Many mums-to-be are missing out on critical pregnancy nutrients. Studies of Australian women’s diets have found many have unbalanced diets in pre-conception and during pregnancy, with multiple findings showing most women do not achieve the recommended number of serves of core healthy foods that provide the nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy.

Of concern, the studies found pregnant women tended to over-consume discretionary or ‘treat’ foods like cakes, biscuits, muffins and chocolates which are high in energy (kilojoules) but low in essential nutrients. These findings show many women are entering pregnancy with poor nutrition making it hard to “catch-up” once they are pregnant, as their body already faces additional nutritional demands because of the growing baby at this stage.

For example, many women are not meeting their dairy and alternative needs which are an important source of Calcium, Protein and Vitamin B12 in the diet and most are not meeting their vegetables or grains and cereals needs which are key sources of Folate and B Vitamins in the diet.

Key reasons for poor dietary intake in pregnancy are nausea, vomiting and morning sickness. This is relatively common with around seven out of 10 (69%) women reporting they have experienced nausea or vomiting in pregnancy and 34% stating they reduced their food intake due to nausea. Women with severe nausea had poorer diets than those without.

  1. Note the AHS does not compare consumption of discretionary foods to guidelines as they are not core foods.
  2. For discretionary foods, this indicates the % of women exceeding the recommended intake.


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: Consumption of food groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines 2011-12.
  2. National Health and Medical Research Council. Healthy eating during your pregnancy.
  3. Rosic G, Badorrek S, Wang T, Williams K. A comparison of the dietary intake of pregnant women attending a Western Sydney antenatal service with national guidelines. Poster presented at: ANZOS-ASLM-ICCR Conference; 2019 Oct 16-18; Sydney, Australia.
  4. Malek L, Umberger W, Makrides M, Zhou SJ. Adherence to the Australian dietary guidelines during pregnancy: evidence from a national study. Public Health Nutrition, 2016; 19(7):1155-1163.
  5. McAlpine J, Vincze L, Vanderlelie J, Perkins A. The Maternal Outcomes and Nutrition Tool – Analysis of Dietary Behaviours in Pregnant Women of South-East Queensland. Abstract presented at: DAA Conference; 2019 Aug 12-14; Gold Coast, Australia
  6. Einarson TR, Piwko C, Koren G. Quantifying the global rates of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: a meta analysis. 2013;20(2):e171-83.
  7. Crozier SR, Inskip HM, Godfrey KM, Cooper C, Robinson SM; SWS Study Group. Nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy: Effects on food intake and diet quality. Matern Child Nutr. 2017;13(4):e12389. doi:10.1111/mcn.12389