How to stay healthy during pregnancy

by | Jun 11, 2020

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There’s a lot of confusing information about how to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy. Dietician Julie Perks weighs in.

What are healthy weight changes during pregnancy?

Prepregnancy BMI

< 18.5
18.5 – 24.9
25.0 – 29.9
≥ 30.03

Mean1 rate of weight gain in the 2nd and 3rd trimester

0.5 kg/week
0.4 kg/week
0.3 kg/week
0.2 kg/week

Recommended total weight gain

12.5 – 18 kg
11.5 – 16 kg
7 – 11.5 kg
5 – 9 kg

1 Rounded values
2 Calculations for the recommended weight gain range assume a gain of 0.5 to 2kg in the first trimester
3 A lower weight gain may be advised for women with a BMI of 35 or greater, based on clinical
judgement and a thorough assessment of the risks and benefits to mother and child.

What should I be eating during my pregnancy to stay healthy?
You need to follow a balanced diet that comprises of vegetables and fruits, wholegrains and sufficient protein to support a growing baby.

What foods should I be avoiding during my pregnancy?

  • Raw or unpasteurised dairy products
  • Soft and semi-soft cheeses, blue-veined cheeses – unless cooked > 74°C
  • Refrigerated pâtés, meat spreads and smoked seafood
  • Pre-packaged or prepared fruit/vegetable salads and raw sprouts
  • Ready-to-eat deli meats and ready-prepared meals unless they are reheated until steaming hot (internal temperature of 74°C)
  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.

Are there any supplements that I should be on during pregnancy?
Your doctor should recommend an iron and folic acid supplement. Anything additional needs to be discussed with your healthcare provider. I would recommend that you discuss how much Omega 3 you can take as well.

What are the barriers to staying healthy during my pregnancy?

Increase your fibre intake and make sure you have sufficient water to ensure you don’t exacerbate constipation. Fibre can be found in vegetables and fruits (remembering to keep the skins on) as well as foods like oats, bran flakes, digestive bran, lentils, chickpeas, dhall and split peas.

Remember to have smaller, more frequent meals. It is also advisable to separate liquids and meals as well as avoiding lying down after meals. Foods to avoid are peppermint and fizzy drinks (including sparkling water).

Vomiting and morning sickness
Eat smaller, more frequent meals and separate liquids and meals, as well as avoid lying down after meals. Other suggestions are to eat when you feel most well – this may be at any time of the day that works best for you. Dry and bland foods are better tolerated. Ginger has been scientifically proven to assist with nausea, so add it to tea. Remember to stay hydrated if the vomiting is really bad and consider a nutritional shake specifically designed for pregnancy if the vomiting is preventing you from getting sufficient nutrition.

Cravings can lead to unhealthy weight gain, so to avoid this, I recommend trying to find something else to do that does not involve food. If you must really have something, consider making a healthier alternative and then as a last resort, enjoy the treat you crave but in moderation. If you find you are craving really unusual items, you may be deficient in a particular nutrient and speaking to a registered dietician might help.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM)
If your blood sugar levels become uncontrolled during pregnancy and you are diagnosed with GDM you should see a registered dietician in your area to get the best advice for you to control your sugar levels and prevent any further complications as well as preventing long term diabetes. To find a dietician in your area go to