Pregnancy is a time of big physiological changes which alter how you need to eat. You may be vomiting and feeling sick, thinking, ‘How can I even consider eating!?’ But eating right during pregnancy is the best way to set your little one on the right path and to take care of #1, you!
First things first, chuck that silly old notion that you are eating for two straight out the window. Does your potato-sized foetus need that extra-large steak and fries smothered in gravy? Or family-sized chocolate block?
In your first trimester there are no additional energy requirements. You will experience an increase in hormones and blood plasma volume, changes in appetite and perhaps nausea1 but these changes don’t require you to eat more!
During your second and third trimester your baby and placenta ARE growing. You now have higher energy needs to keep up with your growing baby, plus your body is storing fat to use as energy later1. You will need to eat an extra 1400 kJ/day in your second trimester and an extra 1900 kJ/day in your third trimester ON TOP of your pre-pregnancy requirements2.
1400kj is about 3/4 cup (165g) tinned or fresh fruit (316kj), 1 tub (200g) plain natural yoghurt (734kj) and ½ cup (130g) cooked oats (355kj) 3. 1900kJ is about 1 medium fillet (140g) grilled salmon (1381kj) with ½ cup (103g) cooked brown rice (639kj).
Sticking to suggested energy intakes can prevent risks for yourself and baby such as low birth weight or macrosomic (over 4.5kg) births. Half of all pregnant women gain more weight than necessary, increasing baby’s risk of shoulder and facial nerve damage, skull depression, shoulder dystocia, stress and early delivery due to a large birthweight4. It’s not easy squeezing through that tiny hole!
Not only is baby at risk, but bigger-than-necessary mamas increase their own risk of C-section, pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, gestational hypertension and sleep apnoea, spending more time in hospital and of course higher hospital costs4.
Weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy and a good measure of growth in your baby. Your body mass index (BMI) will guide how much weight you should gain. More information about BMI and a handy BMI calculator can be found here5. Below are the weight-gain recommendations according to your BMI6.
What to eat
A pregnancy supplement is recommended, but these supplements are to be taken alongside a healthy diet anyway. A healthy diet will ensure you are meeting 99.9 percent of your nutrient needs unless you have any existing medical conditions. As always, consult your GP.
The Royal Women’s Hospital has provided some serving suggestions from each food group to eat while you are pregnant. Remember these are suggestions only and eating a varied diet will keep up your appetite and ensure adequate nutrition.
The major nutrients to keep an eye on are iron, folate, iodine, water and vitamin D7. Iron, folate and iodine were discussed in our previous article on pre-conception so you can skip over there to read more information on those particular nutrients.
Water requirements increase as your body increases in amniotic fluid and blood volume. So if you thought you were already peeing enough, add another 750-1000ml/day to your non-pregnancy recommendations7. Drink up! You are looking at anywhere between a total of 3-5L a day. Drinking more water will also help prevent constipation as hormone changes slow down your gut transit to absorb nutrients7.
Vitamin D aids calcium absorption, helping baby to grow strong bones7. As for mama, calcium absorption increases during pregnancy so there is no increase to dairy serves. However, low calcium intake is linked to miscarriage due to lead released from the body so keep to your 2.5 serves a day7.
Watch out for caffeine (up for 100mg or approximately one cup of coffee may be safe) and excessive vitamin A intake as both are toxic in high amounts7. There is also no safe recommendation for alcohol during pregnancy so it is best avoided7.
Your increased progesterone levels also lower your immunity so you are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses8 (and germy friends and family). Nasty bacteria such as Listeria can cause miscarriage and is common in the following foods8. You may have to give up your favourites, but it’s only for a little while.
- Soft cheeses but hard cheeses are okay
- Deli/processed meats such as sliced ham and hot dogs etc.
- Soft serve ice-cream
- Chocolate as it contains uncooked dairy products and caffeine
- Ready-made salads
- Raw fish like sushi and smoked salmon (baked or grilled salmon is okay and an excellent source of omega-3)
- And anything that isn’t fresh. If it’s suspicious-looking send it back! Or ask for a fresh made meal when eating out.
Some other foods to avoid during pregnancy include8:
- ‘long-lived’ fish due to increased mercury which harms baby’s developing brain and nervous system. Mercury is not found in canned tuna.
- Unwashed fruit and vegetables
These are just a few nutrition tips for pregnancy. There is much more detail to go in to, and there are other factors that contribute to a healthy pregnancy.
If you have questions or would like more information, leave a comment below.
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- Croxford, S., Itsiopoulos, C., Forsyth, A., Belski, R., Thodis, A., Shepard, S., & Tierney, A. (2015). Food and nutrition throughout life. Melbourne, VIC: Allen & Unwin.
- NHMRC. (2015). Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand. Retrieved from http://www.nrv.gov.au/dietary-energy
- FSANZ. (2015). NUTTAB 2010 online searchable database. Retrieved from http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/science/monitoringnutrients/nutrientables/nuttab/Pages/default.aspx
- Whiteman, V., E., Salemi, J., L., Mejia De Grubb, M., C., Ashley Cain, M., Mogos, M., F., Zoorob, R., J., & Salihu, H., M. (2015). Additive effects of pre-pregnancy body mass index and gestational diabetes on health outcomes and costs. Obesity Journal, 23, 2299-2308. doi:10.1002/oby.21222
- The Royal Women’s Hospital. (2015). Good nutrition for pregnancy [Fact sheet]. Retrieved from https://thewomens.r.worldssl.net/images/uploads/fact-sheets/Good-nutrition-for-pregnancy.pdf
- Better Health Channel. (2014). Body mass index (BMI). Retrieved from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/body-mass-index-bmi
- Radcliffe, Dr. J. (2016) DTN4LPN, Lecture 2, Topic 2, Pre conception [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from Department of Rehabilitation, Sport and Nutrition, La Trobe University, https://lms.latrobe.edu.au
- Brown, J., E., & Isaacs., J., S. (2011). Nutrition through the lifecycle (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage.