Natasha Dunn

Morning sickness and cravings during pregnancy are a common occurrence.

Did you know that morning sickness is the product of:

  • placental hormones (the communication between the uterus and embryo)
  • the increase of human chorionic gonadotropin hormones (hCG) the hormone that is important for pregnancy

It has also been thought due to a study by Flaxman et al, 2000, that nausea and vomiting during pregnancy is a way the embryo protects itself from food toxins.

A study by Forbes, S in 2016 shows iodine plays a role in morning sickness.  Too little iodine, leads to sickness during pregnancy as they embryo is using iodine and regulating the mothers thyroid hormone for its brain development.

This leads us to consider what is going on in our bodies in early pregnancy in relation to diet, environment and epigenetics.

Epigenetics is the interplay between genes and lifestyle that cause modification of gene expression.  This can occur to the embryo during early pregnancy due to many external factors such as, diet, sleep, stress levels and exposure to toxins.

We need to remember that our diet during pregnancy and our child’s diet after they are born, are very important and play a key role their future DNA.

By having an optimal diet before and during pregnancy you can give your unborn child the best possible start to life.

A study by Dolinoy, et al 2006, found that diet during pregnancy affects gene expression and alter susceptibility to obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in the offspring in adulthood.

Feeling a little overwhelmed where to start? The below might help with a kick start.

Diet plan for first trimester pregnancy

  • Recommend 2200 kcal per meal (350 calories)
  • Milk group: 2-3 servings to supply protein, calcium, carbohydrate, as well as other nutrients; calcium fortified foods from other food groups can make up for gaps between calcium intake and need.  You should be getting around 1000-1300mg of calcium per day.  These foods include milk, hard cheeses, cottage cheese, and yoghurts.
  • Alternatives to dairy that are rich in calcium are green leafy vegetables, soya beans, tofu, nuts, fish with soft edible bones such as sardines.
  • Meat and beans group: 6 ounce-equivalents (approximately 170g) to deliver iron and zinc, examples include meat, shellfish, legumes, lentils and beans.
  • Vegetable Group: 3 cups to provide vitamins and minerals; 1 cup should be rich in vitamin C (broccoli, Brussels, green and red peppers, sweet potato, and tomato), 1 cup should be rich in folate (legumes, asparagus, eggs, leafy greens, beets, citrus fruits and broccoli).
  • Fruit group: 2 cups to supply essential vitamins and minerals
  • Grains group: 7 ounce-equivalents (approximately 200g) emphasizing whole-grain and enriched foods (whole wheat, oats, barley corn and rice) as these contain iron, selenium and B vitamins.
  • Oils group: oils that provide essential fatty acids such as flaxseed oil
  • Discretionary calories: up to 300 calories for weight maintenance
  • Multivitamin (a good pregnancy multivitamin)
  • Methylated forms of folate
  • Fish oils as these contain DHA and EPA which are two essential fatty acids important for your babies brain development (https://www.studio-you.com.au/introducing-the-omega-3-index-score-whats-yours/
  • A good probiotic for gut health

Second and Third trimesters

  • Include about 2600kcal per meal (450 calories)
  • Milk group: 3 serves
  • Meat and beans group: 6.5 ounce-equivalents (approximately 185g)
  • Vegetable groups: 3.5 cups
  • Fruit groups: 2 cups (apricots, avocado, mango, bananas, pears)
  • Grains group: 8 ounce-equivalents (approximately 227g)
  • Oils group: no more than 7 teaspoons of a type of vegetable oil such as flaxseed
  • Discretionary calories: up to 400 calories for gradual weight gain
  • Iron supplement along with your multivitamin and folic acid supplement
  • A good probiotic for gut health
  • Multivitamin (a good pregnancy multivitamin)
  • Methylated forms of folate
  • Fish oils as these contain DHA and EPA which are two essential fatty acids important for your babies brain development (https://www.studio-you.com.au/introducing-the-omega-3-index-score-whats-yours/

Foods to limit or avoid during pregnancy

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol (try to avoid completely)
  • Sprouts
  • Deli meats
  • Sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Soft raw cheeses
  • Raw eggs or undercooked eggs
  • Raw meats
  • Uncooked seafood

For more structured and tailored diets and advice around your pregnancy, and planning for a pregnancy please make an appointment with one of the nutritionists today to help guide you through the best possible nutritional plan for you and your unborn baby.


  1. Dolinoy, D, C., Weidman, J, R., Waterland, R, A., and Jirtle,R, L., 2016.  Maternal Genistein Alters Coat Colour and Protects Avy Mouse Offspring from Obesity by Modifying the Fetal Epigenome. ‘Environmental health Prospects’. 11(4): 567-572.

  2. Flaxman, S, M., Sherman, P, W., (2000).  Morning Sicness: A Mechanism for Protecting Mother and Embryo. “The Quarterly Review of Biology”. 75(2): 113-148.

  3. Forbes., S, 2017. Embryo quality: the missing link between pregnancy sickness and pregnancy outcome. ‘Evolution and human behaviour’38:2, 265-278.


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