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Food choices for a healthy pregnancy


5 mins to read Apr 26, 2016

Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much food, but it should mean making your food work twice as hard.

Make every kilocalorie count by choosing nutrient-dense foods, in other words get more bang for your calorie buck. By choosing a variety of food from all food groups, you can be assured of a well-balanced diet. But what if you have no appetite some days or occasionally feel nauseous? Remember, a quality diet over several days is what counts, not meal by meal.


What’s the right plan for me?

These food group guidelines, are an easy way to get started on a healthy pregnancy diet. Of course, your beginning weight, height, age, stage of pregnancy and the number of children you are carrying will determine how many kilocalories and how much food you will need.

Typically a woman’s energy requirements don’t increase during the first 3 months of pregnancy. But she will need about 350 kilocalories extra each day after first 3 months.


Nutritional recommendations during pregnancy    
Vegetables 5 serves/day 
  • At every meal
  • Raw or cooked
  • Fresh, frozen or canned

During pregnancy, make sure that fresh vegetables are carefully washed to eliminate any soil traces either before cooking or before placing in a home-made salad. Cook frozen vegetables, do not eat uncooked.

Fruits 2 serves/day
  • Buy fresh produce in season where possible
  • Avoid fruit juices as they contain concentrated amounts of sugar. 

During pregnancy, make sure you wash fresh fruit well before eating.

Grain and wholegrain foods including breads, cereals, potatoes, rice and pasta 8.5 serves/day
  • Choose high fibre varieties
  • Use wholegrain cereals, breads and choose brown rice / pasta over white
  • Go for a variety of grains: rice, wheat, oats, barley and corn/maize.
Milk and dairy products 3.5 serves/day
  • Go for variety
  • Choose unflavoured products and opt for the best sources of calcium with the least fat and salt: milk, yoghurts etc.

During pregnancy, only eat pasteurised dairy products. 

Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds 3.5 serves/day
  • Try to eat a smaller portion than that of the side dishes (vegetables, grains i.e. pasta, rice etc.)
  • Meat: try to eat a variety of different meats and choose the least fatty cuts.
  • Fish: at least twice a week, either fresh, frozen or canned.
Fats and oils Limit consumption
  • Try to eat a variety of unsaturated spreads and vegetable oils (olive oil, rapeseed oil etc.)
  • Limit animal fats (butter, cream, etc.)
Sweets Limit consumption
  • Limit foods with a high fat and sugar content (pastries, pudding, ice cream, chocolate bars, etc.)

During pregnancy, try and go for fruit instead of sweet treats (cakes, biscuits etc.)

Drinks Limit consumption
  • Don’t limit water – Drink tap water or bottled water during and in-between meals
  • Limit sugary drinks (sodas, sugary fruit drinks & nectars)
  • Limit caffeine intake to two cups of caffienated coffee or tea per day.

During pregnancy and breastfeeding it is recommended to not drink any alcohol at all.

Salt Limit consumption
  • Use iodised salt.
  • Try to limit addition of salt while cooking, and do not add salt before tasting (instead add some pepper or herbs for flavour).
  • Limit salty foods: chips, salty appetisers.
Physical activities At least 30 minutes’ walk everyday During pregnancy, maintain your normal physical activity, except those which represent a risk of falling or injury. You should avoid any contact or competition sports. During pregnancy and breastfeeding, do not begin any new strenuous physical activity. 


SURPRISE!Healthy fats, in moderation, are good for you. Choose unsaturated fats such as olive oil and nuts, seeds, avocado and salmon for their omega-3 fatty acids.

What is on your plate?

Here is a quick reference table which summarises what these key nutrients do and in which foods to find them

Nutrient For From
Protein Important for growth and development of muscles and bones Meat, fish, eggs, cheese, dairy, legumes
Carbohydrates Supplies energy Pasta, rice, bread, cereal, potatoes, porridge/pap
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) Important for baby’s brain and eye development Fish, Omega 3 fatty acid supplements
Probiotics Contribute to a healthy gut flora Probiotic products such as yoghurt containing probiotics, probiotic supplements
Vitamins For From
Folic acid Reduces risk of foetal neural tube defects Dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, nuts, fortified breads and cereals
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) Important for energy production and carbohydrate metabolism Meat, potatoes, wholegrain products
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) Important for  transport of iron and nervous system function Dairy products, fortified breads and cereals
Vitamin B12 Important for red blood cell formation and brain function Fish, meat, poultry, dairy
Vitamin C Important for immune system, collagen synthesis Oranges, Naartjies, Gauva, tomato, kiwi fruit, broccoli
Vitamin A  Important for skin structure and visual function Carrots, spinach, other yellow vegetables and fruits, eggs and liver
Vitamin D Building strong bones and teeth Sunlight, fish, egg yolks and fortified milk
Vitamin E Protects against free radical damage Wheat germ canola/olive oils, nuts and seeds
Minerals and trace elements For From
Calcium Important for bone and teeth formation Milk, cheese, dairy products, bony fish (pilchards, legumes
Magnesium Regulates energy metabolism, nerve transmission, muscular contraction Nuts, green vegetables, legumes
Iron Important for oxygen transport and blood formation Red meats, organ meat, fortified grains, bread and certain cereals
Iodine Production of thyroid hormones and brain function Fish, iodized salt
Selenium Antioxidant, maintenance of hair and nails Seafood, poultry, eggs
Zinc Cell division, immune system Meat, poultry, dairy products, fish