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Pregancy Healthy Eating Guide

You may find that you need to change your eating and drinking habits to choose more nutritious foods and drinks to match the extra demands of pregnancy.   ------ 11081170

    • Start by identifying one or two dietary habits that you can improve. Then identify what may contribute to these habits. Next make a plan to overcome these causes and put the plan into action.
    • It is also important to continue healthy eating once you have had your baby to help replenish your body’s nutrient stores,  maintain a healthy weight and be a healthy role model for your partner and children.

Healthy eating during pregnancy means more than just the type of foods you eat. You should:

“I never took much notice of what I ate but once I was pregnant I knew I should be more careful. I tried to be really honest and wrote down what I usually eat and drink over a day. I soon saw that I didn’t eat a proper lunch and I was eating a lot of unhealthy biscuits and chocolates before and after dinner. I realised that because I was rushing to get things done during the day and not eating or just grabbing a takeaway or a diet coke from the deli, I was hungry and craving carbohydrate in the evening. I decided to pack a lunch to keep in the fridge at work. I stopped buying biscuits and chocolates and stocked up on foods that were easy to pack and safe and healthy for me to eat during pregnancy, like canned tuna and chick peas.  I packed fresh vegetables and bread to go with them and fruit and yoghurt to eat later in the afternoon. It took a bit of planning at first and my husband missed his evening snacks but I wanted a healthy pregnancy. Now it’s an easy habit and we both feel better for it." 


Eat Regularly


    • Eating three smaller meals and two or three healthy snacks boosts your metabolism, stops you from getting over-hungry. It also ensures both you and your baby get enough energy throughout the day.



Eat a Balanced Diet During Pregnancy


    • A balanced diet means eating the right amounts of each of the food groups every day. For a guide to daily serves of fruit, vegetables, cereals, meat and dairy see the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy below. 


Download a full sized Pregnancy Healthy Eating guide here

Healthy Eating Guide


Choose Carbohydrates with a Low Glycaemic Index

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    • The glycaemic index (GI) (external) refers to a way of ranking carbohydrates according to the time it takes to raise your blood sugar levels after eating.
    • Those foods with a lower GI are better for you as they provide a slower, sustained release of energy into your blood. The benefits include feeling less hungry, more energetic and a lower risk of developing diabetes



Choose Reduced-fat Options


    • There are healthy unsaturated fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts and olive oil, and unhealthy fats (trans and saturated fats) found in full cream dairy, fat or skin on meat and chicken, coconut and palm oil.
    • Both healthy and unhealthy fats are concentrated sources of energy and therefore when consumed in excess will result in weight gain.


It is best to minimise your saturated fat and control your unsaturated fat intake to reap health benefits such as reduced risk of high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, and a healthy weight. To reduce saturated fat intake:

    • Trim fat off meat before cooking.
    • When cooking, try to bake, stir-fry and grill instead of frying, and use minimal added fat. Vegetable oil sprays are a good option for browning.
    • Eat reduced-fat dairy foods (cheese, milk, margarine, yoghurt). Reduced-fat milk has more calcium as well as less saturated fat than full cream milk!
    • Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats by:
      • Using margarine, avocado, pesto or tahini instead of butter;
      • Eating nuts as a snack (almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts are best);
      • Using vegetable cooking oils such as canola, sunflower or olive oils;
      • Including three serves of fish per week (e.g. salmon, sardines).
  • More about fats in food  (external link, Heart Foundation)


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Drink plenty of water


    • Water is required for all body functions.  Even mild dehydration can reduce physical and mental performance.
    • Water requirements are slightly increased in pregnancy. Low fluid intake can contribute to fatigue and constipation.
    • Fluid requirements increase with body weight, physical activity and climatic conditions such as high temperature, high altitude, and low humidity.


    • Aim to drink seven to nine cups (1.75-2.25 Litres) of fluids per day.  This amount is considered adequate for the average pregnant women in Australia (NHMRC). Choose water over other beverages such as soft drinks and fruit juice, which are concentrated sources of sugar. See soft drinks calculator (external link). 
    • Boost your fluid and calcium intake with two cups of low fat milk per day.
    • Limit tea, coffee and cola drinks due to the caffeine content and diuretic effect (increase urine output).  Tea with meals also reduces iron absorption.
    • To reduce toilet trips at night, drink throughout the day then taper closer to bed-time. Also avoid evening drinks containing caffeine which has a diuretic effect (i.e. increases urine output) and may exacerbate heart burn.

Avoid drinking alcohol


    • Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can impair your baby’s brain development which can have consequences for your child for life.
    • Low-level drinking (such as one or two drinks per week) is likely to be of low-risk however evidence cannot ensure nil risk. More about alcohol - effects on unborn children (external link)


    • Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding as there is no known safe intake.

Balance food intake and healthy weight gain

Weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy, both due to the growing baby as well as preparation of the mother’s body to support pregnancy and lactation. However, excess weight gain should be avoided for the health of the mother and baby.


Excess weight gain during pregnancy has a number of risks for you and your baby during pregnancy which can have a lasting effect on you both after pregnancy. for more information please read the weight section.


    • Make sure you balance your energy intake (food and drinks) with energy output through physical activity.
    • To get an idea of how much activity is required to burn off the energy from particular foods see the food and activity calculator (external link). For example it takes 88 minutes of brisk walking to burn off the energy from one serve of takeaway fries! this calculator will also show you healthier food choices with recipe links.
    • See more information about a healthy weight gain in pregnancy.

Be Aware of Food Safety and Foods to Avoid


    • Food poisoning can affect anyone who consumes contaminated foods, but the symptoms may be more severe and prolonged in pregnant women due to reduced immunity.
    • Some foods and drinks that are common in the Australian diet may not be safe to consume during pregnancy.


    • Always practice good personal hygiene and good food handling practices to avoid common forms of food poisoning (see key rules for food safety)
    • During pregnancy, avoid foods that are at risk of carrying harmful bacteria (such as Listeria, Toxoplasmosis, Salmonella). For more information see the Food Safety section.
    • Follow the guidelines for Caffeine, Alcohol and Fish consumption during pregnancy

For more information about healthy eating during pregnancy see Healthy Active Pregnancy or Healthy Eating for Pregnancy or the video: Eating Well for Pregnancy (external link).


>> Food Safety >>

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