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Eating Guidelines

What you eat while pregnant can have long-term effects on your baby’s health. The best evidence shows that you and your baby are more likely to thrive if you if eat a variety of healthy foods. Eating mostly junk foods, dieting, or often going hungry will not help you or your baby.

You can also read the Healthy eating during pregnancy guide.

A quick guide to foods you should eat every day:

Food type 

Servings per day

Examples of a serving

Carbohydrate foods – bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles
4 - 6
  • 1 cup rice, pasta, noodles (cooked)
  • 1 cup cereal
  • 1-2 slices bread (depends on slice size)
Vegetables and fruit 4 - 8
  • half cup vegetables
  • 1 cup salad
  • 1 medium fruit (e.g. apple, orange, banana)
  • 2 smaller fruit (e.g. plums, apricots, kiwifruit)
Lean protein foods – beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, legumes (dried beans, pulses and peas), nuts, tofu 1 - 2
  • 100g meat or chicken (palm-sized piece)
  • 150g fish
  • 2 eggs
  • half cup legumes/tofu
  • half cup nuts
Calcium foods - milk, yogurt, cheese, soy milk with added calcium 2 - 3
  • 1 cup (250mls) milk or soy milk
  • 1 slice cheese (35g)
  • 1 small carton (150g) yoghurt

Recommended supplements

  • Folic acid (folate) is essential for blood formation and for the building of body cells. It can be difficult to get sufficient folate from food alone, so women are advised to start a daily folate supplement when planning a pregnancy and continue this throughout the pregnancy. Taking folic acid reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect (NTD), such as spina bifida. The Ministry of Health recommends a daily supplement of 800 mcg folate per day or 5000 mcg if you are high risk (you are affected by a NTD; have had a child, close family member or partner with a NTD; are on insulin treatment for diabetes; are taking medications known to affect folate metabolism).
  • Iodine is essential for your baby’s brain development and growth. Even with mandatory fortification of bread with iodine since 2009, it is difficult for pregnant and breastfeeding women to meet their increased iodine requirements. The Ministry of Health recommends a daily dose of 150 mcg iodine per day.

Weight gain during pregnancy

It’s a myth that you need to ‘eat for two’, because too much weight gain is unhealthy for you and may be harmful to your developing baby. This poster provides you with a guide on healthy weight gain in pregnancy


Your recommended weight gain during pregnancy is calculated from your pre-pregnancy BMI (body mass index).
  • For women within the normal BMI range(18.5 – 25), an average weight gain of 11.5-16kg is recommended.
  • For underweight women (<18.5 BMI), who have increased rates of pregnancy loss and small-for-gestational-age or low-birth-weight babies, weight gain should be more in the region of 12.5 to 18kg.
  • For women (>25 BMI), who are at risk of developing gestational diabetes and hypertension, a weight gain of between 7 and 11.5kg is recommended.
  • For women (>40 BMI), 5-9kg is recommended.

Click here for a Pdf of the BMI Poster


Food Smart, the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) website, provides reliable information about safe and unsafe foods for pregnant women.

National Women's Health
Phone: 09 307 4949
Email:
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