Healthy Pregnancy Diet

A healthy diet is essential when planning a pregnancy, during your pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Just as staying active is important, healthy eating during pregnancy will boost the health and wellbeing of you and your baby and will help prepare your body for a problem-free pregnancy. After your baby is born and you've started breastfeeding, smart food choices will also provide all the vital nourishment you and your growing baby need.

There are several nutrients that are essential to consume at each stage of your pregnancy. Some - such as folate and iron - are difficult to obtain through diet alone. You may need to take a pregnancy multivitamin with added quantities of these and other nutrients.

Before you make any change to your diet, it's best to consult with your doctor.

Here are the essential nutrients that are part of healthy eating during pregnancy and when you are breastfeeding.


Why is it important?
You need calcium in your pregnancy diet to support the development of your baby's bones and teeth. This nutrient is particularly important during the final trimester.

Your body also depends on calcium as during pregnancy a mother-to-be can lose the nutrients from their bones, increasing the risk of experiencing osteoporosis later in life.

How much calcium do I need?
The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of calcium is 1000mg during pregnancy and 1000mg while breastfeeding.

Where is calcium found?
Calcium is found in milk, yoghurt, cheese, fortified soy products and green leafy vegetables. See the list below for a selection of foods and their calcium content.

Things you need to know about calcium absorption
There are various substances that can reduce or enhance your body's ability to absorb calcium. Nutrients in found in milk and yoghurt - lactose and vitamin D - promote calcium absorption while spinach, rhubarb and dried beans can reduce the absorption of calcium into the body. A diet high in sodium (salt) can also leach calcium out of your body. Avoid adding salt to meals and reduce your intake of salty processed foods.

Caffeine also reduces calcium absorption but this can be offset. Add as little as one or two tablespoons of milk to your tea or coffee, in addition to the 1000mg of calcium, and you should be fine.

Calcium Rich Foods

FoodCalcium (mg) per serve
Low-fat natural yoghurt, 200g 470
Reduced-fat milk, 250ml 275
Reduced-fat processed cheese, 2 slices 335
Skim milk, 250ml 315
Sardines (canned, with bones) 100g 380
Soy yoghurt, 200g 300
Low-fat soy milk (calcium added), 250ml 285
Reduced-fat hard cheese, 30g 240
Low-fat cottage cheese, 100g 80
Broccoli, ½ cup 15


Why is it important?
Muscles around the bowel may relax due to hormonal changes during pregnancy. Combined with the pressure of the baby, this may cause constipation. Increasing fibre and fluid intake and enjoying regular physical activity can help prevent constipation and promote a healthy, well-functioning bowel.

How much fibre do I need?
The RDI during pregnancy is 28g, and 30g while breastfeeding.

Where is fibre found?
Healthy sources of fibre include wholegrain breads and cereals, vegetables, legumes and fruit. See the list below for a selection of foods and their fibre content.

Fibre Rich Foods

FoodFibre (mg) per serve
Strawberries, 2 cups 7.0
Figs, 3 large 5
Pear, 1 medium 4.2
Peach, 2 medium 4.1
Apricot halves (dried), 12 3.6
Apple, 1 medium 3.3
Orange, 1 medium 2.6
Banana, 1 medium 2.3
Baked beans, ¾ cup 9.9
Potato (boiled), 1 large 3.6
Corn cob, 1 large 5.9
Fresh peas, ½ cup 4.5
Broad beans, ½ cup 6.5
Carrot, ½ cup 3.8
Mushrooms, 1 cup 3.9
Wholemeal bread, 2 slices 4.5
Multigrain bread, 2 slices 2.3
High-fibre cereal flakes, 1 cup 6
Porridge, 1 cup 3
Wholemeal pasta, ¾ cup cooked 6.3


Why is it important?
Folate is essential for the healthy production of genes and protein in newly forming cells. For this reason, an adequate intake before and during the first three months of pregnancy can help prevent the occurrence of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

How much do I need?
The RDI during pregnancy and breastfeeding is 600 micrograms (μg). It is recommended that you take a folic acid supplement (500μg) before and during pregnancy to meet these increased requirements.

Where is folate found?
Folate is found in vegetables, fruit, wholegrain cereals and nuts. See the list below for a selection of foods and their folate content.

