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Eating Well during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Before you get pregnant, make sure that you are eating well by consuming a balanced diet of a variety of
food and food rich in folic acid and iodine.
During pregnancy and breastfeeding, your body needs additional folic acid, iron, iodine, and calcium for
your baby to grow and develop. More calories are required from the second trimester onwards, and a bit
more during breastfeeding. However, you do not need to eat too much to meet the extra needs. A
balanced diet consisting of a variety of foods and choosing foods that are rich in folic acid, iron, iodine and
calcium are basis for good nutrition for you and your baby. In this way, you could reduce the risk of
overweight or high blood pressure in future.
Table 1: Extra needs of nutrients during pregnancy and lactation
First trimester
Second and third trimesters
Formation of baby’s
Babies grow in size and weight.
major organs requires
More calories, folic acid, iron, iodine
Key points folic acid. Weight gain is and calcium are needed for normal
relatively small at this
body functions and development of
the baby.
Folic acid
Extra calories, folic acid, iron,
iodine and calcium are needed
to provide nutrients to the baby.
Table 2: Extra needs in energy during pregnancy and lactation
More calories are required during pregnancy and lactation, but you do not need to take much food,
especially in the first 3 months of pregnancy.
The followings are examples of food that provide the extra calories required. Choose food rich in folic
acid, iron, iodine and calcium.
First trimester of
1 glass* skimmed milk / low fat milk /
1 slice whole wheat bread
(approximately 100
calcium fortified low sugar soy milk
1 slice whole wheat bread +
Second and third
1/2 bowl** rice +
1 slice low fat cheese / ham +
trimesters pregnancy
1/2 bowl** green leafy vegetables +
1 glass* skimmed milk / low fat milk /
(approximately 300 –
1 tael# fish / lean meat +
calcium fortified low sugar soy milk +
1/2 to 1 large orange / apple / pear
400 kilocalories)
1/2 to 1 large orange / apple / pear
1 tomato cheese sandwich
(=2 slices whole wheat bread + 2 slices
1/2 bowl** rice +
tomato + 1 slice low fat cheese) +
1/2 bowl** green leafy vegetables +
(approximately 500
1 glass* skimmed milk / low fat milk /
1½ tael# fish / lean meat +
calcium fortified low sugar soy milk +
1½ large orange / apple / pear
1 large orange / apple / pear
1 tael = roughly equals to the size of a table tennis ball; **size of bowl = 300 ml; size of glass* = 240ml
The leaflet ‘Nutrition for Pregnant Women &Breastfeeding Mothers’ provides more
information on food choices.
Foods that are rich in Folic Acid
Women who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant need to eat plenty food rich in folic acid. This
prevents anemia and development of spinal bifida in babies (a birth defect in spinal cord and
Green leafy vegetables, e.g. spinach, bok choy, choy sum, broccoli etc
Beans and pulses
Fruit, e.g. papaya, banana, melon, grapefruit, strawberry, orange
Fortified breakfast cereal
Foods that are rich in Iron
Iron is important for making red blood cells. Inadequate iron will cause anemia and affect the growth
and development of brain of the baby.
1. Animal sources of iron are easily absorbed
Red meat such as pork and beef contain more iron
Chicken and other poultry
Seafood such as fish and shrimp
Fish is also an important source of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids( e.g. DHA),
which is essential for the development of brain in babies
Fish which contains higher DHA and relatively lower mercury level includes farmed
salmon, sardines, thread-fin fish, big-eyed, Pacific Saury, seabass
Liver is a good source of iron
Limit to no more than 100gm (5 tablespoon) a week, as liver is also high in vitamin A.
Too much vitamin A may harm you and your baby
2. Plant sources of iron
Green leafy vegetables and pulses also contain iron. Include food rich in vitamin C, e.g. oranges,
kiwi, in your meals to help iron absorption
3. Fortified breakfast cereal
* Zinc is essential for the growth and immune system of your baby and healing of wound. Most iron
rich foods are also rich in zinc, e.g. meat, seafood, fish.
Stop Smoking & Drinking Alcohol!!!
Alcohol affects the development of your
baby, leading to low birth weight and
intellectual impairment
Avoid Food or Drinks containing
Caffeine. E.g. coffee, tea
Vegetarians, mother of multiple
pregnancies or having medical
problem (e.g. gestational
diabetes) may need to follow
other special advice from
dietitian and their doctors.
