- Drink plenty of water to help you digest your food and flush out toxins. Have at least 2 litres a day to help avoid constipation and keep you well-hydrated.
Important health guidelines for pregnant women
It’s important to manage
your weight during pregnancy,
so try to focus on the quality
of your diet
When you’re expecting, your diet will need special consideration. Here’s some basic but important advice.
- Avoid drinking alcohol. The safest option is to avoid drinking alcohol whilst you’re pregnant and breastfeeding.
- Avoid certain foods that may contain Listeria. Soft cheeses, paté, deli meats, pre-prepared salads, raw eggs, and raw or smoked seafood are all off the menu for now. Be sure to cook eggs, meat and fish right through.
- Be choosy with your fish. Some fish may contain more mercury than others, so the Food Standards Australia New Zealand6 offers guidelines on their consumption. They suggest pregnant women and those trying to conceive eat 2–3 serves (1 serve is about 150 g) per week of most types of fish with the following exceptions:
- if you choose orange roughy or catfish, have only 1 serve a week, and no other fish during that week. - if you choose shark (flake), broadbill, marlin and swordfish, have only 1 serve a fortnight, and no other fish during that fortnight.
- Cut down on caffeine. Keep to a maximum of 200 mg a day; that’s about 2 espresso-type coffees or 4 cans of cola. Watch out for other sources of caffeine like tea, chocolate and energy drinks.
How to manage common conditions in pregnancy
Up to 80%4 of women may experience morning sickness with symptoms such as nausea and vomiting in the 1st trimester. Although every woman is different, some of these remedies could work for you.
- Try a supplement specifically designed for morning sickness, like Elevit Morning Sickness Relief. Elevit Morning Sickness Relief may help provide relief from nausea and vomiting for up to 12 hours.
- Stay away from smells and foods that make you feel nauseous.
- Try different food and drinks to see which ease your symptoms. Some women swear by ginger ale or dry crackers first thing in the morning!
- Eat small portions regularly throughout the day. It can help relieve or avoid the feeling of nausea.
- Eat foods that are low fat and easy to digest, like bread, rice and pasta. Or try a high-protein snack like hard cheese.
- Avoid greasy, spicy foods and vegetables that make you gassy.
- Drink at least 2 litres of water a day so you don’t get dehydrated.
- Try taking your pregnancy supplement at night as this may help if you are suffering from morning sickness symptoms.
Acid indigestion, or heartburn, is common in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters as your growing baby pushes against an already sluggish digestive system. Try the following tips to see if they bring some relief.
- Eat small meals regularly to avoid overloading your digestive system.
- Avoid fried, spicy or rich foods that can irritate your tummy.
- Drink less liquid with your meals to avoid bloating. Drink more between meals instead.
- Stay sitting up after eating – don’t lie down for a few hours.
- Wear loose fitting clothes.
- Sleep on a couple of pillows so your tummy is lower than your head.
- Take an antacid supplement that can be used during pregnancy, such as Rennie, available from your pharmacy or grocery store.
A combination of hormones, less activity and a growing baby can give you constipation. Don’t take laxatives unless your doctor has given you the go ahead. Adjust your diet and lifestyle instead.
- Eat plenty of high-fibre foods like wholegrains, fruit and vegetables. Dieticians recommend we eat about 30 g of fibre every day.
- Drink plenty of water to help flush out your system.
- Exercise regularly – a gentle walk at the start of the day may be helpful.
Download our helpful information sheet “Some facts about constipation in pregnancy”.
Food cravings and dislikes
Your tastes can change during pregnancy. You may find you can’t get enough of certain foods and can’t stand others! This isn’t usually a problem unless you’ve developed a taste for odd things. If you are concerned, check with your doctor.
Important supplements to support your pregnancy
You’ll need extra vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to help support your baby’s development - it can be difficult to get enough through diet alone
Pregnancy is very demanding on your body. You’ll need extra vitamins, minerals and nutrients to help your baby develop, and they can be difficult to get through diet alone.
Particularly important nutrients are:
During the first few weeks of pregnancy, before most women find out that they’re pregnant, the neural tube has already developed, or closed. The neural tube forms the baby’s brain and spinal cord, which is essential to the central nervous system. A woman’s nutritional folate levels can play an important role in the formation of the neural tube. Folic acid, the supplemental form of folate, is clinically proven7 to reduce the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida.
The demand for folic acid also increases during pregnancy, especially in the 3rd trimester. Therefore it’s important to take a pregnancy multivitamin and mineral supplement with folic acid, like Elevit, while you’re planning to conceive, pregnant and breastfeeding. Elevit contains 800 mcg of folic acid. Elevit meets the Australian recommended daily intakes for folic acid in pregnancy.
Iodine is an essential nutrient for the growth and normal development of the brain and nervous system of babies and young children. Pregnancy increases your need for iodine, and your developing baby is solely dependent on you for an adequate supply. Iodine intake is important for pregnant women and children in particular. Iodine requirements increase during pregnancy and breastfeeding and it is important that women planning pregnancy and who are pregnant or breastfeeding have an adequate intake to support the needs of their developing baby. Elevit contains 220 mcg of iodine to meet the increased needs during pregnancy and meets the Australian recommended daily intakes for Iodine in pregnancy.
Iron demand increases during pregnancy due to a rise in maternal blood volume, growth of the foetus and placenta. Iron is important to help prevent dietary iron deficiency and has benefits for your baby’s development. Elevit contains 60 mg of elemental iron.
Elevit helps give you the nutritional support you need in pregnancy
Whilst pregnant, the recommended dietary intake of nutrients increases by up to 150%, so you need all the help you can get3. Elevit contains many important vitamins and minerals to help meet your increased nutritional needs. Elevit contains the highest level of folic acid and iron of any pregnancy multivitamin in Australia*. Folic acid is clinically proven7 to reduce the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida, iron helps prevent dietary iron deficiency and iodine is an important nutrient for your baby’s brain development.
Together with a healthy diet, taking Elevit daily will provide you and your baby with the ideal nutritional support needed during pregnancy.
Other parts of your lifestyle may need to change
Knowing what to eat when you’re pregnant is vital, but it’s not the only consideration. Read through our lifestyle tips for expectant mothers. You might be surprised to find that some of your regular habits need to change.
*As of September 2014.
If you’ve any pre-existing thyroid condition, you should seek medical advice before taking supplements containing iodine.
If you have had a baby with a neural tube defect / spina bifida, seek specific medical advice.