Spotlight on inadequate diets of pregnant women


WRITTEN BY:  EMILY PARKS, Nutrition Manager, Beef + Lamb New Zealand

Soon-to-be mums are missing out on key nutrients by not following current recommendations about what to eat during pregnancy, amplifying conditions such as iron deficiency anaemia.

A Kiwi study, made up of around 7000 children and their parents, found a staggering 97% of pregnant women do not eat according to the food and nutrition guidelines set by the Ministry of Health.

The study, titled Growing Up In New Zealand*, found only one in five women met the specific recommendation to eat at least two serves of protein foods, such as lean meat, fish and eggs, each day.

Women require 2-3 times more iron than normal during pregnancy and to meet this significant increase, and prevent deficiency, it is necessary to eat a variety of iron-rich foods each day.

Consequences of iron deficiency and anaemia in pregnancy include postnatal depression, fatigue, difficulties with bonding and breastfeeding, and increased risk of infection. Women may also struggle to cope with normal blood loss at delivery.

Study author and head of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Auckland, Dr Clare Wall, says iron is important for both the mother’s health during pregnancy, and for the developing foetus. Ensuring adequate iron in pregnancy can also assist with successful breastfeeding.

“It is recommended pregnant women consume two serves of protein rich foods per day. This can include lean meat which provides a valuable source of easily absorbed iron,” says Dr Wall.

World Iron Awareness Month

The news comes as we prepare for World Iron Awareness Week, a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of dietary iron, the signs of low iron and what can be done about it. This year, there is a special focus on the importance of iron during pregnancy.

World Iron Awareness Week will run May 1-7 with an aim to raise awareness on the importance of dietary iron in pregnancy, recognizing the signs of low iron and what can be done about it.

So how do we get more iron in our diet?

Check out a resource – Iron for Life! This eBook will give you lots of great information.

A hearty chilli made with lean beef and kidney beans can provide around a third of the daily iron requirements for pregnant women. Here’s a recipe for Corn and Black Bean Chili that is one of our favourites!

Corn and Black Bean Chili
Serves: 9 servings
  • 1 lb (500 g) Lean Ground Beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large sweet pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (14 oz/398 mL) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ cup frozen corn kernels
  1. Cook beef, onion, sweet pepper, chili powder and cumin in large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until meat is thoroughly cooked and any liquid has evaporated.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans and corn.
  3. Cook over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.


*The Growing Up In New Zealand study, titled Dietary Patterns in Pregnancy in New Zealand—Influence of Maternal Socio-Demographic, Health and Lifestyle Factors, can be found at


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