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The Best Foods to Eat During Pregnancy


Contributor - Head Nutritionist & Sports Dietitian

Nutrition is always an important factor to consider when it comes to health, so when you become pregnant, its role becomes even more essential. In fact, your diet can actually influence your overall pregnancy outcomes, as well as the health of the baby.

That can sound quite daunting, especially when it’s difficult to know which foods to eat while your nutritional requirements change from your typical day-to-day life. As much as we’d love to give you all of the information you need straight off the back, the best approach is individualised and takes into account your age, BMI, activity level and many other bespoke factors that may occur during pregnancy. What we can do, is offer some general guidelines and advice to help you on your way to eating better for both you and your baby. Keep reading to learn about the importance of pregnancy nutrition. For those who are unsure about exercising while pregnant, you can check out our pregnancy exercise blog to learn about how to safely approach working out when you’re expecting.

Understanding the changes in nutritional requirements

One of the key changes you’ll see during pregnancy is the increase in your daily calorie requirements; you will need to consume approximately 300 calories more per day throughout your pregnancy to support the growth and health of your baby. It’s worth noting that those calories will likely need to increase again in both the second and third trimesters!

It’s not just the calorie intake that will need to change; the amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat intake may change too. As your daily intake increases, it’s important to be mindful of nourishing your body with nutritious whole foods including proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The Australian Guideline To Healthy Eating recommends that women who are pregnant consume the following on a daily basis:

  • 5 serves of vegetables or legumes/beans of different types and colours
  • 1 serve is equal to ½ cup of cooked vegetables or legumes, 1 cup of salad or ½ potato
  • 2 serves of fruit.
  • 1 serve is equal to 1 medium or 2 small pieces of fruit
  • 8 ½ serves of grain foods, mostly wholegrain or high-fibre varieties
  • 1 serve is equal to 1 slice of bread, ½ cup cooked rice or pasta, or 2/3 cup of cereal
  • 3 ½ serves from lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts/seeds or legumes/beans
  • 1 serve is equal to 65-80g cooked meat or poultry, 100g fish, 2 eggs, or 1 small handful of nuts/seeds
  • 2 ½ serves of dairy foods, including milk, yoghurt, cheese or dairy alternatives (e.g. soy), mostly from reduced fat options
  • 1 serve is equal to 1 cup of milk, 1 tub of yoghurt or 2 slices of cheese
  • Water is another important nutrient that increases during pregnancy. Pregnant women require more water to support fetal circulation, amniotic fluid and a higher blood volume - all vital functions to support the development of the fetus. If you are pregnant you should aim to drink 3 to 3½ litres of water each day and limit caffeine to 300mg per day (about 3 cups of coffee/6 cups of tea).

What are the best food groups and nutrients to focus on while pregnant?

When deciding what to eat during pregnancy, you’ll need to start by choosing a wide variety of foods from each food group including proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as other vitamins and minerals that will help you meet the extra demands to support a healthy gestation.

These include the following:

  • Protein (including high iron foods) - including lean meat, chicken, fish or non-meat alternatives such as dried beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, and eggs (ensure these are cooked)
  • Fibre - including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dark leafy green vegetables (also a source of iron), fruits such as oranges, apples, berries, rolled oats and whole grain bread and cereal
  • Iodine - fish is recommended 1-3 times a week (however, we recommend limiting fish that is high in mercury)
  • Folate - is found in fortified bread and cereal
  • Vitamin D - from foods like oily fish, egg yolks, margarine and some brands of milk and spending time outdoors!
  • Foods containing saturated fat added salt, and added sugars: intake of these foods should be limited in general and during pregnancy. The additional energy requirements of pregnancy should be met through extra servings of foods from the five food groups rather than energy-dense foods.

Other important nutrients include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B12.

When it comes to nutrition and discovering what to eat during pregnancy, it’s important to note that every woman will have slightly different requirements. We recommended consulting your doctor or dietitian for individualised advice as nutrition during pregnancy does not tend to take a one size fits all approach. In the meantime, browse our menu which has a wide range of meals to supplement the nutrition you will need in your pregnancy.

  1. Kominiarek, M. A., & Rajan, P. (2016). Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. The Medical clinics of North America, 100(6), 1199–1215.
  2. NHMRC (2010) NHMRC Public Statement: Iodine Supplementation for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.