Eating Right



Why it’s important: Protein is needed for the formation of body tissues such as muscles, and components of the body such as enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. Any lack of protein will lead to an impairment of the formation of these structures in the baby.

Examples: milk, meat, eggs, cheese, legumes, pulses, nuts and whole grains

Daily Requirement: 71g @ 4-5 servings of meat (one serving of lean meat, fish or poultry is about the size of a deck of cards) @ 2-3 cups of cooked dry beans or peas @  4-5 eggs @  8-10 tablespoons of peanut butter @ 1-2 cups of nuts


Why it’s important: Carbohydrates provide fuel for the body to burn up.  They also play a role in other bodily functions such as blood clotting, cell communication, development and the immune system. While too much carbohydrate can easily increase your weight, its absence from your diet may lead to the production of ketones in the blood stream, which may cause brain damage in your baby.

Examples: bread, rice, beans, milk, popcorn, potatoes, cookies, spaghetti, soft drinks and corn

Daily Requirement: 175g @ 6-12 servings of bread @ 3-4 portions of starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, rice, cereals or pastas, preferably whole-grain products, depending on amount of physical activity

Fats with Essential Fatty Acids

Why it’s important: Fat is another source of energy to the body and is required for the structure and functioning of living cells, as well as being required for the transport of vitamins A, D, E & K.  During pregnancy, they are also essential to the baby's nervous system development

Examples: vegetable oil, peanut oil, butter, deep-fried or breaded foods, cold cuts, chocolates and cakes

Daily Requirement: 2 teaspoons or 10g of nutritious vegetable oil; at most 2 teaspoons of cooking oil for hot meal preparations @ 2 teaspoons of butter @ a maximum of one heavy fat-laden deep-fried meal



Why it’s important: Iron is an essential component of the pigment haemoglobin within red blood cells. With a lack of iron, the ability of the red blood cells to transport oxygen to your body tissues will be impaired. Therefore, both you and your baby will be deprived of oxygen, as the baby relies solely on its mother’s intake of iron for the formation of its red blood cells. With the lack of iron, you will feel fatigued, irritable and depressed.

Examples: beef, chicken, clams, flounder, pork, tuna, turkey, kidney beans, lentils, prune juice, almonds, apricots and soybeans

Daily Requirement: 30mg @ 10 servings of beef or chicken (one serving is as big as one deck of cards) @ 3 cups of oatmeal @ 30 cups of cooked brown rice @ 7 cups of baked beans


Why it’s important: A substantial amount of calcium is transferred to the baby throughout pregnancy, for its teeth and bone formation. A majority of calcium is stored within your bones, and during the last three months of pregnancy, your baby will start drawing calcium from you. Therefore, it is crucial that the intake of milk and calcium-rich foods be increased at this point, to prevent your bones from getting brittle.

Examples: Milk and milk products, green vegetables, seafood, dried peas and beans

Daily Requirement: 1000mg @ 3-4 cups of milk
*Recommended together with Vitamin D to enhance its effects (Vitamin D can be obtained from exposure to sun and intake of milk, eggs, fortified cereals and fish. It helps in the absorption and utilization of calcium. A deficiency in vitamin D intake will lead to impairment of bone and teeth formation of the baby, and cause your bones to become brittle)


Why it’s important:  During a pregnancy, zinc is used to assist the fetus to develop the brain and also aids the mother in the 1st and 2nd stages of labour (dilation and pushing). Zinc deficiency can lead to birth defects (with which the baby will have impaired cognitive and motor functions), difficult and prolonged labour, haemorrhage and placental abruption (the placental lining separates from the uterus of the mother).

Examples: beef, pork, lamb, peanuts, peanut butter and legumes

Daily Requirement: 11mg @ at least one serving of meat


Why it’s important: Magnesium is required for cell multiplication in a growing foetus and is an essential element in keeping a balanced neuromuscular system.

Examples: dark green leafy vegetables, fruits (bananas, dried apricot, avocado), nuts (almonds and cashews), peas and beans (legumes), seeds, soy products (such as soy flour and tofu), whole grains (such as brown rice and millet)

Daily Requirement: 350mg (19 - 30 y) and 360mg (31 - 50 y)@ at least 2 servings of dark leafy greens


Why it’s important: This is important in the development of strong bones in you and your baby. It also functions in muscle contractions, blood clotting, kidney function, nerve conduction, the repair of tissues and cells, and normal heart rhythm. It also helps the body generate and use energy. If you’re lacking in this nutrient, you will suffer from weakness, anemia, loss of appetite, and loss of bone mass.

Examples: protein-rich foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, legumes, whole grains, hard potatoes, dried fruit, garlic cloves, and carbonated beverages

Daily Requirement: 700mg @ 2 cups of plain, non-fat yogurt @ 3 cups of non-fat milk @ 5.5 ounces of part-skim mozzarella cheese @ 7 large hard-boiled eggs @ 11 ounces of lean beef patty @ 11 ounces of cooked turkey @ 11 ounces of cooked chicken breast


Vitamin A

Why it’s important: Vitamin A is important in the formation of retinol, a pigment in the eyes. Without this, there will be an impairment of vision in mother and/or baby. This vitamin plays a role in basic physiologic processes, such as growth, reproduction, immunity, and epithelial tissue maintenance. Vitamin A is essential throughout the entire life span, yet its influence is particularly critical during periods when cells proliferate rapidly and differentiate, such as during pregnancy and early childhood.

