Dietitian Lisa Middleton Guides You on Nutrition for Pregnancy


Nutrition for Pregnancy

As soon as you become pregnant your body starts to go through physical and emotional changes. These can impact on your nutrition for pregnancy choices and requirements.

There is so much information out there about nutrition for pregnancy, and it can be quite overwhelming when trying to work out exactly what to eat.

Every pregnancy is different and what works for some people won’t work for others.

Nutrition for Pregnancy by Dietitian Lisa Middleton
Nutrition for Pregnancy by Dietitian Lisa Middleton

Nutrition priorities during pregnancy include:

1. Type of foods – there is an increased need for certain nutrients during pregnancy.

2. The amount of food required.

3. Food safety – food choices should be SAFE for both mother and baby.

Do I need to eat more when pregnant?

Energy needs do increase during the middle and later stages of pregnancy, however there is certainly no need to ‘eat for two’!

Individual needs will vary, however below is a rough idea of increased energy requirements for different trimesters:

1. Additional energy requirements during pregnancy (based on average 12kg gain)

2. 2nd Trimester- extra 1400kJ / 330calories

3. 3rd Trimester- extra 1900kJ / 450calories

4. Underweight women or very physically active may need more

Small meals and snacks spaced throughout the day, often works well, ensuring carbohydrate timed before and after exercise to keep energy levels up.

If you are not eating enough you will become tired and run-down so listen to your body!

Important Nutrients for Pregnancy

Iron during Pregnancy

Pregnant women who are active are at increased risk of low iron levels. Inadequate iron stores can lead to a number of symptoms, such as fatigue and lowered immune function.

Iron is part of haemoglobin in red blood cells.

Haemoglobin picks up oxygen from the lungs and carries it to the muscles and brain. Without enough iron we are unable to transport oxygen around the body.

Risk factors for low iron stores:

1. Inadequate dietary iron intake

2. Blood losses – injury, heavy periods

3. Heavy exercise

4. Pregnancy

Women often consume inadequate iron, particularly if vegetarian. It can be difficult to meet needs if iron-rich foods, such as red meat, are avoided.

Food sources of iron for pregnant women

  1. Red meat

2. Chicken

3. Liver

4. Eggs

5. Legumes

6. Nuts and seeds

7. Fortified breakfast cereal

8. Some green vegetables

Iron from animal sources (haem iron) is better absorbed than from plant foods (non-haem iron).

Adding a Vitamin C rich food, such as kiwi fruit, strawberries, oranges or red capsicum to non-haem iron sources can improve iron absorption.

Calcium during Pregnancy

Calcium is a mineral that is essential for bone development and muscle function.

Daily calcium intake is recommended at 800-1000mg per day. Pregnancy and breastfeeding increase calcium requirements and intake must increase during these times.

Dairy foods are the best source of calcium. Non-dairy sources of calcium include fortified alternative milk products, canned salmon (including bones!), green leafy vegetables and nuts/seeds. Careful dietary planning is required to achieve adequate calcium if dairy foods are not eaten.

Folate during Pregnancy

Did you know that folate is a B vitamin required for the development of new body cells?

Folate intake is particularly important for women planning a pregnancy, with intake recommended at 400ug per day, which is double that required for general population.

Research indicates that adequate folate in the months before and the first 3 months of pregnancy reduces the risk of babies being born with certain birth defects, such as Spina Bifida where neural tube development has been effected.

Rich sources of folate include dark green leafy vegetables, some fruits, nuts and legumes and fortified cereals, breads and pastas.

Other considerations:

1. Iodine intake

2. Mercury in fish

3. Food safety – Listeria and avoidance of high risk foods.

4. Constipation

The above information is of a general nature only, please see an Accredited Practising Dietitian for advice individualised to your particular needs.

Lisa Middleton, Advanced Sports Dietitian and Fitness Consultant

Lisa’s Website:

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