What to Eat During Pregnancy

LLETZ | Colposcopy | Abnormal Cervical Screening Test | Vaginal Hysterectomy | Dr Mandana Master | Obstetrician & Gynaecologist

Throughout pregnancy, there are many considerations to take into account for optimal health. One very important lifestyle choice during pregnancy is diet, with healthy choices providing nourishment and a host of benefits to not only yourself, but your developing child.

Eating a Balanced Diet

It is important to eat a balanced, varied diet, making sure to include fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy and calcium, and lean meats (or alternatives). A healthy balanced diet consists of eating different food groups in the correct, evidence-based amounts each day:

  • Fruit: 2 serves
  • Vegetables: 5 serves 
  • Grains: 8 ½ serves 
  • Dairy (or alternatives*): 2 ½ serves 
  • Meat (or alternatives*): 3 ½ serves 

*There are many alternative foods that promote health throughout pregnancy for vegetarian and vegan women. Soy milk, eggs, lentils, tofu and beans can be eaten in place of animal products. However, it is important that pregnant women who do not consume animal products take a vitamin B12 supplement, as it is important for your child's brain development.

Which Nutrients are Important to Consume?

During pregnancy, there are numerous nutrients that should be consumed regularly – either via food products or supplements – for the health of your child. For your understanding, these nutrients are listed below with the reason they are necessary during pregnancy. 


It is important to consume appropriate levels of calcium, as this aids in the development of healthy bones for your child. Calcium can be found in low-fat and full-fat dairy foods, firm tofu, and fish that have edible bones (including sardines and salmon). You should consume between two and three serves of calcium-rich products per day.

For pregnant women who do not drink animal milk, select alternative milk with at least 100mg of calcium per 100 ml.

Vitamin D

Bone and teeth development in your child, their skeletal health, and your own muscle strength are supported by vitamin D. Although this nutrient is largely gained through sunlight, egg yolks, oily fish, margarine and some milk products can provide small amounts of vitamin D. 

Each day, pregnant women should consume 400 international units (or 10 micrograms) of a vitamin D supplement.


This nutrient is important for the brain development of your child. Iodine can be found in iodised salt, fish (eaten one to three times per week, limiting your intake of high mercury fish), or a multivitamin designed for pregnancy containing 150 micrograms of iodine or more.


It is important to consume iron, as this nutrient aids red blood cell development. During pregnancy, your child is developing red blood cells, and you also require a greater volume of blood. To gain proper amounts of iron, eat a minimum of two serves of meat (including chicken and fish), nuts or legumes per day, regularly eat wholegrains and green leafy vegetables, and consume vitamin C-rich produce (including tomatoes, capsicum and fruits).

Iron supplements may be required if you have low iron levels. Your GP or Dr Mandana Master can help you navigate this.

Omega-3 Fats

Your child’s eye, brain and nerve development are supported by omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats can be found in fish (specifically oily fish, including sardines, salmon, tuna and mackerel), linseeds/flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds and soybeans.

It is a good idea to eat fish two to three times per week, limiting high-mercury types including shark, broadbill, marlin and swordfish to once per fortnight (do not eat any other fish during this fortnight). 

Omega-3 may also be consumed through pregnancy multivitamins. Do not consume fish liver oils.


During pregnancy, you should consume protein during each meal, as protein is important for the development of body tissue. Foods containing protein include:

  • Meat (including chicken and fish)
  • Dairy 
  • Nuts 
  • Eggs 
  • Legumes 
  • Tofu.

Eating such protein-containing foods also increases your iron and calcium consumption.


Folate, also known as folic acid, is a crucial vitamin that aids in the formation of your baby's cells and minimises the risk of your child developing specific congenital disabilities, including spina bifida. It can be obtained from a diverse range of foods, including green leafy vegetables, fruits, legumes, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts, and fortified breakfast cereals.

However, obtaining sufficient amounts of folate from food alone can be challenging. Therefore, it is recommended to take a supplement of 500 micrograms (0.5 milligrams) each day. It is advisable to begin taking folate when planning your pregnancy and continue for the first three months.

A higher dosage may be required if  you have a history of neural tube defects, if you are obese, or if you are on anti-epilepsy medication. Your GP or Dr Mandana Master can provide clarity here. 

Summary of Supplements

As a summary, it is important for all pregnant women to consume the following supplements in conjunction with a healthy diet:

  • 500 micrograms (0.5 milligrams) of folic acid
  • 150 micrograms of iodine 
  • 400 international units (10 micrograms) of Vitamin D.

These nutrients and amounts may be present in multivitamins. Only take multivitamins specifically designed for pregnancy.

At Burnside Women’s Health, Dr Mandana Master supports the health of pregnant women and their developing children. For more information on obstetrics services, contact the friendly all-female team at (08) 8364 3642.

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