Healthy Eating

Healthy eating = Healthy baby

Eating healthy foods helps you stay strong during pregnancy and supports baby’s development in the womb to ensure the best possible start to their life. What you eat determines what your baby receives to grow strong and healthy. Just as smoking is harmful to the baby, so too is excessive eating of foods and drinks high in sugar, fat and salt.


Why should I care about what I eat during pregnancy?

Many people will tell you that you are now ‘eating for two’. In some Pacific cultures, it has been said that you should eat a lot of fish, poi and coconut milk in order to produce big healthy babies. Eating a variety of foods from the four food groups such as:

  1. Vegetables and Fruit
  2. Breads and Cereals
  3. Milk and Milk Products
  4. Lean Meat, Fish, Seafood, Chicken, Eggs, Dried Beans and Nuts

 While it is true that you must consider what you eat for your baby’s sake, it does not mean that you should eat ‘double’ or twice as much. By ensuring a healthy weight gain during pregnancy, you reduce the chances of having a large baby and the risk of diabetes for both you and your baby as they grow into adulthood. Big babies are not necessarily healthy babies.


What is a healthy weight gain during pregnancy?

A healthy weight gain is between 11-16kgs for women who were a normal weight before becoming pregnant. If you are overweight before you became pregnant, then less weight gain is desired. If you are underweight before pregnancy then more weight gain is recommended.

This following diagram gives an overview of the recommended total weight gain during pregnancy.

Some of the risks of gaining more weight than recommended include:

  • having a large baby
  • needing a caesarean section
  • increased blood pressure in pregnancy with complications (pre-eclampsia)
  • diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes)


Tips for eating healthy during pregnancy

  • Let everyone in your family, household and workplace know that you are eating for the health of you and your baby. Don’t eat for two.
  • Cook meals at home and reduce the amount of ‘white’ on the plate (rice, potatoes, bread) and use other choices such as brown rice, kumara or whole wheat bread.
  • Encourage all cooks to prepare healthy meals e.g. dishes with lots of vegetables, soups, cooked fish and lean cooked meats.
  • Try and eat small portions but more often throughout the day.
  • Drink water as you feel thirsty.  Trim milk in moderation.
  • Foods rich in iron, folic acid and iodine are essential to baby’s development.
  • Stock up on fruit and vegetables.  Shop at a local market or look out for special deals at your supermarket.  Wash these well before you eat them.  A bag of frozen vegetables provides a convenient way to add vegetables to your cooking.
  • Don’t deny yourself treats now and then – give in to a craving and then continue your normal eating schedule.
  • Eat breakfast – even if you experience morning sickness, try and have small portions of cereal or fruit to get you going.
  • Eat fresh – don’t eat foods that have been sitting out for longer than two hours.
  • Pack a container of snacks even if attending a family gathering or function, as there may be  limited meal options for pregnant women.


For more healthy options to eat during pregnancy, visit

Eating for Healthy Pregnant Women/Ngā Kai Totika mā te Wahine Hapū (Ministry of Health)



Food safety during pregnancy is important because an infection known as Listeria which is a foodborne illness can be very serious for pregnant women and people with impaired immune systems.

Content provided by Mafi Funaki-Tahifote

Mafi Funaki-Tahifote is Tongan and she migrated to New Zealand to do further studies, later making New Zealand her home. She has a young family of five children, two boys age 13 and 11 years and three girls age 8, 5 and 3 years of age. Mafi thoroughly enjoys motherhood combined with her passion of nutrition.

Mafi is one of the very few Pacific New Zealand registered dietitians and has over ten years experience in public health. Mafi is currently the Operations Manager for the Pacific Heartbeat Team at the Heart Foundation working with the team to improve healthy eating, increase physical activity and reduce the numbers of smokers amongst the Pacific communities across New Zealand.