Healthy diet during pregnancy: What to eat
Pregnancy Diet & Exercise
Keep hydrated. 8 glasses (2 litres) daily is recommended.
Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Abstinence is the key – no alcohol is considered safe during pregnancy.
Keep your intake of sugar and salt to a minimum. Excess salt in the pregnancy diet can lead to fluid retention and bloating. Too many sugary treats can lead to weight gain, fatigue and an increased risk of gestational diabetes (diabetes in pregnancy).
Consume 3-4 servings of protein daily. Proteins are the building blocks for you and your baby. Pregnancy diet protein can come from animal (e.g. beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, fish) or vegetarian sources (e.g. legumes, lentils, tofu, quinoa, brown rice, nuts and seeds).
Good fats and oils are essential for the baby’s brain and nervous system. Good fats and oils also help with tissue and placenta growth. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, also known as the ‘good fats’, are found in fish, avocado, nuts and seeds and can be consumed daily. These are preferable to saturated and trans fats, the ‘bad fats’ found in animal fat, fried foods and full fat dairy which should be eaten more sparingly in a pregnancy diet.
Omega 3’s for brain health. Omega 3’s, especially DHA, are important for the baby’s brain development. Sources include fish, flax seeds, walnuts, wheat germ, chia seeds and omega 3 fortified eggs are all important parts of any pregnancy diet.
Mercury and fish. Although fish is highly nutritious (being high in protein, iodine and omega 3’s) intake should be limited during any pregnancy diet due to the mercury content naturally found in fish. Regular consumption of fish can lead to higher levels of mercury in mothers which can be harmful for the baby’s nervous system. Fish with lower mercury levels include mackerel, atlantic salmon, salmon, tuna, herring, anchovies and sardines. Speak to your health professional for further details.
Calcium rich foods. Calcium is vital for the healthy growth of bone and teeth in both mother and baby. This mineral is also essential for developing healthy nerves, heart and muscles. Calcium deficiency is linked with pre-eclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension). Calcium rich foods include dairy products, seafood, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, almonds, dried beans or peas and tofu.
Iron rich foods. Iron requirements almost double during pregnancy in order to keep up with the increased production of haemoglobin (protein that transports oxygen in body). Your pregnancy diet needs to include iron rich foods which include red meat (beef, kangaroo, lamb), dark green vegetables such as spinach, nuts, seeds and legumes.
Iodine rich foods. Iodine deficiency is becoming increasingly more common in Australian women due to the reduced consumption of iodised salt in the diet and a change in dairy manufacturing practices reducing the amount of iodine in milk. Consumption of iodine rich foods such as seaweed, eggs, yoghurt, salmon and milk is recommended. Iodine is essential for thyroid health and foetal brain development.
Consume plenty of whole foods throughout the day. Eat food as close to its original state as possible. 2 pieces of fruit and 3-5 servings of fresh vegetables is recommended daily.
Limit salt intake. Foods high in salt tend to be processed foods such as potato crisps, processed meats and canned vegetables/soups.High salt intake can lead to water retention and may lead to high blood pressure. Try to limit your intake to 1200mg daily from all food sources during your pregnancy diet.
Promote a healthy work/life balance. Reduce stress levels through relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or tai chi.
Ensure you are getting adequate sleep to allow for repair and energy.
Avoid over-eating. By sticking to six frequent small meals throughout the day you will have more balanced blood sugar levels providing more energy. Reducing to more frequent portion sizes as part of your pregnancy diet will help reduce nausea in the 1st trimester.
Regular physical exercise. A well rounded pregnancy diet is more than just eating or avoiding the right food. Keeping moving throughout pregnancy provides physical and emotional benefits including reducing stress, weight management, improving sleep patterns, faster recovery after birth and a greater ability to cope with the new demands of motherhood. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate to low impact exercise such as yoga, walking and swimming everyday and avoid exercising on your back. Pelvic floor exercises will strengthen pelvic muscles.
Avoid artificial sweeteners. Natural sweeteners such as stevia and xylitol are a great natural alternative that are widely available in health food stores and supermarkets and can be used for baking and beverages.
*** The information contained here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner. Always seek the advice of your doctor with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition.