Pregnancy is a very exciting time period. A small mass of cells transform into a small human being full of life and potential. This means that it is a period of increased responsibility as well. Applying healthy lifestyles is now more important than ever as your behaviours do not only affect you but the growth and development of your child as well. The vast amount of information available on the internet as well as that supplied by friends and family can make it very confusing to discern between lifestyle habits that are healthy and those that are not.

This is to serve as a basic guideline for healthy nutritional habits during pregnancy. Bear in mind, these guidelines are for a mother-to-be that had a normal pre-pregnancy weight with no additional illnesses.

Food group

Recommended number of servings per day Serving size Role/ Comments

Protein foods


30g meat, poultry, fish, cheese

1 Egg

½ cup legumes

  • Protein is needed for the growth and development of the foetus
  • Making at least one of these servings a vegetable protein or legume (like beans, lentils or chick peas) can help increase fibre intake which can help combat constipation often reported in pregnancy
  • Two to three servings of fatty fish low in mercury (like sardines) are essential for the development of the child’s central nervous system
  • Animal protein products are excellent sources of vitamin B12 which is needed for brain as well as motor development of the foetus.
  • Meat, Fish and Poultry are good sources of zinc which is also needed to protect the brain function of the foetus and to prevent low birth weight of the infant
  • Meat and poultry are also good sources of iron which is needed to support the increase in blood production in the mother.



½ cup cooked starch, grain or starchy vegetable

1 slice bread (±28G)


  • Grains are essential to providing adequate energy to the mother to facilitate adequate weight gain and development of the child
  • Whole-grain cereals cereals, breads and starches as well as starchy vegetables provide extra fibre which helps alleviate constipation which is often experienced in pregnancy.

Milk products


1 cup milk or 175ml yogurt

  • Milk is an excellent source of energy and protein whose roles were previously discussed
  • It is also an important source of calcium which is needed for the development of bones in the foetus as well as maintaining bone integrity of the mother



1 small fresh fruit (±115g)

2 Tbsp dried fruit

½ cup canned fruit (with no sugar added/ in extra light syrup) or fresh fruit or fruit juice

  • Fresh fruit eaten with the skin can help to supply fibre which again is very important in reducing constipation which occurs regularly in pregnant women.
  • Fruit juice does not have the added benefit of fibre but clear fruit juices may be better tolerated during bouts of morning sickness – remember to exercise portion control and rather use fresh fruit wherever possible.
  • Fruit are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants all of which are essential to boost the immune system thus protecting both mother and baby from illness.
Vegetables 3 ½ cup cooked vegetables or vegetable juice

1 cup raw vegetables

  • Vegetables also offer a high fibre content, again helping one combat constipation.
  • Vegetables are also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants all of which are essential to boost the immune system thus protecting both mother and baby from illness.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli and lettuce are excellent sources of folate. This nutrient is vital in preventing growth abnormalities in the developing foetus

Compiled by Cecile Niebuhr

Cecile Niebuhr, RD(SA)

Cecile Niebuhr, RD(SA)

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