Diet during pregnancy. What to eat, what to avoid, calories and supplements

A future mother must take care of her health first and foremost. There is also a lot of talk about a healthy diet and the consequences of bad eating habits. Fortunately, the commonly accepted myth of eating for two is now a thing of the past. There has been an increased awareness in society that what a pregnant woman eats is more important than how much a pregnant woman eats.

Nutrition during pregnancy: in addition to essential food ingredients, it is recommended to supplement, among others: folic acid.

How many calories per day during pregnancy. Energy demand

In the first trimester, if the woman was not underweight, there is no need to increase caloric intake. In the second and third trimester, according to the World Health Organization, the additional energy expenditure during pregnancy is  300 kcal per day . 

The energy needs of a woman expecting a child change and increase as the pregnancy progresses, ultimately reaching a value that is 10-15% higher than the basic value. Of course, reliably determining the needs of a pregnant woman requires taking into account various components, such as age, physical activity, lifestyle and nutritional status, or more precisely, overweight or underweight.

What to eat during pregnancy?

For the good of both the pregnant woman and the fetus, it is crucial to provide the appropriate amount of nutrients with a slight increase in caloric value. It is recommended that additional calories be provided through fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

Fats should cover 30% of energy needs. It is important that the majority of them include vegetable fats rich in FFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids). For a healthy diet during pregnancy, the sources of FFA are:

  •  oils (soybean, corn, sunflower),
  • olive oil,
  • nuts
  • sea ​​fish

Protein should constitute about 15% (this share increases in the last 10 weeks of pregnancy). Choose fish, meat and meat products, eggs and dairy products as a source of protein.

Carbohydrates should cover 50-60% of the demand (consumption of simple sugars should not exceed 10%). You should eat foods containing complex carbohydrates (mainly from cereal products), e.g.

  • wholemeal bread
  • groats,
  • rice,
  • pasta,
  • vegetables,
  • fresh fruit.

It is worth enriching a pregnant woman’s diet with fiber, which regulates the functioning of the digestive system and is helpful in the fight against constipation.

The menu should be composed in such a way that women do not lack vitamins and microelements, because folic acid deficiencies pose a risk of developing defects in the nervous system in the fetus. If this is combined with a deficiency of iron and B vitamins, especially B12, the risk of anemia increases .

Healthy food during pregnancy

There must be no shortage of vegetables and fruits, preferably seasonal ones. Strawberries available for sale in winter are a bad idea. Not only do they have questionable nutritional value, but they are also sometimes contaminated with plant protection products. Good choices will be groats, whole grain bread, lean meat and legumes.

Fish are a debatable topic. On the one hand, they provide omega-3 acids necessary for the child’s development, on the other hand, they may contain heavy metals, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) originating from polluted waters. The problem is partially solved by purchasing a dietary supplement with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the safest source of which is sea algae from controlled cultivation. The future mother must also remember to drink the right amount of fluids, especially water.

How much weight should you gain during pregnancy to stay healthy?

It is common among women to take care of their figure, so it seems natural to ask how many extra kilos you can afford to lose while pregnant.

The answer depends on the initial, pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), a coefficient created by dividing body weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters.

Women with a normal BMI (18.5–24.9) are recommended to gain 11.5–16 kg, those who are underweight (BMI < 18.5) should gain 12.5–18 kg, and those who are overweight (BMI 25–29, 9) 10–11.5 kg, and in the case of obesity (BMI ≥ 30) 5–9 kg. The amounts given apply to the entire pregnancy period.

Eating for two does not mean eating twice as much.  Weight gain during pregnancy is inevitable, but it is worth knowing what are the main principles of providing the body with the appropriate amount of calories.Eating for two does not mean eating twice as much. Weight gain during pregnancy is inevitable, but it is worth knowing what are the main principles of providing the body with the appropriate amount of calories.

