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June 21, 2016

Pregnancy can come with a few unpleasant side effects, which can throw your diet out of whack. Dietitian Robyn Lawrence shares her tips on how to handle it.

Nausea & vomiting

Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy are really common and often some of the first clues to discovering a pregnancy. Despite the name, morning sickness can affect women at any time of day. If the smell of food is making you feel sick, keep out of the kitchen during meal preparation (this is easiest if you can ask someone else to take over the cooking responsibilities for a while!) or keep the windows open to minimise cooking smells.  Cold food is often better tolerated as it has less aroma than hot food – just remember your food safety advice! (visit Despite not wanting to eat, an empty stomach can actually make nausea worse so try to have small, frequent meals and snack across the day. Dry, bland foods such as crackers, plain biscuits or toast often go down well and remember to keep your fluids up. Try sipping cold water with a little lemon juice or suck on a lemonade ice block. Tight and restrictive clothing can add to the discomfort so try loose-fitting, comfortable clothes and make sure you get plenty of rest. Nausea and vomiting usually subside around the start of the second trimester. But if your sickness continues for long periods and you’re struggling to get balance and variety in your diet or notice you’re losing or not gaining any weight, speak to your LMC about a prescription for anti-nausea medication and a referral to a dietitian.

Cravings & aversions

Some women experience strong likes and dislikes for certain foods during pregnancy but obviously it’s still important to eat as healthily as possible, so if you’re craving something sweet try to choose fruit or yoghurt. Mix it up by making a fruit smoothie with frozen berries or ‘ice-cream’ by blending a couple of frozen bananas. If it’s something salty and crunchy you’re after, try popcorn with herbs and spices, rice cakes or some low-fat cheese and crackers.  If you’re having problems with cravings or aversions speak to your LMC to arrange a referral to a dietitian who can help ensure you’re still getting all the nutrients you need.


Hormonal changes during pregnancy and the pressure of your growing baby can lead to constipation. Making sure you drink plenty of water and choose lots of high fibre fruit, vegetables and wholegrains can help. Keeping active through walking or other light activities can get things moving in that department too. Try adding linseed to your cereal or porridge in the morning – start with a tablespoon and gradually build up as needed and have around 150ml of fluid with each tablespoon taken.  

Iron deficiency

There’s no doubt that pregnancy can be tiring as your body undergoes huge changes, but if you’re really struggling with feelings of fatigue then it might be that you’re iron deficient. Your body’s requirement for iron increases in the third trimester of pregnancy as your blood volume increases and baby’s iron stores are laid down. Iron deficiency is common in pregnancy and may affect the baby’s growth and development so it’s important to get it checked out if you’re worried.

There are two types of iron in the diet: haem iron and non-haem iron. Haem iron is found in meat, chicken and fish, while non-haem iron is found in plant foods (wholegrain breads and cereals – especially those fortified with iron, legumes, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, seeds and nuts). 

Haem iron is better absorbed than non-haem iron but the absorption of both is affected by other components in the diet. Polyphenols in tea and coffee inhibit the absorption of iron while Vitamin C actually helps, so try to include plenty of vegetables with your meal or a piece of fruit for dessert. 


The pressure of your growing baby on your stomach can lead to heartburn, particularly in the third trimester. Try to avoid large or rich meals, spicy food or fizzy drinks, opting instead for smaller, more frequent meals and snacks. Lying down too soon after eating can set things off too. Going for a walk or putting an extra pillow under your head in bed at night could help. If you’re still suffering with symptoms of heartburn, speak to your LMC before starting to take any antacids. 

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