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Food During Pregnancy

When you are pregnant, you are feeding not only yourself but also your growing foetus. Naturally, you will need to pay close attention to the types of foods you eat during pregnancy, so try to consume healthy, nutritious foods during your pregnancy.

The good news is that eating well during pregnancy is not difficult. There are just a few extra nutritional needs to consider when you are pregnant.

What do I need?

Protein

When you are pregnant, your protein requirements increase slightly – an extra 6g per day.

Lean, red meat, white meat, fish (fresh & canned), eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt, legumes (e.g. baked beans, kidney beans, soya beans, chick peas & lentils), nuts and seeds are all good sources of protein, with a high nutritional content. Aim to eat a variety of protein-rich foods every day.

Fat

A small amount of fat is needed in the diet because it provides you and your unborn child with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 fats.

Essential fatty acids are particularly important for your developing foetus. Fish is a good source of omega-3 fats, so aim to eat at least two serves of fresh or canned fish a week. Choose oils and margarine spreads made from canola, sunflower seeds, olives, soybeans, peanuts, macadamia nuts, sesame seeds and grapeseed.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate provides energy for you and your baby.

It is a good idea to eat a wide variety of carbohydrate-rich foods and include carbohydrates at every meal. Carbohydrate-rich foods include breads, breakfast cereals, potato, sweet potato, rice, pasta, noodles, oats, legumes (e.g. chick peas, soy beans, lentils, baked beans) and fruit. Milk and yoghurt are also good sources.

Fibre

A fibre-rich diet can help you achieve and maintain regular bowel movements.

Fibre is only found in plant-based foods (not animal-based foods). Good examples include fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain breads and cereals. Include a wide variety every day and don’t forget the fluids. Fibre and fluid go hand in hand, so drink plenty of fluids every day.

Vitamins

Folic acid (a B group vitamin) is involved is especially important for the development of your child’s neural tube – the structure that becomes the brain and spinal cord.

So, it’s important to increase your intake of folic acid both before and during pregnancy by eating a variety of folate-rich foods. It is also advisable to take a folic acid supplement (0.5mg) daily, 1 month before and for the first 3 months of pregnancy.

For other vitamins, your requirements will be met if you eat a varied and nutritious diet.

Requirements for iodine increase during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is difficult to get enough iodine from food alone. Women are advised to choose foods that are important sources of iodine and to supplement their diet throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding with an iodine-only tablet. Read more here.

 

Minerals

Your requirements for calcium during pregnancy are 1000mg a day. 

Your iron requirements increase by an extra 9mg a day when you are pregnant. The main reason for this increased requirement is that your growing foetus needs to build up its own iron reserves and it does this by taking the iron from your body. It is therefore important to eat a variety of iron-rich foods like red meat, fish, wholegrain cereals and legumes when you are expecting. In some cases, an additional iron supplement may be required. Your doctor will advise you if a supplement is needed.

Do I need to watch the kilojoules?

A balanced diet should help you to achieve the normal weight gain during pregnancy of 11 to 16 kilograms.

Pregnancy is not a suitable time to start losing weight. In fact, regular weight gain is one of the signs that your pregnancy is progressing well. If you do not eat enough nourishing foods, your baby may be deprived of important nutrients.

Remember that it is not the quantity of food that counts, but the quality of your diet.

How many kilojoules do I need?
Your daily energy requirements during the first trimester remains fairly constant. However, these requirements vary according to your weight, size and level of activity. If your appetite increases, do not hesitate to eat nourishing food – without feeling guilty.

During the second and third trimesters, you need an extra 1400KJ a day during 2nd trimester, and 1900KG a day in 3rd trimester, to meet your baby’s rapidly growing needs. This is equivalent to 1 cup of full cream milk.

For more information see MoH Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Pregnant and Breast Feeding Women and Eating Healthy for Pregnant Women.

Check out the following related articles for further reading:

This fact sheet contains general information. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific advice for your personal situation.

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