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Olwen Anderson's Blog

The right nutrition in pregnancy

Saturday, September 14, 2013
There’s an old saying about ‘eating for two’ during pregnancy, and like many old sayings, there’s an element of truth in it. When you are pregnant, many of your nutritional needs expand as your waistline expands with the growing baby. Makes sense, really, as you are now eating to maintain your own body, plus you’re creating another human being as well. 

That doesn’t mean that pregnancy is the time to double your serve of chocolate cake and other yummies, using your condition as an excuse. You don’t need that many extra calories, at least in the first few months.

Protein is a particularly important nutrient for pregnant women, as this is the ‘building block’ of our bodies. The recommended intake of protein for an adult is three serves per day (where 100g meat or fish, or one egg is equal to one serve); a pregnant woman needs five. Protein-rich foods like meat, chicken, fish and eggs also contain abundant quantities of vitamins and minerals, another part of your diet you need to focus on during pregnancy.

Baby’s brain needs the right nutrients to develop well. Two particularly important nutrients are iodine, and omega-3 oils, especially the fatty acid DHA. Iodine deficiency in Australia is extensive in our population, and this mineral is important for brain development. Seafood and kelp are good sources. The fatty acid DHA from omega-3 oils also helps create a healthy brain too (do you know your brain is actually mostly made of fat?). Many women are concerned about ingesting too much mercury, but get informed: Take a look at the helpful guides to safe seafood consumption during pregnancy published on the NSW Food Authority website ( – search for ‘pregnancy’).

There are other important nutrients for you and your developing baby too, but these are best discussed during a clinic conversation, as each person's needs are different.

If your family medical history includes allergies and food intolerances, you may consider including a probiotic supplement to help prime your baby’s immune system. This is an element of nutrition therapy to discuss with your health practitioner.

Finally, something to eat less of: Sugar. Your ability to process sugar effectively declines during pregnancy, so too much sugar in your diet can promote too much growth in your baby, potentially leading to gestational diabetes and complications in labour. Most people fondly imagine that that they eat less sugar than they actually do: So it’s a good idea to do a sugar intake reality check with your nutritionist.

So yes, you can eat for two while you’re pregnant; but in practical terms, what that old saying really means is doubling your nutritional vigilance, so you get plenty of real nutrition and much less empty nutrition. 

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy this list of my favourite functional foods. 

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