Folate Rich Foods

FoodFolate (μg) per serve
Broccoli, ¾ cup 25
Avocado, ½ medium 70
Fortified breakfast cereals, 1 cup 55
Fortified breads, 2 slices 32
Brussels sprouts, ½ cup 30
Spinach (cooked), ½ cup 80
Green peas (fresh), ½ cup 55
Orange, 1 medium 55
Fresh orange juice, 1 cup 60
Bran breakfast cereals, ½ cup 80
Wholegrain bread, 4 slices 55
Yeast extract spread, 1 tsp 70


Why is it important?
Iodine is a trace element that is essential for the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland. It is crucial during pregnancy for the development of the brain and nervous system in the foetus. A severe deficiency in a mother during pregnancy can lead to congenital myxedema, a condition characterised by mental deficiency, dwarfed stature and bone dystrophy. Due to new practices of sanitisation in the dairy industry and a shift away from iodised salt, iodine deficiency is on the rise in Australia. To ensure you are getting iodine for you and your baby, you will need to keep an eye on your intake during your pregnancy.

How much do I need?
The RDI for iodine is 220μg during pregnancy and 270μg during breastfeeding. A 150μg iodine supplement is often recommended.

Where is iodine found?
Iodine is found in fortified cereals and breads, meat, eggs, fish and shellfish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, cooked legumes and iodised salt. The iodine content of food can vary depending on the iodine content of the soil in which it was grown. See the list below for a selection of foods and their iodine content.

Iodine Rich Foods

FoodIodine (μg) per serve
Canned salmon, 100g 50
Fish (marine), 100g 25
Milk, 1 cup 60
Low-fat yoghurt (plain), 1 cup 75
Swiss cheese, 40g 25
Eggs, 2 25
Bread made with iodized salt, 2 slices 30


Why is it important?
Iron is essential for carrying oxygen around the body and for maintaining a healthy immune system. In order to provide sufficient iron for making new red blood cells during pregnancy, and to supply your unborn baby with enough iron to keep him or her healthy through the first five or six months after birth, the daily requirement almost doubles. Extra iron is especially important during the last trimester when the growth of a baby occurs most rapidly.

How much iron do I need?
The RDI for iron is 27mg for women during pregnancy and 9mg while breastfeeding.

Where is iron found?
Good sources of iron include lean red meat, poultry, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals and cooked legumes. See the list below for a selection of foods and their iron content.

Iron Rich Foods

FoodIron (mg) per serve
Bran breakfast cereal, 1 cup 7.8
Whole wheat breakfast cereal, 1 cup 4
Wholemeal pasta (boiled), ¾ cup 2.0
English spinach (boiled), ½ cup 3.7
Apricot halves (dried), 12 1.4
Beef (cooked), various cuts, 100g 2.7
Cooked lamb, various cuts, 100g 2.5
Cooked lentils, 3/4 cup 2.8
Tofu or tempeh, 120g 4.7
Baked beans, 3/4 cup 2.7
Boiled eggs, 2 1.8

Omega-3 fatty acids

Why are they important?
Omega-3 fatty acid are vital to consume during pregnancy to assist healthy development of your baby's brain and blood vessels and to lower your child's risk of developing food allergies and eczema. Omega-3 fatty acids are also an important nutrient to consume while breastfeeding.

How much omega-3 do I need?
It's important to include both plant and animal sources of omega-3 in your pregnancy diet. For the animal type of omega-3, the RDI is 115mg during pregnancy and 145mg during breastfeeding. For the plant type of omega-3, the RDI is 1000mg for pregnancy and 1200mg during breastfeeding.

Where are omega-3 fatty acids found?
This nutrient is found in oily fish, omega-3 enriched eggs, soy and linseed bread, canola and linseed. See the list below for a selection of foods and their omega-3 content.

To ensure you get enough omega-3 in your daily diet during your pregnancy, include two to three oily fish meals per week, eat two servings of legumes a week, and opt for omega-3 enriched eggs. Choose soy and linseed varieties of bread, crispbread and cereals. Incorporate pecans and walnuts into your diet and use canola oil and margarine at home.

