If you’re pregnant – or thinking about having a baby in the future – you’ll know that good nutrition is always high on the list of recommendations, along with groups of foods it’s best to steer clear from. Let’s look at some of the guidelines for good pregnancy nutrition, though always with the proviso that every individual has their own specific needs and circumstances. If necessary, especially if you have a medical condition that could affect your eating, are vegetarian or vegan, or you’re having multiples, you can ask your Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) to arrange for you to see a dietician to help tailor a plan specifically for you. And if you find that cravings and nausea make it difficult to eat what you ‘should’, don’t beat yourself up about it. Eat the best you can, when you can. It’s always best to discuss these needs with your LMC, as they are in the best position to meet whichever dietary requirements and preferences you have. Making sure you have the right nutrients from good sources can help you feel better, reduce your nausea, and decrease the risk of other pregnancy-related issues such as anaemia.
The most important part of nutrition, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding, is ensuring adequate fluid intake. Use your thirst to guide when to drink – if you’re thirsty, have a drink. Plain water is the best option here – it’s what actually hydrates your body. If you find it difficult to remember to have water, try to keep a bottle nearby – just seeing it can remind you to pause what you’re doing for a drink. As your pregnancy progresses, your blood volume increases to accommodate your growing baby, which is where most of this extra hydration is needed. While breastfeeding, it goes into milk production!
That said, we often want something other than water, so knowing what’s a healthy alternative is good. Low-fat milk is good to have. Hot drinks can be great, but trying to limit your caffeine intake during pregnancy is usually recommended. Sticking to decaf is best, or if that’s not an option, try to have no more than six cups of tea or instant coffee per day, three single barista espressos, or one double barista espresso. Energy drinks are high in caffeine, so are not recommended, and it’s a good idea to limit soft drinks and fruit drinks as they’re high in sugar. There is no known safe amount of alcohol during pregnancy, so drinking any alcohol at all is not recommended1.
For those who need a visual reminder to drink – or those who just want a convenient option – no matter when or where you need hydration, Haakaa’s Stainless Steel Thermal Flask is a lifesaver. It has a huge 750ml capacity – that’s three whole cups! – meaning you can have plenty of water with you. Being thermal, it keeps your drinks cold for up to seven hours and hot for up to eight. Whether it’s a hot summer’s day or the depths of winter, this flask will keep you going!
There are a number of guidelines surrounding food in pregnancy – some of these are to do with nutrition, while others are around food safety. Starting with nutrition, there are four food groups that guidelines recommend pregnant women eat from each day, along with a recommended number of servings. These are:
- Vegetables & fruit – 6-7 servings per day, of which 4-5 should be vegetables and two should be fruit. A serving can be something like ½ cup of cooked green or orange vegetables, 1 cup of leafy green/salad vegetables, one medium tomato, or half a starchy vegetable such as potato, taro or kūmara. A serving of fruit could be a medium apple or banana, two small fruits such as apricots or kiwifruit, or one cup of diced or canned fruit.
- Breads & cereals – 6-8 servings. Wholegrain is the best option. A serving size is equivalent to one slice of bread, ½ a medium roll, one crumpet, one cup of cornflakes, ½ cup of muesli or cooked cereal (e.g. porridge), or half a cup of cooked rice or pasta.
- Milk & milk products – 2-3 servings. If you have a vegan diet, choose a non-dairy milk that has vitamin B12 in it. For all non-dairy milks, try to choose those that have been fortified with calcium. One serving can be one cup of milk (dairy or non-dairy), two slices of cheese, or ¾ cup of yoghurt.
- Proteins – 2-3 servings. This includes lean meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, legumes (such as lentils, peas and beans), and nuts & seeds. A serving can be 65g of cooked lean meat (beef, lamb, pork etc.), 80g of cooked poultry (chicken or turkey), 100g of cooked fish, one cup of cooked or canned legumes or beans, two eggs, 170g tofu, or 30g nuts & seeds (including nut or seed pastes/butters) 1, 2, 3.
The handy thing about these servings is they don’t have to be eaten individually. If you find it easier to get your fruit and vegetable servings in the form of a smoothie, then as long as that smoothie doesn’t contain raw eggs, it’s a great way to get your recommended intake! And smoothies can often be easier to have, especially if you’re dealing with nausea. Throw in a handful of fruit and/or vegetables, some milk, and a serving of nut butter (provided you don’t have allergies), and you’ll be able to cover a good number of servings from several different groups in one delicious drink! Likewise, a couple of slices of wholegrain toast topped with a sliced tomato could give you two of your daily servings of grains, along with one of vegetables.
For those who like having small amounts of smoothies or yoghurts, the Yummy Pouch isn’t just for the kids – it’s a great way to take your snacks to work, or just out in general. At 130ml, their capacity is great for when you’re dealing with nausea, and maybe can’t tolerate huge amounts, but is still large enough to settle that craving for something healthy at morning tea! Instead of buying single use disposable yoghurt snack pouches, fill the pouch via the wide neck, pop on the spout lid, and you’re set! Of course, if 130ml isn't quite enough, the Milk Storage Bag can be used in exactly the same way, with the same attachments - but this one has 260ml to keep you going!
The New Zealand Government has a range of guidelines around food safety in pregnancy. Due to the risk of listeria, it’s recommended that pregnant women avoid processed or cold, pre-cooked meats (including but not limited to ham, salami, and pâté), raw or smoked fish or seafood, and soft cheeses (such as feta, camembert, brie, mozzarella, blue and ricotta) – though these are safe to eat if they’ve been heated until piping hot (above 70°C). In addition, pre-prepared salads, tahini, and hummus should be avoided – though you can make your own at home! Just make sure to store any food you prepare yourself in the fridge properly (your fridge should be 2-4°C), away from any raw foods, and eat it within two days1. Fruit and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before using them, especially if they’re being eaten raw, and all raw foods, especially meat, should be stored separately.
Helpfully, Haakaa has a range of options when it comes to clean, hygienic food storage. The Silicone Leak Proof Collapsible Food Storage Container is particularly useful. As the name implies, this sturdy container collapses, meaning it can expand to fit up to 860ml for the small option or 1160ml for the large, before collapsing flat to keep from taking up space in your cupboards! Even better, it’s fridge, freezer, microwave and dishwasher safe – use it to store whatever you need, wherever you need to! And since there is no plastic in them, there is no worry about any of those nasties that can leach from plastic storage containers, whether you’re freezing or heating food in them.
This just touches on the guidelines for pregnancy nutrition, and each person will have their own requirements. While it was mentioned above, always discuss your options with your LMC before making any decisions – they will be able to guide your choices with fuller information, including your specific dietary and medical needs.
How do you like to get your recommended servings each day? Share some of your favourite pregnancy recipes with us all!
1HealthEd (2022). Eating for Healthy Pregnant Women/Ngā Kai Totika mā te Wahine Hapū. https://www.healthed.govt.nz/resource/eating-healthy-pregnant-womenngā-kai-totika-mā-te-wahine-hapū
2Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health (2022). Eating safely and well during pregnancy. https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/pregnancy-and-kids/pregnancy/helpful-advice-during-pregnancy/eating-safely-and-well-during-pregnancy
3Eat for Health (n.d.) Healthy eating during your pregnancy: Advice on eating for you and your baby. https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/The%20Guidelines/n55h_healthy_eating_during_pregnancy.pdf