If you’re pregnant, follow this handy guide by nutritional therapist Hannah Kaye to ensure your diet is as healthy as possible for you and your unborn baby.
Pregnancy nutrition can be a minefield. You just need to type the phrase into Google and more than 55 million answers will appear and that’s on top of all the advice you’ve already been given by extended family and friends. You wouldn’t be the first pregnant woman to feel overwhelmed. Your pregnancy diet, and your nutrition in general, is best tackled by eating whole foods as close to their natural form as possible, which will offer you and your growing baby everything you need to thrive throughout each trimester.
It’s almost impossible to go wrong if you fill your trolley from the refrigerated and fresh-food sections of the supermarket. Those aisles should give you 70% of what you need to eat healthily. Add some wholegrains, nuts, seeds and their oils, and avoid hydrogenated fats, trans fats, colourants and flavourants. With fresh and wholesome foods, the options are endless.
Our A-Z guide gives you an idea of just some of the foods and nutrients to look out for and add to your shopping list:
Avocados contain an array of phytonutrients as well as monounsaturated fats to help your baby’s brain and tissue growth.
If you’re feeling nauseous during the first trimester, snack on a banana. It is a good source of vitamin B6, potassium and fibre.
Chicken provides protein, but ensure it’s free-range and cooked through.
Vitamin D is essential for immune function, healthy cell division and bone health, with studies showing that 4 000iu per day has the greatest benefit. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to pre-eclampsia, so chat to your healthcare provider to ensure you’re getting enough of the vitamin.
Eggs are high in choline, which helps your baby’s brain and spinal cord develop properly.
Fish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fats, which aid your baby’s eye development and brain growth. However, stick to low mercury varieties like hake and yellowtail.
Not only are guavas delicious, they are extremely high in vitamin C, which means they’re a safe way to help with immunity against infections while you’re pregnant.
With ingredients like chickpeas, tahini, olive oil and garlic, this dip makes a fibre-rich, protein-packed snack that will boost your immune system.
During pregnancy, your heart is working hard to provide nourishment to the foetus, with your body increasing its blood volume by 30 to 50%. Iron helps the blood cells carry oxygen to your body’s tissues, so it’s important to increase your iron intake.
Choose vegetable juices over fruit-based options for a drink that’s nutrient dense rather than sugar laden.
Kale has an excellent antioxidant and detoxification profile, making it a power food for pregnancy. However, avoid eating it raw as it can negatively affect thyroid function.
Lentils are a source of folate and fibre. They’re easy to cook and an essential form of plant protein if you’re a vegetarian.
Red meat such as beef, lamb and venison is high in iron and vitamin B12, both of which are crucial for a healthy pregnancy.
Nuts are full of essential minerals like zinc and selenium. Eat them raw and unsalted for maximum benefit.
Snack on olives or make a tapenade for pasta, as olives are high in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. They also have a good monounsaturated fat content.
The enzymes in papaya may help relieve heartburn and reflux, especially in the third trimester.
The high protein and mineral content of quinoa makes it a great prenatal food for those on vegetarian or gluten-free diets.
Extremely high in vitamin C, manganese and fibre, these berries also support blood sugar regulation.
This may be an unusual item on your shopping list, but salt-fermented sauerkraut is rich in probiotic bacteria and fibre to ease constipation.
Buy a jar to add to sauces or dips. As it’s made from sesame seeds, it’s a source of protein, fibre and good fats.
When you’re pregnant, many foods can lose their appeal thanks to your hormones. To maintain optimum nutrition, eat small meals often and make sure they are nutrient dense.
You should be eating a minimum of four servings of vegetables a day for a healthy pregnancy. That’s about a half to one cup per serving.
It’s easy to become dehydrated when you’re pregnant, especially in a hot climate. You should be aiming for at least two and a half litres of water per day. However, if you’re thirsty, drink more.
Commonly known as watermelon, it is packed with fluid and believed to help ease morning sickness and heartburn.
High in calcium, yoghurt can be eaten as a snack, for breakfast or added to sauces. Just ensure it’s plain to avoid unnecessary added sugar.
It’s estimated that more than 80% of pregnant women worldwide have inadequate zinc intake. This mineral is essential for cellular division. Beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and nuts all have a good zinc profile.
More about the expert:
Hannah Kaye holds degrees in both Nutrition and Journalism. She is also a graduate of Applied Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP). Read more about Hannah Kaye here.
Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals. Meet the Living & Loving Team and our Online Experts.