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Pregnancy and healthy eating

A healthy diet is important for pregnant women and their developing baby.​

It's best to start eating well before you become pregnant. If you think you might be pregnant already, don't worry—start following advice as soon as you can.

During pregnancy, more of certain nutrients, such as iron, iodine and folic acid are needed, but only a small amount of extra kilojoules. Normal weight gain over the course of a pregnancy is around 11.5–16.0 kg for women who are a healthy pre-conception weight.

What to eat

It is important to choose a wide variety of nutritious foods.

Lots of well-washed fruit and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals

Dark green leafy vegetables naturally contain iron and folate. Folate is a B group vitamin needed for the healthy development of babies in early pregnancy. Dark green leafy vegetables also contain iodine, which is important during pregnancy and breastfeeding for the normal development of a baby's brain and nervous system.

While fortification of bread with iodine and folic acid is now mandatory in Australia, supplements are also recommended during pregnancy.

NOTE: Naturally high levels of iodine in brown seaweed, such as kelp, can cause people to become ill if eaten in large quantities. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children, should eat no more than one serve a week of brown seaweed.

Moderate amounts of low fat dairy foods

Dairy foods are a good source of calcium and iodine, plus protein, magnesium, B vitamins (folate, B1, B2, B6, B12), and vitamins A, D, and E.

Lean meat, chicken and fish

Red meat contains iron, and meat and fish are good sources of protein. Fish also contains essential omega-3 fatty acids. It is safe to eat two to three serves of fish per week, but it is important to limit intakes of fish high in naturally occurring mercury (e.g. flake, swordfish, orange roughy).

Dried beans, lentils and other legumes

Dried beans, lentils and other legumes contain folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also contain beneficial fats and dietary fibre.

A variety of nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds contain calcium, phytoestrogens and omega-3 fatty acids.​

What to avoid

Foods that may contain Listeria

Some foods may contain Listeria, which are bacteria that can cause a disease called listeriosis, a fairly uncommon form of foodborne illness in Australia and New Zealand. The illness causes few or no symptoms in most people, but can be very dangerous if you are pregnant, or for your unborn child or newborn baby.

Pregnant women should avoid foods such as soft or semi soft pasteurised white cheeses (e.g. brie, camembert, feta, blue, mozzarella, ricotta) unless thoroughly cooked, unpasteurised dairy products, oysters, pre-packed salads and soft serve ice cream. See our Listeria page for a detailed list. 

Raw eggs

Raw eggs may contain Salmonella so should be avoided. Smoothies, mayonnaise or desserts like mousse may contain raw eggs.

Hummus and other dips containing tahini

Hummus and tahini may contain Salmonella and should be avoided.

Raw seed sprouts

Raw seed sprouts may contain E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria and should be avoided or thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Alcohol

The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding don't drink alcohol.

Caffeine

While consuming large amounts of caffeine does not appear to cause birth defects, it may make it more difficult to become pregnant. It may also increase the risk of miscarriage or having a baby with low birth weight.​​

More information

For further advice please contact your health advisor, medical practitioner or midwife. 

Page last updated 4 January 2024