Healthy Eating During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Natalie has been working as a clinical dietician for five years in public hospitals around Adelaide. She currently works at the Royal Adelaide Hospital where she’s a specialist dietician with the Cystic Fibrosis Service. If that’s not enough, she also works at the Repatriation General Hospital in rehabilitation and geriatrics.

Natalie is a strong believer in healthy, guilt-free eating. She says it’s better to eat a variety of foods from all food groups than labelling certain foods as ‘forbidden’ or ‘bad’. She lives an active lifestyle, working out six days a week, and monitors her diet to support her exercise regime. Natalie likes to stay on top of food trends, loves to cook, especially using organic and fresh produce.

Healthy Eating During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Article written by Natalie Forgione (BND, ABD)

There’s no doubt that expectant mothers have a lot to get their head around! A priority for most is to keep baby growing well and mum feeling healthy, and good nutrition plays an important role in both!

Overall a diet when pregnant or breastfeeding should be wholesome and varied, including foods from all of the core food groups. The old saying ‘eating for two’ doesn’t mean eating double your usual amounts, more so just carefully increasing the particular foods and nutrients needed to support the changes in your body.

What are some of the nutrients that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers require?


In order to achieve a healthy pregnancy weight gain, the right amount of dietary energy (calories/ kilojoules) is crucial. Similarly, producing breast milk post pregnancy burns lots of energy. The energy needs of a woman vary with age, body size and activity levels. The best way to tell if you are getting in enough energy is to monitor changes to your weight and discuss any unexpected weight changes with your doctor or an accredited practicing dietitian.

Pregnancy Requirement: 2nd trimester- additional 1400kj (334cal) per day, 3rd trimester- additional 1900kj (454cal) per day
Breastfeeding Requirement: Additional 2000kj per day (478cal/day)


Protein occurs in all living cells and has structural and functional properties, so its only natural that pregnant and breastfeeding women need to make sure they are getting enough protein. This will help to support changes in your own body such as increased muscle, tissue, blood and skin as well as the growth and development of baby. Protein is found in a range of foods such as meat, poultry, fish, cereal based foods, legumes, dairy foods and nuts.

Pregnancy Requirement: 60g per day (an additional 14g per day)
Breastfeeding Requirement: 67g per day(an additional 21g per day)

Folate and Iodine

For the normal development of your baby’s brain and nervous system, women require extra folic acid and iodine. The easiest way to ensure you are getting in enough is to speak to your pharmacist about a pregnancy specific supplement.

Pregnancy Requirement: Folate 600 micrograms, Iodine 220 micrograms
Breastfeeding Requirement: Folate 500 micrograms, Iodine 270 micrograms


Calcium is important for the maintenance of mum and baby’s bones and it also plays a role in muscle function. When breastfeeding, 20% of a woman’s calcium requirement for the day is excreted in breast milk, so it’s especially important to be getting enough. 3-4 serves of dairy such as milk, cheese or yoghurt will meet your calcium needs. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach or broccoli, legumes, nuts, sardines or tofu can also provide some calcium into your diet.

Pregnancy Requirement: 1000mg per day
Breastfeeding Requirement: 1000mg per day


Iron is used for making blood and carrying oxygen around the body. During pregnancy, baby will also draw enough iron from you to last through their first 6 months of life. Pregnant women should try and eat plenty of iron rich foods such as lean red meat, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables, breads and fortified breakfast cereals. It also helps to consume foods containing vitamin C at the same time as your vegetable iron sources, to help with the iron absorption. For example, having a tomato based sauce on legumes or orange segments tossed through a baby spinach salad. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, it may be worthwhile speaking to your doctor about an iron supplement.

Pregnancy Requirement: 27mg per day
Breastfeeding Requirement: 9mg per day

***Note: (The values used in above are a guide based on a 60kg reference weight as per Nutrient Reference Values for Australian and New Zealand. For individual dietary advice, see an accredited practicing dietitian)***

How could I get this extra nutrition in?

In the second and third trimester of pregnancy, protein and energy needs an increase, but achieving these targets doesn’t have to be complex. If you’re already eating a normal healthy diet containing a variety of foods from the major food groups, it can be as simple as adding in a snack or two, just like the following smoothies.

This INCA Tropical Protein Smoothie provides enough energy to meet the extra requirements of pregnancy. It also contains a third of your daily calcium and half of your daily protein! Spinach, wheat germ and pumpkin seeds are all rich in iron, and the vitamin C from the mango helps with iron absorption. Not to mention it contains one serve of both fruit and veg!

If you are breastfeeding, short on time and tired, try whipping up a delicious INCA smoothie to sip on between feeds. The oats and protein will keep you feeling full in case a meal time gets away from you. Containing a third of your daily calcium, a serve of fruit, and the energy to help you meet the demands of breastfeeding, it’s great for mum and bub (and it tastes delicious too!).

Tropical Protein Smoothie

1 cup baby spinach
¼ an avocado
½ a mango (fresh or frozen)
2 tablespoons INCA organic coconut whey protein
1 cup skim milk
¼ cup mint leaves
2 teaspoons wheat germ
Handful of ice
2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds for topping (optional)

Blend everything except pumpkin seeds together in a powerful blender on high. Top smoothie with pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch and enjoy while cold.

Cherry Ripe Revival Smoothie

3 tablespoons rolled oats
½ cup skim milk
½ cup plain greek yoghurt
½ cup frozen cherries
2 tablespoons INCA organic cocao whey protein
2 teaspoon raw cocao
1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter
1 medjool date

Blend all ingredients in a powerful blender on high until smooth and serve ice cold.

A Note on Food Safety

When you’re pregnant, changes in your immune system make you and your baby more prone to food related illnesses, so a bit more caution around food safety is needed. Make sure you wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before using them. Store any leftover smoothie in the fridge and use within 24 hours.

Article By Natalie Forgione (BND, ABD)


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