The biggest tip I can give to you is, don’t eat for two!  Your baby receives everything he/she needs to grow and thrive through your placenta, not from what you’re eating.  You need to maintain a healthy balance, and that doesn’t mean eating for yourself and for baby.  You will have to get rid of  excess weight after your baby is born, so just eat a healthy and balanced diet for yourself in pregnancy and your job will be a whole lot easier afterwards.

The food you eat:

*  Plan to eat three regular meals with a couple of healthy snacks.  Take the time to sit down to eat and enjoy your food.

*  Eat a wide variety of foods from all the food groups.  Always make lower fat choices, then enjoy other not so healthy food occasionally as a special treat.

*  Eat healthy foods that you enjoy, and take the time to really taste what you’re eating.

*  Try to plan ahead for food you eat “on the run” or for the times when you will be extra busy.

*  Have an adequate fluid intake of around 2 litres of water per day.  And when I say fluid, I mean water.

Learn to listen to your body’s messages:

*  Recognise your body’s signals of physical hunger and eat only when you feel hungry. 

*  Also learn to recognise your body’s signals of fullness and practice saying “I’ve had enough”.  Also give yourself permission to have a little more it you are still feeling hungry.

*  Eat slowly, and pause regularly during or after a meal to check your hunger.  It often takes about 20 minutes after you’ve eaten to feel full.  So don’t keep eating, let your body pause and take a rest before deciding if you need to eat more.

*  Notice the times when you are eating for reasons other than physical hunger, that’s called emotional eating

Legalise food:

Recognise if some foods are always eatern with guilt and the feeling that you are “bad” for eating them, and other foods are only eaten when you are “good”.  Work on your own self talk to change these thoughts.

*  Notice any feelings of guilt or fear around food and challenge them.

*  identify childhood messages about food, and decide whether you want to continue with these attitudes or work on changingthem.

Weight gain:

Most women will gain an average of 13 kgs. over the 9 months of pregnancy.  Weight gain is not spread evenly over the pregnancy, with the biggest weight gain being from the 20th – 36th week.



Your baby needs calcium to develop strong healthy bones and teeth, expecially during the last three months of pregnancy.  You will need to consume a highter intake of calcium to prevent a loss occurring from your own bones.  Your baby will take his/her calcium requirement from you and then leave you with what’s left.

If you have leg cramps during pregnancy this could indicate that you are lacking in essential calcium.  It may just require you to increase your dairy intake but you should consult with your doctor.  Your daily calcium requirement is around 1200mg.


Folic acid is a water soluble vitamin which helps the body to build health cells.  Folic acid is now added to most bread and can be found in breakfast cereals.  It is also found in fruits and leafy green vegetables and lentils.  Many women will now consume enough folic acid in their diet so a supplement may be required.  By increasing your intake of folate or folic acid, for at least a month before your baby is conceived, and for the first three months of pregnancy, the incidence of neural tube defects in your baby is reduced.  0.4 mg is needed each day to help prevent neural tube defects.  Eat a diet high in folate which would include green leafy vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals and legumes.  Folic acid is lost during storage and cooking.  Therefore, raw salads and lightly cooked vegetables are recommended.  Folic acid is very important when your body is building new cells such as just before and during pregnancy.  There needs to be enough folic acid in your diet at least one month before pregnancy and then during the first three months.  Folic acid is the synthetic form of the B group vitamin folate.


An increase of fibre in your diet during pregnancy is recommended.  Fibre is the term used to describe the part of food that is not digested.  Constipation is a common condition of pregnancy and by increasing your fibre intake together with adequate fluids and exercise, you can help to prevent constipation.  Fibre is found in shole grain cereals and breads, fruit, vegetables, legumes and bran.


During pregnancy your blood volume increases and your baby’s own circulation is developing.  Iron is essential for supporting this increase in blood volume for yourself and your baby.  The daily recommended intake of iron for pregnant women is 25 – 36 mg per day.  Iron absorption is increased with vitamin c.  So try drinking a glass of orange juice with a meal once a day.  Meat and green leafy vegetables are a good source of iron.