Nutrition before conception

It is worth knowing that proper nutrition and a balanced diet before conception are as important as nutrition during pregnancy. Deviations from the correct weight and BMI values ​​may result in serious consequences, so you should strive to ensure that your BMI before pregnancy is within the correct range.

Pregnancy underweight is the low birth weight of a newborn (below 2,500 g), which in infancy is associated with susceptibility to diseases and the risk of death, and in adulthood with the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Overweight and obesity, in turn, may have a negative impact on the course of pregnancy, increasing the likelihood of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, premature birth and cesarean section.

Find out more about safe exercise during pregnancy. Examples of physical activity.

The impact of the future mother’s diet on the child’s health

The theory of fetal programming is interesting and worth attention, which assumes that unfavorable environmental conditions occurring during the intrauterine period, which is crucial for individual development, may cause irreversible changes in the morphology, metabolism and functioning of organs.

This hypothesis was supported by observations of the population born during World War II, exposed to nutritional deficiencies in fetal life due to hunger among the general population. The daily food ration then provided less than 1,000 kcal, and often reached only 500 kcal.

In adults born at this time, studies have shown increased levels of cholesterol and  triglycerides , impaired glucose tolerance, high BMI values ​​and an increased risk of coronary heart disease and schizophrenia.

What to avoid during pregnancy

A future mother, with the well-being of her offspring in mind, should especially exclude from her menu products of animal origin that have not undergone proper heat treatment , as they pose a real health risk.

Eating raw eggs and  undercooked poultry is associated with the risk of infection with salmonella bacteria , so it is better to overcome temptations in the form of cakes, cakes and desserts with egg-based creams (e.g. tiramisu). Unpasteurized milk and its products (various types of cheese: oscypek cheese, blue cheese, camembert, feta cheese, etc.) may contain Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, which causes listeriosis .

Parasites, including Toxoplasma gondii, responsible for  toxoplasmosis , lurk in raw and undercooked meat (tartare, bloody burgers, ripened cold cuts) . Raw fish and seafood, in turn, can be a source of bacteria. Popular herbs for constipation are also not recommended. These drugs can cause contractions, leading to premature birth.

A varied diet has a huge impact on a child's health.  It should contain vitamins and minerals and provide the appropriate amount of energy.A varied diet has a huge impact on a child’s health. It should contain vitamins and minerals and provide the appropriate amount of energy.


The absolute ban applicable to pregnant women applies to alcohol. Any amount of it crosses the placenta, increasing the risk of fetal damage and miscarriage. Consuming spirits during pregnancy may result in the baby developing fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which manifests itself, among others, in low birth weight, neurological disorders, slowed physical development, mental retardation, and brain and skull defects. Smoking cigarettes and taking drugs are other items on the blacklist.

Stimulants also include coffee and tea. During pregnancy, it is good to limit the consumption of these drinks, but there is no need to give them up completely. The daily dose of caffeine that a woman expecting a child can afford is 200 mg, which translates into 2-3 cups of not too strong coffee.

Fast food and sweets

Highly processed food is good, but only in taste. It does not bring anything useful apart from momentary pleasure, so it is worth eliminating it or at least significantly limiting it. The Internet is full of recipes for delicious, healthy snacks that allow you to satisfy the dietary whims dictated by a different condition.

Dietary supplement during pregnancy

The Polish Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians recommends supplementation of folic acid , the already mentioned DHA , vitamin D3 and iodine to pregnant women   . In case of iron deficiency, supplementation of this microelement is also recommended. The type of preparation and dose should always be consulted with a doctor. 

The presented medical information should not be treated as guidelines for medical treatment for each patient. The medical procedure, including the scope and frequency of diagnostic tests and/or therapeutic procedures, is decided individually by the doctor, in accordance with medical indications, which he determines after reviewing the patient’s condition. The doctor makes the decision in consultation with the patient. If the patient wants to perform tests that are not covered by medical indications, the patient has the option of having them performed for a fee.
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