Rich Sources of Omega-3

Animal sources

FoodOmega-3 (mg) per serve
Sardines, 100g canned 3500
Red salmon, 100g canned 1850
Pink salmon, 100g canned 1700
Tuna, 100g canned 1200
Salmon, 125g fresh 3125
Eggs, 2 large 114
Omega-enriched eggs, 2 large 220
Omega-enriched bread, 2 slices 121
Lean beef, 100g cooked 263

Plant sources

FoodOmega-3 (mg) per serve
Soy beans, ¾ cup 1500
Broccoli, ½ cup 100
Linseed, 5 tsp 1000
Walnuts, 10 630
Pecans, 6 60
Canola spread, 3 tsp 750
Canola oil, 2 tsp 1000
Soy and linseed bread, 2 slices 1800
Flaxseed oil, 2 tsp 5700

Vitamin C

You need this vitamin, also known as ascorbic acid, during pregnancy so your body can make collagen. Collagen is the foundation of healthy skin, bones, cartilage, tendons and blood vessels in humans. Vitamin C also helps fight infection and acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from damage.

How much vitamin C do I need?
The average RDI during pregnancy is 40mg, although some women may need 60mg or more.

Where is vitamin C found?
Vitamin C is found in fresh fruit and vegetables and fortified cereals and juices. See the list below for a selection of foods and their vitamin C content.

Vitamin C Rich Food

FoodVitamin C (mg) per serve
Orange juice, 250ml 124
Sliced strawberries, ½ cup 49
Kiwi fruit, 1 medium 70
Mango, ½ cup 23
Baked potato with skin, 1 medium 20
Mashed sweet potato, ½ cup 21


Healthy DNA function is dependent on zinc. The nutrient helps lay down a solid foundation right from the get-go. It's essential during pregnancy to help your baby develop a strong immune system, cell renewal, growth, learning, and a sense of taste and smell.

How much zinc do I need?
The RDI for zinc is 11mg during pregnancy and 12mg while breastfeeding.

Where is zinc found?
Zinc is found in fortified cereals, lean red meat, milk, seafood, whole grains, legumes and nuts. See the list below for a selection of foods and their zinc content.

Zinc Rich Food

FoodZinc (mg) per serve
Fortified cereal, 1 cup 15
Baked beans with pork, canned 14
Alaskan king crab meat, 85g 6.5
Lean ground beef, cooked, 85g 5.5
Raw pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup 2.6
Chickpeas, ½ cup 1.3

What Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

There are a few foods and beverages that you should steer clear of while pregnant to minimise the risk of exposure to harmful bacteria and toxins. For more information on food safety for pregnant women visit here.

Listeria is found in water and soil as well as in undercooked meats, raw fish, uncooked veggies, un-pasteurised milk (including byproducts) and processed foods. While pregnant, you're more susceptible to this bacteria than at any other time. The bacteria is killed by thoroughly cooking foods.

How to avoid listeria: During your pregnancy it is essential to stay away from raw fish and undercooked meats (that means no sushi, sashimi or steak bleu!); unwashed veggies (they are fine to eat raw as long as washed thoroughly first); prepackaged salad items (such as salad leaves and coleslaw mix); unpasteurised milk (as well as byproducts); and deli meats.

This bacteria is found in raw eggs, foods made with raw eggs (eggnog, biscuit and cake mix), uncooked meat or poultry, soft cheeses and unpasteurised dairy.

How to avoid salmonella: During pregnancy, wash your hands frequently when ever you handle raw meats. Avoid brie and camembert cheeses, goat's cheese, blue cheeses and the like. Never lick the bowl when making cakes. All milk in Australia must be pasteurised by law, so unless you live on a farm and have milk straight from the cow, this is not something you have to worry about at all.

Mercury poisoning and parasites
Avoid all raw fish to prevent encountering parasites such as tapeworm. Additionally it's recommended that you stay away from shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, tuna steaks, sea bass, oysters, marlin, halibut, pike, walleye, white croaker and largemouth bass, as these fish contain high levels of mercury, which is dangerous to you and your unborn bub. Snapper, trout, john dory and barramundi are all fine, healthy options as long as you make sure they're well cooked before eating.

Let us plan a healthy pregnancy diet for you - sign up for the 12 Week Body Transformation's Pregnancy Program.