Facts & myths about pregnancy nutrition

By Mary Comerce, founder of The Health Coach Academy

It is so easy to get confused between the advice of our well-meaning family and friends and the vast amount of information available on the internet. Here are a few common facts and myths about nutrition.


Fact: Pregnancy makes you gain weight

It’s natural and healthy to put on some weight during pregnancy. Your body needs to change to help you grow your baby. By your due date, around a third of your extra weight will come from your baby, the placenta and amniotic fluid. At birth, an average baby weighs about 3.3kg. The placenta, which keeps your baby nourished, weighs approximately 0.7kg. The amniotic fluid, which supports and cushions your baby, weighs around 0.8kg.

The other two thirds of extra weight are due to the changes that happen to your body while you’re pregnant: the muscle layer of  the uterus grows dramatically and weighs an extra 0.9kg; your blood volume increases by around 1.2kg; the extra fluid in your body weighs about 1.2kg; breast weight increases by an extra 0.4kg and you store about 4kg of fat to give you energy for breastfeeding. With all of this taken into account, you can expect to gain approximately 12-13 kg.

Note: These figures are the average calculated. Weight gain over 15kg is usually attributed to indulging that famous pregnancy appetite, especially in high-calorie foods.

Fact: No sushi, carpaccio, steak tartare or soft cheese

Eating raw fish, meat, egg or soft cheese increases the risk of parasite or bacteria contamination, such as toxoplasmosis, cauliform bacteria, salmonella or listeria that can affect both you and your baby and result in unfavourable pregnancy outcomes.

Fact: Don’t indulge the sweet tooth

High sugar consumption increases glucose and insulin levels and contributes to fatty liver, gestational diabetes and weight gain, as well as programmes baby’s genes to be at a higher risk for metabolic syndrome. Drinking both artificially sweetened and standard soft drinks increases the risk of pre-eclampsia and pre-term delivery. There’s a big exception to this rule: dark chocolate. New studies have found that women who eat five or more servings of chocolate each week during their third trimester have a 40% lower risk of developing pre-eclampsia.

Myth: You should eat twice as much

I always tell my clients that eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much, but rather being twice as mindful about how we nourish our body. Your body only needs an extra 300 calories a day during your second and third trimester, so be sure to choose nutrient-dense, fresh, unprocessed food to get all the extra needed nutrients in minimum calories.

Myth: Avoid fish and seafood

Fish contains essential fatty acids that are important for foetal brain development. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury during pregnancy benefits child’s motor, social and communication skills as well as IQ. Fish such as shark, swordfish and mackerel have high levels of mercury and should be avoided, while most other fish are safe to consume during pregnancy.

Myth: I should eat whatever I crave, my body needs it

As much as you would like to think your body is telling you to eat all that pizza, ice cream and cake because you “need” it, that is not the case. Rather, these cravings are an indication that you’re craving emotional comfort. Though some cravings may be a sign of certain nutritional needs, you need to be mindful of making healthy choices. So, if you’re craving something sweet, opt for a piece of fresh or dried fruit instead; if you’re craving a salty treat you might consider having a handful of salted nuts.