Diet during Pregnancy and Lactation

Written By: Loanne Allen

Diet during Pregnancy and Lactation  – Loanne Allen B.Sc., Grad. Dip. Diet & Nutr., MDAA

Additional Requirements during Pregnancy

1) Extra Nutrients
2) Extra Calories
3) Extra Fluid
4) Extra Fibre


Carbohydrate Foods :  FRUITS AND VEGETABLES (7-10 servings each day)

1 serve = 3/4 cup or an average piece of fruit – Include 2 or more vitamin C rich fruits/vegetables, such as citrus fruit, berries, kiwi fruit, passionfruit, mango, pawpaw, rockmelon, pineapple, stone fruit, tomatoes, capsicum, broccoli, cauliflower, or spinach .

Include 3 or more Vitamin A Rich fruits/vegetables, such as apricots, pawpaw, mango, nectarines, yellow peaches, persimmon, pumpkin, sweet potato, deep green vegetables, carrots or squash

Breads & Grains (6-10 servings each day)

1 serve = 1 slice of bread; cup cereal; cup cooked grains (rice, pasta, millet etc), 2-3 whole grain crackers; english muffin; 1 cup cooked oats.  Choose high fibre grains, such as wholemeal, rye or multi-grain bread, brown rice, high fibre breakfast cereals and crackers.

Protein Foods  MILK & DAIRY (at least 4 servings each day)

1 serve = 1 cup (250ml) milk, yoghurt or custard or 40g cheese
NOTE:  Cottage Cheese, Cream, Cream Cheese & Ice-Cream are not rich sources of calcium, however cottage cheese is a good source of protein and is low in fat. Try to choose low fat dairy products!

Meat and Substitutes (at least 2 serves each day)

1 serve = 100g red meat, chicken, turkey, ham or pork, 2 eggs, 150g fish; 1 cup legumes (soy beans, lentils, chickpeas etc); 140g firm tofu or textured vegetable protein or 1 tbsp protein powder
NOTE:  Try to include iron rich protein foods, such as red meat, sardines, salmon, or oysters at least 4 times a week. Include oily fish at least 3 times a week.
Choose – lean meat, remove skin from chicken and avoid fatty &/or fried meat & chicken

Fats & Indulgent Foods 
Fats (5 serves each day)   Choose 5 serves of the Good Fats!

1 serve = 1 tsp vegetable oil; 2 tsp nut spread; 2 tbsp avocado or seeds; 6 medium nuts or olives
NOTE:  Avoid the Bad Fats as much as possible, such as butter, cream, sour cream, full fat cheese, cream cheese, ghee, lard, fat on meat or copha

High Fat High Sugar Foods 
Try to limit foods such as, pastries, cakes, pies, chips, sausage rolls, chocolate, creamy dressings, rich desserts, tasty cheese, sweet biscuits, lollies, soft drinks etc
Treat yourself 2-3 times a week with indulgent foods!

Extra important nutrients during pregnancy

Follow the above guidelines for increasing your iron intake, however, remember that in the third trimester you have very high iron needs and may need to take a supplement regardless of the type of diet you are following.
Ask your doctor about taking an iron supplement.

It is ideal to start taking a folate supplement at least 3 months prior to falling pregnant and during the first trimester. Folate is very important in the development of the nervous system and can help prevent spina bifida.
Ask your doctor for a suitable supplement. Generally 400ug per day of folate is required.


Folate Rich Foods:  Green leafy vegetables (spinach, beet, and turnip greens), kidney, liver, brewer’s yeast, whole grain wheat products, citrus fruit, rockmelon, strawberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts, tomato, sweet corn and avocado.

If you follow the above eating plan, you should be getting enough calcium.  However, if you are unable to consume dairy products or other calcium rich foods, you will need to take a supplement.  Ask your doctor which supplement is the most suitable for you. Generally smaller doses (300-500mg) taken twice a day with a meal is more effective.

Avoiding Listeria:  Listeria monocytogenes is found in soil and water.  Vegetables can become contaminated from the soil or from manure used as fertilizer.  Animals can carry the bacterium without appearing ill and can contaminate foods of animal origin such as meats and dairy products.  The bacterium has been found in a variety of raw foods, such as uncooked meats and vegetables, as well as in processed foods that become contaminated after processing, such as soft cheeses and sliced meats at the deli counter.  Unpasteurized (raw) milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk may contain the bacterium.

Listeria is killed by pasteurization, and heating procedures used to prepare ready-to-eat processed meats should be sufficient to kill the bacterium; however, unless good manufacturing practices are followed, contamination can occur after processing.

You get listeriosis by eating food contaminated with Listeria.  Babies can be born with listeriosis if their mothers eat contaminated food during pregnancy.  Although healthy persons may consume contaminated foods without becoming ill, those at increased risk for infection can probably get listeriosis after eating food contaminated with even a few bacteria.  Persons at risk can prevent Listeria infection by avoiding certain high-risk foods and by handling food properly.

Preventing Listeriosis:  The general guidelines recommended for the prevention of listeriosis are similar to those used to help prevent other food-borne illnesses, such as salmonellosis.

General recommendations:

  • Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork, or poultry
  •  Wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eating.
  •  Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and from cooked foods and ready-to-eat foods.
  •  Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or foods made from raw milk.
  •  Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.  Recommendations for persons at high risk, such as pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems, increased precautions need to be taken. Conventional cooking destroys listeria, so freshly cooked foods are safe. This is why chilled ready-to eat and refrigerated food should be avoided.
  • Do not eat food that has been stored in a refrigerator for more than 12 hours. If you buy ready to eat hot food, it needs to be steaming hot.  Only eat food that is served hot when eating out.  Avoid smorgasbords.
    You should particularly try to avoid chilled, ready-to-eat foods including:  cooked diced chicken, cold meats, pate, pre-prepared or stored salads, raw seafood such as oysters and sashimi, smoked seafood such as smoked salmon, smoked oysters (although canned are safe)
  •  Avoid soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, Blue-veined, and Mexican-style cheese. (Hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream cheese, cottage cheese, or yoghurt need not be avoided.)
  •  Leftover foods or ready-to-eat foods, such as hot dogs, should be cooked until steaming hot before eating.
    Although the risk of listeriosis associated with foods from deli counters is relatively low, pregnant women and immunosuppressed persons may choose to avoid these foods or thoroughly reheat cold meats before eating.Avoiding Toxoplasmosis: 

    People become infected by eating raw or undercooked meat containing the dormant form (cysts) of the parasite or by being exposed to soil containing oocysts from cat faeces.  Women with cats do not need to get rid of them when they become pregnant;  it is just necessary to take a few precautions.
  •  Be sure to only eat meat which has been cooked right through.
  •  Wash your hands, cooking utensils and food surfaces after preparing raw meat
  •  Wash all the soil from fruit and vegetables before eating.
    • Keep raw meat and cooked foods on separate plates.  If possible get someone else to clean out the dirty cat     litter or use gloves and wash your hands afterwards.
  •  Always use gloves when gardening and wash your hands afterwards.Try not to worry excessively or become paranoid about this – if you take these precautions, chance of infection is practically eliminated – you can still pat your cat, without fear!!