Foods that provide Iodine
You should take adequate iodine to ensure the normal development of your baby’s brain and
Seaweeds (including kelp and seaweed) are of the highest iodine content
Include seaweeds in part of balanced diet. Do not eat too much seaweeds
In addition to a normal diet, non pregnant woman gets adequate iodine if she
consumes :
1 bowl of mung beans and kelp sweet dessert soup or miso soup containing
1.6-2.5g (about /16 tael) dried kelp per bowl every 2 months, or
2 small packets (each packet weighs 1.1g) of seaweed snack a day
During pregnancy and breastfeeding, 5 small packets (each packet weighs 1.1g) or 2
medium packets (each weighs 2.5-3g) of seaweed snack provide the iodine you and your
baby need in a day. Also use the nutrition label on the package to help you choose one
with lower fat and sodium content
Avoid eating hijiki which contain high level of arsenic
Use iodized salt to replace ordinary salt. Add iodized salt when served
Limit the total salt intake to 5 grams or 1 tablespoon a day, including salt from sauces,
seasoning and salt from other foods
Seafood (including marine fish, prawns, mussels, oyster, etc.), egg yolk, milk and milk products
These food items contain lower level of iodine. The usual daily serving size may not
provide sufficient amount of extra iodine required for pregnancy / lactation
During pregnancy and lactation, women with previous or active thyroid diseases also need to increase
the iodine intake. As additional iodine intake may affect the thyroid function, women should notify
their attending specialists or doctors and have the thyroid function closely monitored. They should
also follow the doctor's advice to consume appropriate amount of iodine rich food or take iodine
If you have problem eating adequate foods rich in
folic acid, iron, iodine or calcium,
seek advice from your doctor, registered pharmacist or registered dietitian for
any need for supplement.
Foods that are rich in Calcium
Calcium forms bones and teeth in baby and reduces the risk of preterm labour.
Green leafy vegetable, e.g. choy sum,
Chinese mustard, bok choy, broccoli, kale
Tofu, fortified soymilk
Sesame , nuts
Seafood such as shrimp, dried oyster or shrimp,
sardines with bones
Milk and milk products (e.g. cheese, yogurt)
choose low fat products
Spend some time for outdoor
activity in the sun everyday.
Sunlight exposure helps body to
produce vitamin D which is needed
for calcium absorption and forming
strong bones.
Food Safety
Choose safe food
Buy food from hygienic and reliable
Prevent bacterial contamination
Listeria can cause miscarriage, prematurity
and cause infection in your baby
When choosing fish
Don’t eat high risk food that may be
contaminated by listeria or other bacteria,
such as:
Don’t eat large predator fish, e.g. sword
fish, shark, marlin, alfonsino, some types
of tuna (e.g. bluefin tuna), mackerel etc.
These contain high levels of mercury.
Excessive exposure to mercury will
affect the development of nervous
system of your baby
Do choose fish with lower level of
mercury, e.g. grass carp, dace, rabbit
fish, grey mullet, Mandarin fish/ perch,
farmed salmon, sardines, thread-fin fish,
big eyed, Pacific saury
Unpasteurized milk and milk products,
e.g. mould-ripened soft cheese;
Raw food such as oyster, sashimi or
Smoked ( chilled or refrigerated)
seafood or cold dishes, e.g. smoked
Raw and uncooked foods such as raw
eggs or food containing raw or
partially cooked eggs in salad dressing,
mayonnaise, eggnog
Pre-prepared salad (such as in salad
Do consume a variety of fish and
maintain balanced diet.
Keep Clean
Wash your hands and utensils properly before and during food preparation;
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite found in some animal (e.g. cat) faeces and soil.
Toxoplasmosis can be harmful to the growth and development of unborn babies.
Avoid pet getting into the kitchen;
Avoid contacting their faeces;
Always wear gloves when you are gardening or changing cat/ pet litter and wash your hands
Separately store and handle raw food and cooked food
Use separate knives and cutting boards to handle raw and cooked food.
Cook food thoroughly
Keep food at safe temperature
Refrigerate at or below 4 oC or keep cooked food above 60 oC before serving;
Refrigerate cooked and perishable food (including leftover food) within 2 hour;
Refrigerate uneaten proportion promptly at or below 4 oC and keep for no more than 3 days.
Cook or reheat food until it is steaming hot throughout.
For more information on food safety, you can visit http: