Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is important for you and your growing baby. A well-balanced diet provides essential nutrients for the baby’s growth and development while reducing the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
- Pick various foods from all food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
- Limit and reduce your intake of junk and processed foods that are high in calories, salt, and sugar.
- Drink lots of water and aim for at least 8-10 cups daily.
- Avoid alcohol, which can be harmful to your baby’s development.
- Practice safe food handling and preparation to prevent foodborne illnesses.
How many meals should I have per day when pregnant?
You should have at least three healthy meals daily when pregnant. If you suffer from reflux, you may want to increase this to five or six smaller meals. Portion sizing is particularly important in pregnancy to control weight gain. Unhealthy snacking in between meals can lead to unwanted weight gain. If you think you need more personalized advice and a diet plan, Dr. Porter can refer you to a dietician.
Should I ‘eat for 2’?
Regardless of what you’ve heard, you don’t have to ‘eat for two’ in pregnancy. You should focus on eating regular healthy meals that will sustain you and your baby.
What snacks do you recommend during pregnancy?
Healthy snacks such as nuts and dried fruit may help if you are feeling hungry between meals. Other recommended snacks include cheese and crackers, muesli bars, hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, rice cakes with avocado, unsalted nuts, celery sticks, and crisp breads.
How much water should I drink during pregnancy?
It is recommended you drink at least 2L of water during pregnancy per day. Your requirements increase as you progress through pregnancy.
What drinks should I avoid during pregnancy?
Alcohol can harm your baby and should generally be avoided during pregnancy. Sugary drinks such as cordial, soft drinks, and fruit juices are ideally minimised where possible. Sports drinks such as Powerade or Gatorade are generally avoided as they are very high in sugar. However, if you suffer from severe nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy, these drinks (or ‘Gastrolyte’) can help replace important electrolytes.
Can I drink coffee during pregnancy?
Moderate caffeine intake is generally considered safe during pregnancy. Australian guidelines recommend that pregnant women limit their caffeine intake to 200 milligrams daily. This is the equivalent of 1 cup of strong espresso-style coffee, 3 cups of instant coffee, or 4 cups of medium-strength tea.
What specific foods should I eat or avoid?
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale are a great source of vitamins and minerals important for you and your developing baby. Some key nutrients in leafy greens include folate, iron, calcium, and vitamin K, which are essential for a healthy pregnancy. Folate, in particular, is important for preventing neural tube defects (e.g., spina bifida). Avoid store-bought (‘glass counter’) salads and pre-packaged supermarket salads.
- Whole grains such as brown rice, wheat bread, and quinoa are good source of fibre and other important nutrients. Try to choose whole grains over refined grains, which are lower in nutrients.
- Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Try to eat different fruits and vegetables in different colours.
- Eggs are rich in protein and other important nutrients. Ensure that eggs are fully cooked to at least 71 degrees before eating to avoid the risk of foodborne illness. Avoid eating raw, cracked, or dirty eggs.
- Dairy products are best for calcium and vitamin D, which are important for the baby’s bone development. Ensure you drink pasteurized dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. Avoid unpasteurized (raw) dairy products.
- Custard can be eaten if store-bought and freshly opened. If stored in the fridge, reheat to 60 degrees and use within a day of opening.
- Fish contains lots of protein and omega-3 fatty acids; they are important for the baby’s brain and eye development. However, some types of fish are potentially high in mercury, which can harm the baby’s development. Where possible, choose low-mercury fish, such as salmon. Limit intake of high-mercury fish, such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel.
- Proteins such as poultry, beef, pork, and beans are good for your baby’s growth and development and are a good source of iron. Pregnant women should choose lean cuts of meat and avoid undercooked or raw meat. Cook meat thoroughly to 71 degrees (medium to well done) and eat hot. Dr. Porter will likely monitor your iron stores during pregnancy if you are vegetarian.
- Processed meats from the delicatessen, such as ham, prosciutto, and salami, should be avoided unless they are cooked to 75 degrees and eaten soon afterward.
- Sushi: Raw fish, commonly used in sushi, can be a potential source of harmful bacteria and parasites, such as listeria and salmonella, which can cause foodborne illnesses. However, cooked or vegetarian sushi can be a safe option during pregnancy. Try to consume sushi from reputable sources where sushi is prepared and handled properly, with strict hygiene measures.
- Cheese: Soft/semisoft: (e.g., brie, camembert, ricotta, fetta, blue, etc.) – Avoid where possible.
- Processed cheese (Eg, cheese spreads, cottage cheese, creamed cheese) – Ok if stored in the fridge and eaten within 2 days of opening.
- Hard cheese (e.g., cheddar/tasty) – ok to eat; store in the fridge.
- Ice cream: Try to avoid soft serve or fried ice cream. Packaged frozen ice cream is ok to eat.
- Hot takeaway chicken: Generally ok if freshly cooked and eaten while hot. Leftovers are ok if refrigerated and re-heated to at least 60 degrees.
- Pate: Avoid where possible.
- Seafood: Avoid raw seafood and ready-to-eat chilled, peeled prawns. Fish and seafood cooked to 63 degrees or refrigerated and reheated to 60 degrees the following day are generally ok.
Food-borne infections in pregnancy: Listeria and Salmonella:
When you are pregnant, you are at an increased risk of contracting food-borne infections such as Listeria and Salmonella. Listeria can harm pregnant women and their unborn babies, while Salmonella can cause food poisoning.
Below is a list of ways you can reduce your chance of contracting a food-borne infection in pregnancy:
- Avoid high-risk foods: Listeria can be found in deli meats, hot dogs, and soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. It’s best to avoid these foods altogether during pregnancy or ensure they are heated to steaming hot before consumption.
- Cook meat thoroughly: Ensure all meat, poultry, and seafood are cooked thoroughly before eating.
- Wash fruits and vegetables: Thoroughly rinse all fruits and vegetables with clean running water before eating, even if you have to peel them. This can help remove any potential bacteria that may be present.
- Practice good food safety: Wash your hands and any cooking surfaces, utensils, or dishes that come into contact with food frequently. Keep raw meats separate from other foods to avoid cross-contamination.
- Be cautious with refrigerated foods: Make sure any foods that need refrigeration are stored at 4°C or lower. Don’t eat refrigerated leftovers that have been in the fridge for over a few days.
- Be conscious of food preparation techniques when travelling overseas (e.g., washing salads with unclean water), etc.
Symptoms of listeria include fever, chills, and/or muscle aches. Occasionally the public will be notified about a local listeria outbreak. If you are concerned about Listeria, you should contact Dr Porter.
Salmonella food poisoning includes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. These symptoms are usually self-limiting and should resolve within 24 hours. If your symptoms persist or you are particularly unwell, contact Dr. Porter because, in severe cases, the infection can lead to dehydration and require hospitalisation.