Examples: organ meats, carrots, pumpkin, broccoli, sweet potato, cantaloupe melon and kale; or any red, yellow or orange vegetables

Daily Requirement: 0.77mg @ 6 servings of vegetables @ 3 cups cooked or chopped fruits

Vitamin B6

Why it’s important: Vital in the development and maintenance of a healthy immune system, protecting against cancer as well as infection. Lack of this vitamin will lead to a defect in the manufacture of proteins, neurotransmitters (chemicals involved in healthy brain function), hemoglobin (a pigment in red blood cells), prostaglandins and other structural and functional chemicals in both you and your baby.

Examples: beans, nuts, lean meat, fish, fortified breads and cereals

Daily Requirement: 1.9mg @ 1 ½ cups canned chickpeas @ 11 ounces lean pork loin @ 12 ounces roasted chicken @ 4 cups cooked spinach

Vitamin B12

Why it’s important: A deficiency of this vitamin in pregnancy can lead to the development of neural tube defects in the baby. 
It is also used by the body in the process of absorbing iron.

Examples: venison, shrimp, scallops, salmon, beef, calf’s liver, snapper, sea plants, algaes, yeasts, fermented plant food (tempeh, tofu, miso)

Daily Requirement: 2.6mcg @ 4 ounces of lean beef tenderloin @ 4 ounces of lamb loin @ 1 cup of low fat yogurt @ 5 eggs

Vitamin C

Why it’s important: Vitamin C serves to fight tiredness and infections.

Examples: parsley, broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, lemon juice, papaya, kale, cauliflower, mustard greens and Brussels sprouts

Daily Requirement: 85 mg @ 3 servings of fresh fruit and juices (1 serving = ½ cup)

Folic Acid

Why it’s important: Along with vitamin B12, it is needed for the formation of the neural tube in your baby, which later forms the spine and brain. Cases of newborn babies with spina bifida (a condition in which the vertebrae do not fuse together properly, causing the spinal cord to be exposed) is known worldwide, and is confirmed by research to be caused by the deficiency in these two nutrients.

Examples: whole grain products, cereals, citrus fruit juices, kidney beans, yeast, liver, dark leafy vegetables, beef and chicken

Daily Requirement: 0.6mg @ 5-6 servings of dark leafy vegetables @ 2 cups of raw leafy vegetables

(Source: )

What do I eat during pregnancy, when I’m not feeling well?

If it’s due to morning sickness, eat crackers, cereal, or pretzels before getting out of bed; eat small, frequent meals throughout the day; avoid fatty, fried, and greasy foods.
If it’s due to constipation, eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. Also drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
If it’s due to diarrhoea, eat more foods that contain pectin and gums (two types of dietary fibres) to help absorb excess water. Examples of these foods are applesauce, bananas, white rice, oatmeal, and refined wheat bread.
If it’s due to heartburn, eat small, frequent meals throughout the day; try drinking milk before eating; and limit caffeinated foods and beverages.

Can I eat a low-carb diet when pregnant?

Low carbohydrate diets, such as Atkins and the South Beach Diet, are very popular. There have been no studies of the effects of a low carbohydrate diet on pregnancy, so its effect on the fetus, if any, are unknown. While you are pregnant, you should eat a balanced diet from all of the food groups. Do not diet because both you and your baby will need the proper amount of nutrients to maintain a good health.

Can I maintain my vegetarian diet when pregnant?

Just because you are pregnant, it doesn't mean you have to diverge from your vegetarian diet. Your baby can receive all the nutrition he or she needs to grow and develop if you make sure you eat a wide variety of healthy foods that provide enough protein and calories for you and your baby.

Depending on the type of vegetarian meal plan you follow, you may need to adjust your eating habits to ensure that you and your baby are receiving adequate nutrition (you should consume about 300 more calories than you did before you were pregnant).

How can I get enough calcium when I am lactose-intolerant?

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. If you are lactose intolerant, you may have cramping, gas, or diarrhea when dairy products are consumed. However, you can still receive the calcium you need by following these suggestions:

  • Try consuming small amounts of milk with meals. Milk may be better tolerated with food.
  • You may be able to tolerate certain milk products that contain less sugar including cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
  • Eat non-dairy calcium sources including greens, broccoli, sardines, and tofu.
  • Use Lactaid Milk fortified with calcium. Talk to your dietitian about other lactose-reduced products.

What should I do about my food cravings?

Food cravings during pregnancy are normal. Although there is no widely accepted explanation for food cravings, almost two-thirds of all pregnant women have them. If you develop a sudden urge for a certain food, go ahead and indulge your craving if it provides energy or an essential nutrient. But, if your craving persists and prevents you from getting other essential nutrients in your diet, try to create more of a balance in your daily diet during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, your taste for certain foods may change. You may suddenly dislike foods you were fond of before you became pregnant. In addition, during pregnancy, some women feel strong urges to eat non-food items such as ice, laundry starch, dirt, clay, chalk, ashes, or paint chips. This is called pica, and it may be associated with an iron deficiency such as anemia. Do not give in to these non-food cravings -- they can be harmful to both you and your baby. Tell your health care provider if you have these non-food cravings.

If you have any problems that prevent you from eating balanced meals and gaining weight properly, ask your health care provider for advice. Registered dietitians -- the nutrition experts -- are available to help you maintain good nutrition throughout your pregnancy.

Here is a video with more information about the recommended weight gain in pregnancy:


The Swiss Association for Nutrition
U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance & Nutrition and Diagnosis