Food Guide fot pregnancy

Food guide for pregnancy

Thinking about having a baby?

Important things you need to know about what you eat and drink.

It’s an exciting time if you are thinking about having a baby.
There are a few important things to remember when eating and drinking to make sure  that you and your baby are healthy. Many of these things take a bit of planning and it is best to start before you become pregnant. If you think you might be pregnant – don’t worry – start following this advice as soon as you can.

1. Enjoy Wide Variety of Nutritious Food

Good nutrition during pregnancy will help to keep you and your developing baby healthy. The need for some nutrients, such as iron and folate, is increased during pregnancy but you’ll only need a small amount of extra energy (kilojoules) from food.

If you are pregnant, a good approach is to eat to satisfy your appetite and continue to check your weight. A normal weight gain over the course of the pregnancy is around 10-13kg, but this can vary between individuals. Specific, advice for your needs should be sought from an Accredited Practising Dietician, your doctor or midwife regarding weight loss or significant weight gain during pregnancy. Choose a wide variety of foods every day to ensure you meet
your and your baby’s nutritional needs.

Try to:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes (including dried beans and peas) and fruits.
  • Eat plenty of cereals (including bread, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain.
  • Include milks, yoghurts, cheeses and / or alternatives. Low or reduced fat varieties should be chose, where possible.
  • Drink plenty of water And take care to choose foods low in saturated fat, salt and sugar.

There is more information on healthy eating during pregnancy at:

2. Get enough folic acid

Folate is a B group vitamin needed for healthy growth and development. This vitamin is known as folate when it is found naturally in food, such as green leafy vegetables, and as folic acid when it is added to food, such as bread and breakfast cereals, or used in dietary supplements.

If you are thinking about having a baby you need to know about folate. Folate is essential to the healthy development of babies in early pregnancy.  A baby’s growth is the most rapid in the first weeks of life –often before you are aware you are pregnant. The neural tube closes and fuses very early in pregnancy; if it doesn’t close, the result is a neural tube defect (NTD) such as spina-bifida. There is more information about neural tube defects on the Australian Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association (ASBHA) website at: http//

In September 2009, it became a legal requirement in Australia that all bread-making flour, except organic flour contain added folic acid. As a result, you bread now contains added folic acid. Three slices of bread (100g) contains an average of 120 micrograms of folic acid. This is a Government initiative that acts as a safety net for women to help protect their babies against neural tube defects.

However, if you are planning a pregnancy, the best way to guarantee you get enough folic acid, is to take a daily folic acid supplement at least one month before and three months after conception. You don’t need to take folic acid supplements after that. This is in addition to eating foods with added folic acid and naturally rich folate.

Folic acid supplements are available in Australia over the counter from pharmacies and through your doctor at varying doses. Look for supplements that contain at least 400 micrograms of folic acid; these will generally be supplements containing only folic acid or special pregnancy supplements. Multi-vitamin supplements generally contain less. Trying to get you folic acid needs from general multi-vitamins may result in you getting higher than recommended amounts of other vitamins and minerals. Your doctor, pharmacist or an Accredited Practising Dietician can help you to choose the best supplement for your needs.

Consuming enough folic acid substantially reduces the risk of neural tube defects but won’t prevent all cases. If you have a family history of neural tube defects you may require more folic acid and you should ask your doctor or health care provider for advice about your individual needs.

Remember, it’s important to enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods every day in order to get the variety of vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy pregnancy.

3. Get Enough Iodine

If you are thinking about having a baby you also need to know about iodine. Iodine is an essential mineral that we get from the food we eat. While seafood is a good source of iodine, the amount of iodine in other food like milk and vegetables, varies depending on where it is grown and how it is manufactured.

The developing baby in the womb, babies and young children are at greatest risk from a diet deficient in iodine. Mild to moderate iodine deficiency can result in learning and difficulties and affect development of motor skills and hearing.

Over the last decade, there has been a re-emergence of iodine deficiency in the population, with nearly half the population thought to have inadequate iodine intakes.

From October 2009, the Australian Government requires the salt used to make bread, except organic bread, be replaced with iodised salt. This will provide enough iodine for most of the population. However, because pregnant and breastfeeding women have the greatest need for iodine, iodine supplements may be required during pregnancy and breastfeeding. As iodine is especially important for your unborn baby and in your baby’s first few years of life, ask your doctor, midwife or Accredited Practising Dietitian for advice on your individual dietary needs.

