Pregnancy and nutrition: eating healthy during pregnancy, what to know?


Have you recently fallen pregnant or looking to conceive soon? There are so many things to consider during pregnancy and so it’s difficult to know where to begin. Becoming a new mum is overwhelming!

Our dietitian has put together all the basics you need to know about approaching diet and nutrition during pregnancy.

Myth busting: Eating for 2

When we think about how much to eating during pregnancy, there is often this misconception to “eat for 2”. This isn’t necessarily true – you don’t need to increase the amount of food you eat by much more, especially in the early stages of pregnancy.

In fact, your daily energy requirements increase by about 450 calories by the third trimester (1). That’s equivalent to an extra small meal a day, or a family sized bag of chips!

The healthy amount of weight you should gain across your pregnancy depends on your Body Mass Index (BMI).

BMI (kg/m2)

Recommended weight gain (kg)

<18.5 (Underweight)

12.5 – 18.0

18.5-24.9 (Healthy weight)

11.5 – 16.0

25.0-29.9 (Overweight)

7.0 – 11.5

>30 (Obese)

5.0 – 9.0

Body Mass Index and amount of weight gain

There is strong evidence that too much weight gain during pregnancy can affect your baby’s health in the long run, including an increased risk of being overweight and developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease later in life (2).

Being above a healthy weight during pregnancy can also increase the risk of complications such as pre-eclampsia and pre-term births (3).

It is important to monitor your weight during your pregnancy and speak to your doctor or dietitian to find out about how much weight gain to expect.

Morning sickness

Morning sickness occurs in about 50% of all pregnancies. The most common symptoms include nausea, reflux/indigestion and vomiting.

These unpleasant symptoms can often get in the way of getting enough nutrition for you and your baby early on in pregnancy.

Our tips to beating morning sickness:

  • Have smaller meals or snacks every 2-3 hours
  • Choose bland foods and avoid spicy, acidic or other triggering foods
  • Try ginger and peppermint tea
  • Try having cold or room temperature foods in the morning

Pregnancy: What nutrients do I need to pay attention to?

Folate (Vitamin B9)

Folate plays a key role in the growth and development of your baby, in the formation of the neural tube in the early stages of pregnancy.

Getting enough of folate during pregnancy, through supplementing with folic acid or methylated folate is vital to preventing neural tube defects (4-5).

What foods:

  • Dark Leafy green vegetables
  • Beans and legumes
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Whole grains


Your iron requirements increase during the second and third trimesters (6) because you need an increased blood volume to supply oxygen and nutrients to your baby as they grow.

What foods:

  • Red meat
  • Dark leafy green vegetables
  • Cashews
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Kidney beans
  • Dried fruit


Iodine in vital for the function of your thyroid which regulates many metabolic processes in your body.

Thyroid activity amps up during pregnancy, therefore increasing your requirements for iodine.

What foods:

  • Seaweed
  • Seafood
  • Iodised salt

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for strong bones but also for our general health and wellbeing.

Many women are Vitamin D deficient during pregnancy which can lead to deficiencies in your baby at birth (7). Some studies even suggest that Vitamin D deficiency is related to increased risk of complications in pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and pre-term birth (8-10)

What foods:

  • Sunshine (not a food!)
  • Eggs
  • Oily fish
  • Dairy

Pregnancy and nutrition: what should I avoid?

Whilst we have covered food and nutrients you need more of during pregnancy, there are some foods and drinks you should limit or avoid altogether.


  • Alcohol
  • Raw or cured meats, seafood or eggs
  • Unpasteurised dairy and surface ripened cheeses (e.g. brie, camembert, blue cheese)
  • Unwashed fruit, raw vegetables or salad leaves


  • Caffeine to 200mg per day (~2 shots of espresso)
  • Large fish (e.g. shark, sting ray, swordfish) to two times a week*

*Large fish typically have higher amounts of mercury due to bioaccumulation

The bottom line

  1. Monitor your weight regularly
  2. Have small regular meals to tackle morning sickness
  3. Take a high-quality prenatal multivitamin
  4. Eating a balanced diet should be a priority
  5. No alcohol and most raw foods during pregnancy

Book an appointment with our dietitian today for a personalised plan and monitor your weight during your pregnancy. Let us help you!


  1. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. 2019. Dietary Energy. [online] Available at:
  2. Josey, M., McCullough, L., Hoyo, C. and Williams-DeVane, C., 2019. Overall gestational weight gain mediates the relationship between maternal and child obesity. BMC Public Health, 19(1).
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2022. Australia’s mothers and babies, Body mass index – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. [online] Available at:
  4. Pitkin, R., 2007. Folate and neural tube defects. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(1), pp.285S-288S.
  5. Viswanathan, M., Treiman, K., Kish-Doto, J., Middleton, J., Coker-Schwimmer, E. and Nicholson, W., 2017. Folic Acid Supplementation for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects. JAMA, 317(2), p.190.
  6. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. 2014. Iron. [online] Available at:
  7. Nowson, C., Ebeling, P. and Mason, R., 2012. Vitamin D and health in adults in Australia and New Zealand: a position statement. Medical Journal of Australia, 197(10), pp.553-554.
  8. Aghajafari, F., Nagulesapillai, T., Ronksley, P., Tough, S., O’Beirne, M. and Rabi, D., 2013. Association between maternal serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and pregnancy and neonatal outcomes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ, 346(mar26 4), pp.f1169-f1169.
  9. Lian, R., Qi, P., Yuan, T., Yan, P., Qiu, W., Wei, Y., Hu, Y., Yang, K. and Yi, B., 2021. Systematic review and meta-analysis of vitamin D deficiency in different pregnancy on preterm birth. Medicine, 100(24), p.e26303.
  10. Purswani, J., Gala, P., Dwarkanath, P., Larkin, H., Kurpad, A. and Mehta, S., 2017. The role of vitamin D in pre-eclampsia: a systematic review. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 17(1).

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