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Nutrition during Pregnancy

Why is it important to eat a healthy diet during pregnancy?

  • It provides adequate protein as to ensure a healthy foetal development.
  • It provides additional calories and related nutrients to maintain good maternal health.
  • It fulfills the nutrient requirements to promote foetal immune system especially during the first trimester.
  • It ensures appropriate weight gain during pregnancy
    • If you are underweight, you should gain between 12 – 18 kg
    • If you are of normal weight before you are pregnant, you should gain between 11 – 16 kg.
    • If you are overweight, you should gain between 7 – 11 kg.
    • If you are having twins, you should gain about 16 – 20 kg.

Proper maternal weight gain leads to a healthy and proper fetal development.

How much do I really need to eat when I am pregnant?

  • 7 servings of rice, noodles, breads, tubers, cereals and cereal products will provide energy/calories to mothers.
  • 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits (at least one rich in vitamin C and one in vitamin A) to provide fibre, vitamins and minerals to promote foetal development.
  • 2 servings of milk or dairy products (cheese, yogurt) to provide calcium in building healthy foetal teeth, bones, heart, nerves and muscle.
  • 1 serving offish, 1 serving meat/ poultry and 1 serving legumes.
  • 6-8 glasses of water mainly plain water, and no more than a cup of soft drink or coffee or tea per day to limit caffeine intake.

What nutrients or foods do I need more during pregnancy?

  • Additional nutrients and calories are important to meet the needs for foetal and new tissue development especially during the 2nd and 3rd trimester of pregnancy.

Additional energy requirements in pregnancy

2nd trimester + 360 kcal/day
3rd trimester + 470 kcal/day

Suggested nutrient intake in pregnancy:

2nd trimester
+ 7.5
3rd trimester


(mg NE)
Vitamin C
Vitamin A
Vitamin D
Vitamin E
2nd trimester 54-82 + 7.5 1000 7.0 27 1.4 7.5
3rd trimester 57-85 +7.5 1000 10.0 29 1.4 7.5

Source : Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia 2005

  • Choose foods high in certain nutrients. They are :
    • Calcium (milk, cheese, yoghurt, dark and green leafy vegetables and soya bean products)
    • Iron (liver, lean meat, fortified bread and dried beans / peas)
    • Vitamin A (liver, milk, egg)
    • Vitamin B complex (liver, lean meat, fish and milk)
    • Vitamin C (guava, papaya and orange)
    • Folic acid (green leafy vegetables, liver and nut).
  • Basic vitamin-mineral supplement is encouraged as advised by the doctor or nutritionist and need to be taken with liquids other than milk, coffee or tea.

What should I do if I have these problems?

  • Lactose intolerance
    • Try milk and dairy products with low lactose formula.
    • Increase intake of fish with edible bones (sardines, anchovies).
    • Consume soya bean milk and soya based products.
    • Take more vegetables like spinach and kailan which are also good sources of calcium.
  • Morning sickness
    • Eat at regular times. Avoid eating on an empty stomach.
    • Eat frequently but in small portions.
    • Reduce intake of fatty or fried foods.
    • Avoid spicy foods.
    • Drink plenty of water especially plain water. Juice extracts from fresh fruits are encouraged due to the high vitamin-mineral content.
    • It is advised to take fluids in between meals and not during meals.
    • Citrus fruits may help to overcome nausea in some people.
  • Heartburn
    • Eat smaller portions and more frequent meals.
    • Eat slowly
    • Reduce intake of spicy or high fat foods.
    • Avoid lying down immediately after eating.
  • Constipation
    • Drink plenty of water.
    • One to two servings of extract juices from fresh fruits may help. Limit the added sugar to avoid excessive energy.
    • Take more fibre-rich foods(cereals, wholegrains, high fruits and vegetables).
    • Be more physically active.
    • Avoid lying down immediately after eating.
  • References
    • Escott-Stump. S (2002) Nutrition and Diagnosis – Related Care. Fifths Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, USA.
    • Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S (2004) Krause’s Food, Nutrition & Diet Therapy. 11th edition. Elsevier USA.
    • Malaysian Association for the study on Obesity (2005) Strategy for the Prevention of ObesityMalaysia: Malaysian Association for the Study of Obesity.
    • National Coordinating Committee on Food & Nutrition. MOH. ( 2005). Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia: Ministry of Health Malaysia.
    • Nutrition Society Malaysia (2002) Resipi Sihat,Pilihan Bijak: Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia.


Last reviewed : 19 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Zainab bt. Kusiar