The new Australian Dietary Guidelines for pregnancy – what’s changed?

dietary-guidelines-for-pregnancy.jpg Healthy eating when you are pregnant is important—a balanced diet (plus a supplement that contains folate and iodine) is essential for good health, as well as for your growing baby. Early in pregnancy, the quality of your diet can influence how your baby's organs develop. Later in pregnancy, your diet influences baby's growth and brain development.

What are the new dietary guidelines?

The full Australian Dietary Guidelines are available, but if you are after a quick summary, they are

  • achieve and maintain a healthy weight, by being physically active and choosing amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs
  • eat a wide variety of food every day – including vegetables; fruit; grain foods (preferably wholegrain); protein foods (e.g. meat, fish, eggs, nuts, legumes), and dairy (mostly reduced fat),
  • limit your intake of food/drinks that contain added sugar, salt and/or saturated fat (and of course, in pregnancy, avoid alcohol)
  • encourage, support and promote breastfeeding 
  • prepare and store food safely.

Why have the dietary guidelines changed?

The new dietary guidelines, released in February this year, are a result of an extensive review of around 55,000 scientific publications by an expert committee. New nutrition science and studies are being done and published all the time that give us more detail about how and what to eat – we are refining our nutrition knowledge. "The evidence has just got stronger and stronger over the last decade about what is healthy and what isn't. In one sense there are no real surprises in the guidelines but we can surer of the advice".

Professor Amanda Lee, the chair of the dietary guidelines working committee advises that ‘these guidelines can be used with confidence to cut through the misinformation about food, nutrition and health issues that is rife in our community’.

The dietary guidelines are informed by scientific studies that tell us the best amounts and combinations of foods to eat for good health and limiting long term disease (like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers). They combine the best food and nutrition science into simple and easy to understand household measures and serves.

 

What does this mean for me when I’m pregnant?

Food choices

It is still important for you to eat a variety of foods from all of the foods groups (this means you get the benefit from all nutrients that each group has to offer).

As well as knowing that vegetables and legumes/beans are one of the main food groups for you to base each meal on, we now know that you need to keep your meals colourful! Include your “greens” (brassica/ cruciferous veges), orange, raw leafy, starchy vegetables and other vegetables, such as red and yellow vegetables each day.

Whole fruit is best for you (or packaged in natural juices). Only occasionally consume dried fruit and juice.

Dairy products, such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives are recommended for you in their reduced fat varieties. This is still ok for you in pregnancy.

We encourage you to eat protein-rich foods, such as lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans. Keep highly processed meats and sausages as occasional foods (included in the ‘discretionary’ food group).

You should eat wholegrain and high fibre grain (cereal) foods, when possible. These are great sources of folate and iodine as they have been fortified with these nutrients since 2009. Foods with folate and iodine are very important food choices for a healthy, growing and developing baby.

Unsaturated spreads and oils are included in the guidelines as the ‘sixth’ food group. The recommended average daily number of serves includes an allowance for these high quality fats, depending on individual needs. More active or taller individuals may choose some additional serves from the Five Food Groups, unsaturated spreads and oils or discretionary choices.

Food safety

During pregnancy your immune system is weaker, so it’s even more important to take care with how you prepare and store food. Not only for the ‘listeria’ risk (which is very rare, but has serious consequences), but to decrease your chance of other contaminants that could be in your foods. There are a number of foods to avoid during pregnancy. It is easy to make safe choices by following these tips:

  • Freshly prepared and cooked foods have low levels of bacteria. Bacteria grow over time, so avoid eating food if it has been made more than 24 hours since being prepared. Always reheat to steaming hot.
  • Raw fruit and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before eating.
  • Listeria is destroyed in normal cooking, so freshly cooked hot food is safe if eaten straight away.
  • Even those foods listed above that are higher risk can be eaten safely if heated above 74 degrees Celsius for over two minutes.

Food for bub

It is best to start thinking and talking about breastfeeding early in your pregnancy. Studies show that the sooner you make up your mind, the more likely you are to breastfeed. We recommended that you start breastfeeding as soon as possible after your baby is born. Introducing solids should start by six months, but not earlier than four months. It is ideal to breastfeed until your baby is at least 12 months old.

Here at Mater Health and Wellness, specialist women’s health dietitians are able to support you to achieve your nutrition goals at this exciting time in your life. To discuss these how to adapt these dietary guidelines to meet your nutrition needs and preferences, please phone 07 3163 6000 to make an appointment with a Mater Health and Wellness dietitian.
 

References:

www.dietitianconnection.com/component/content/article/56-news/resources/1087-australian-dietary-guidelines

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