What you should and shouldn't be eating during pregnancy

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There are a number of changes that occur to a woman’s body during pregnancy which changes her nutritional needs during this time. Some of these changes include:

  • increased blood volume of up to 50%

  • blood flow through the kidneys increases by around 80%

  • absorption of nutrients from the small intestine increases

  • water absorption from the colon also increases (hello constipation)

In terms of energy, current guidelines recommend an additional 1.4 MJ/day during the second trimester and 1.9MJ/day during the third trimester. This amount of energy can easily be achieved with a piece of fruit and a small sandwich. However, there are more factors to consider than just energy- in particular vitamins and minerals. As a result, the current Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend pregnant women eat the following daily:

  • 5 serves of vegetables/ legumes

  • 2 serves of fruit

  • 8.5 serves of grains

  • 3.5 serves of meat or other protein

  • 2.5 serves of dairy

How is this different to normal?

These recommendations equate to an additional 2.5 serves of grains and 1 additional serve of meat/ other protein. Eating these extra grains and protein will help reduce the possibility of deficiencies such as anemia (low iron), and ensure adequate energy, vitamin and fiber intakes.

foods to avoid when pregnant

Are there any foods you should be avoiding?

  1. Foods containing Listeria may cause infection, resulting in miscarriage, still birth, premature birth, or a very ill infant at birth. Foods that may contain Listeria and should be avoided include:

  • smoked fish, smoked muscles, oysters and raw seafood

  • pre-packaged/ prepared salads

  • pre-cooked meat products eaten without further cooking (eg pate, deli meats)

  • unpasturised milk

  • soft serve ice cream

  • soft cheeses (eg brie, camembert)

2. Foods high in mercury can cause a build up of mercury in the blood stream over time and may cause developmental delays, for example walking and taking, and can also affect the nervous system, memory, language and attention span. Pregnant women are advised to limit fish or seafood that may contain high levels of mercury, such as marlin, broadbill, swordfish, shark (flake), king mackerel, orange roughy, catfish and tilefish, and replace them with fish low in mercury, such as (cooked) salmon.

3. Current Australian dietary guidelines recommend not drinking alcohol if you are pregnant. This is because alcohol crosses the placenta, increasing the risk of miscarriage and fetal alcohol syndrome.

If at any stage during your pregnancy you are concerned about your dietary intake, please seek medical advice from your GP, obstetrician or midwife.

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Hi, I’m Aspen, a university qualified teacher and nutritionist. As one of seven kids, a mum and ten years teaching experience, I understand just how challenging mealtimes can be. That’s why I’m so passionate about giving families a range of strategies to reduce fussy eating and make mealtimes an enjoyable family experience. I also work with schools doing incursions, parent information sessions and canteen menu assessment.