Whilst there are some foods you should avoid when you are pregnant, the good news is that there are fewer things you need to avoid compared with the rest of the things you can enjoy during pregnancy.
Some foods are rich in nutrients and elements important for your pregnancy:
Folate is a B vitamin that is important for your baby’s development during early pregnancy. It can prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
A daily folic acid supplement of 400 to 600 micrograms is the best way to make sure you get enough folate. This should be started one month before becoming pregnant, and continued during the first three months of pregnancy.
Foods naturally rich in folate include green leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach and salad greens), chick peas, nuts, orange juice, some fruits and dried beans and peas.
Your requirement for iron increases significantly during pregnancy. This is because your baby draws iron from you. The baby not only draws enough iron from you for its development inside your womb, but your baby also draws iron from you to last it through the first five or six months after birth. Therefore, it is vital that you consume more iron while pregnant.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron during pregnancy is 27mg per day.
Food rich in iron include:
For some women, it may be necessary to take iron supplements. Popular brands include Ferrogradumet C and Maltofer.
Eating foods high in vitamin C will also help you to absorb iron if you consume them at the same time. You can either take a Vitamin C supplement at the same time, or drink a glass of orange juice.
Caffeine can reduce the body’s absorption of iron, and so you may need to cut back on your coffee or tea intake.
Calcium is vital in keeping your bones healthy and strong. In particular, your baby needs a large amount of calcium during the third trimester of pregnancy, because this is the time that they start to develop and strengthen their bones.
The calcium needed by your baby will be drawn from your own bones if you are not taking enough calcium in your diet. This may lead to problems with osteoporosis for you later in life.
The recommended daily intake of calcium during pregnancy is 1000mg to 1300mg per day.
Two serves of dairy foods (e.g. milk, hard cheese, yoghurt and calcium-fortified soy milk) should meet your daily requirements.
Whilst everyone needs Iodine, it is particularly important for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Mild to moderate iodine deficiency during pregnancy can lead to the baby having learning difficulties, and can affect motor skills and hearing development.
Most breads in Australia are fortified with iodine, but during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you may require iodine supplements to ensure you are taking enough for both yourself and your baby.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can increase your risk for miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth. In addition, your baby could be born with fetal alcohol syndrome (which includes slow growth before and after birth, and mental disabilities).
There is no established “safe level” of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommendation is that it is best not to drink any alcohol during pregnancy.
Small amounts of caffeine are safe during pregnancy. However large amounts of caffeine may increase your risk of miscarriage and premature birth.
Caffeine is present in coffee, tea, chocolate and some other soft drinks (e.g. cola).
Some authorities recommend limiting caffeine consumption to 200mg per day. This is equivalent to about 1-2 cups of espresso style coffee, 3 cups of instant coffee, 4 cups of medium strength tea, 4 cups of cocoa or hot chocolate, or 4 cans of cola
Avoid double shots of espresso coffee, and drinks marked as sports or energy drinks that contain caffeine.
As always, it is important to avoid food contamination, by ensuring good hand hygiene, and preparing foods properly.