4. Eat fish with lower levels of mercury

The Australian Dietary Guidelines advise including two to three fish meals per week for good health. Fish is a good source of nutrients for the developing baby and the good news is that it is safe for everyone to eat two to three serves per week of most types of fish.

However, there are a few types of fish which Food Standards Australia New Zealand recommends eating only one serve a week. These fish are shark, broadbill, marlin and swordfish. This is due to the level so naturally occurring mercury in fish. Pregnancy women and women planning pregnancy should limit their intake of shark, broadbill, marlin and swordfish to no more than one serve per fortnight, with no other fish eaten that fortnight. For orange roughy (also sold as sea perch) and catfish, the advice is to consume no more than one serve per week, with no other fish eaten during that week. There are many other varieties of fish available to meet your suggested weekly intake of two-three serves. One serve is 150 gram which is approximately 2 frozen crumbed fish portions.

5. Avoid Listeria

Listeria are bacteria carried in some foods that can cause a disease called listeriosis, which is a fairly uncommon form of food-borne illness in Australia. The illness causes few or no symptoms in most people but it can be very dangerous if you are pregnant, or for your unborn child or newborn baby. So, if you are pregnant you need to be aware of the risks and avoid particular types of food.

Listeria may be found in certain types of foods, especially ready-to-eat foods that have not  been stored or handled correctly after being produced or cooked. Therefore you can reduce your risk of contracting listeriosis by avoiding specific foods, consuming safer alternatives, and by practicing good food hygiene.

The foods most likely to carry these bacteria, increase the risk of infection and therefore should be avoided, include:

  • The foods most likely to carry these bacteria, increase the risk of infection and therefore should be avoided, include:
  • Soft serve ice cream
  • Unpasteurised dairy produces
  • Pate
  • Salads and fruit/vegetable that are prepared, pre-packaged or served from smorgasbords or salad bars.
  • Cold meats, including chicken, from delicatessens an sandwich bars, as well As packaged ready-to-eat meats

You can further reduce your risks of listeria and other food-borne illnesses by following these
food safety tips:

  • Always wash hands before preparing or servicing food and after handling animals or visiting the toilet.
  • Animals can carry the toxoplasmosis parasite which can cause disease in humans so keep them out of the kitchen, avoid touching faces and wear rubber gloves under garden gloves.
  • Wash cook ware and utensils well after use.
  • Store raw foods down low in the fridge and check fridge temperature regularly.
  • Foods and left-overs that belong in the fridge should always be returned there as soon as possible.
  • Thaw frozen meats in the fridge
  • Once cooked, pasta and rice should be stored in the fridge
  • Look for “best before” and ‘use by” dates on packaged foods.

There is comprehensive advice about safer food alternatives, safe food handling and dates on packaged foods on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand website at: http//
Answers to commonly asked questions about Listeria may be found at :

6. Alcohol

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that you don’t drink during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can affect the unborn baby by damaging the development of the baby’ brain and slowing down physical growth. Babies affected by alcohol tend to have low birth weights. They may also have physical and behavioral problems at birth and throughout childhood.

It is not currently known what level of alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy. Therefore it is best to avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy as much as possible.

For support and advice on decreasing or to stop drinking alcohol speak to your doctor or midwife for support and advice. If you drank alcohol early on before you knew you were pregnant, the risk to your baby from low-level drinking is likely to be low. The safest thing to do is to stop drinking altogether while you are pregnant. If you are worried ask your doctor or midwife for advice.

Not drinking alcohol is the safest option when breastfeeding. If you wish to drink alcohol  you should avoid it in the first month after delivery until breastfeeding is well established. After that limit your alcohol intake to no more than two standard drinks a day and you should avoid drinking immediately before breastfeeding. You should also consider expressing milk in advance as alcohol is concentrated in breast milk.

For more information see:

7. Caffeine

While having large amounts of caffeine does not appear to cause birth defects, drinking high amounts of caffeine may make it more difficult to become pregnant and may increase the risk of miscarriage or having a baby with low birth weight. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, some soft drinks, and certain medicines. It affects the nervous system and can cause irritability, nervousness and sleeplessness.

It is best to limit your daily caffeine to:

  • 1 regular espresso style coffee, or
  • 3 cups of instant style coffee
  • 4 cups of tea, or
  • 4 cans (375ml) per day of cola-type drinks. (one cup = 250ml).