During pregnancy, your daily requirement for protein increases by around 15%.  This means you need to eat between 55 -85 g of protein depending on your body mass.  The protein in your diet is essential for the development of your baby and to the development of your breast tissue in preparation for breastfeeding.

Meat, fish, eggs, legumes and soy products are all good sources of protein.  Drinking three glasses of low fat milk each day will supply you with half of your daily protein requirements.


2 litres of water a day during pregnancy and 2 -3 litres of water a day when breastfeeding is required.  Dehydration can cause problems for your developing baby so ensure you are getting an adequate fluid intake.  Source:  from “Food and Lifestyle Program” – The Women’s Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Listeria is a bacteria that can cause a serious illness called ilisteriosis in some people.  Listeriosis is usually cuased by eating food contaminated by certain types of Listeria bacteria.  Pregnancy women and their unborn babies and newborn babies are one group that are at a high risk.  Symptoms in pregnancy can be mild but can result in miscarriage, premature birth and rarely stillbirth.  Symptoms can include fever, headache, tiredness, aches and pains.  Less common symptoms are diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal cramps and more serious complications include meningitis (inflammation of the meninges (lining of the brain)) and septicaemia (blood poisoning).

What precautions can I take:

*prepare, store and handle food hygenically

*avoid foods which have a high risk of listeria contamination

*be careful eating food prepared by others

*thorough cooking of food kills the listeria bacteria so ensure food is properly cooked.

*reheat foods to a steaming hot temperature

Examples of higher risk foods:

*cold meats from delicatessen counters, and sandwich bars and slicked packaged meats

*cold cooked ready to eat chicken

*salads, pre packaged

*chilled seafood, raw oysters, sashimi or sushi, smoked ready to eat seafood, ready to eat peeled prawns

*cheese, soft, semi soft and surface ripened cheeses pre packaged and from the deli such as brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and blue vein cheese

*ice cream soft serve

*other dairy products such as unpasteurised raw goats milk

Mercury in fish:

There are many nutritional benefits from eating fish.  Fish is low in saturated fat an is an excellent source of protein, essential omega 3 fatty acids, iodine and some vitamins.  Pregnant women and women intending to become pregnant should be careful with fish consumption.  Unborn babies are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of mercury.  The following is a guide specifically developed for the Australian population and reflects local knowledge of Australian diets, the fish we eat and their mercury content.

Pregnant women, women intending to become pregnant (150g of fish) and children up to the age of 6 years (75 g of fish) – 2 – 3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not mentioned below or 1 serve per week of deep sea perch or catfish and no other fish that week or 1 serve per fortnight of flake or swordfish or marilin and no other fish that fortnight.

Mercury occurs naturally in the environment and accumulates in the aquatic food chain.  All fish contains some mercury, in most fish the levels are very low.  As most people consume only moderate amounts of fish, the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risk posed by the small amount of mercury present.  Regulations are also in place that set a limit on the amount of mercuty that can be present in fish that is sold.

The amount of mercury in fish depends on how long the fish lives and what it eats.  Big long living predatory fish such as swordfish and shark (flake) tend to accumulate higher levels of mercury.  High levels of mercury can damage the nervous system.  Unborn babies are particularly vulnerable because their brains are developing very rapidly. In adults, thie first sign of excessive exposure to mercury is usually numbness and tingling in the fingers, lips and toes. 

The benefits of breastfeeding your baby far outweighs any risk posed by the small amount of mercury that may be present in breast milk.  There is no need to stop eating fish during pregnancy, just know the risks. 

Canned tuna has lower levels of mercury so it is safe to have 2 -3 serves of tuna per week.  The mercury content of fish is not reduced by processing techniques such as canning or freezing.  Fish oil products and supplements are not a major source of dietary mercury and there is no recommendation to restrict intake of these products on the basis of mercury content.

Other crustaceans including prawns, lobsters, crabs, oysters and calamari generally contain lower levels of mercury than fish with fins.  Overall they are not a significant source of mercury content unless large amounts are consumed on a regular basis.

Source:  Nurition Australia

The Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne

Spina Bifida foundation of Victoria –

Food Standars Australia & New Zealand –

Food Safety Information Council –



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