For pregnant women and their unborn child to get through the nine months in a healthy way, not only are certain nutrients important, but in general you should pay attention to a healthy and balanced diet. Here you can find out what such a diet looks like during pregnancy, how much weight gain is normal and what else you should pay attention to.
Do pregnant women have to eat for two?
In the past, people said to pregnant women “you have to eat for two now” – that’s outdated today. But it is not! For what was and is meant by this was that expectant mothers must also provide their unborn child with nutrients so that it thrives well. So it’s not about quantity, but about quality food.
Even if a second person grows up in her belly, an expectant mother should not eat for two. Although her energy requirement increases, it does not double. The exact additional requirement depends on the size and weight of the expectant mother. However, pregnant women do not have to eat for two.
However, the nutrient requirement increases during pregnancy, for example pregnant women need twice the amount of iron. Folic acid, vitamin B12, iodine and calcium should also be absorbed sufficiently. They are particularly important for the development of the child.
In fact, pregnant women only need about 200 calories more per day than before. The need for some nutrients, however, increases considerably because some of them (such as folic acid and magnesium) play an important role in giving birth to a healthy baby. You will find all the important information about this in our list of the 8 best foods.
The right nutrition for mother and child
- Eat lots of fresh vegetables, salads and fruit – five servings a day is the minimum.
- For bread and pasta, always choose the wholemeal version. It contains many important nutrients that give you and your baby strength.
- Drink plenty of calorie-free and low-calorie liquid. Mineral water is perfect, especially if it is rich in magnesium.
- Meat is not a must. Although it provides iron, it is also abundant in other foods (see our list of the 8 best foods).
- You should treat yourself and your baby to fish at least twice a week.
- Milk, dairy products and cheese should be on the table every day. However, it can be the low-fat variant, which also contains all the important nutrients.
- Be careful with sweets! They can not only lead to unwanted additional kilos, but can even harm the unborn child: British researchers have now discovered that there is a demonstrable link between high sugar consumption during pregnancy and later asthma or allergy in the child (1).
Which nutrients are particularly important now?
Two substances are particularly important in the diet during pregnancy, which expectant mothers usually do not get in sufficient quantities through the daily diet alone:
We normally need around 550 micrograms of this B vitamin every day; the German Nutrition Society recommends twice as much for pregnant women. Folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of malformations in unborn babies.
Since such malformations mainly occur in the first few weeks, experts recommend starting to take folic acid tablets as soon as possible after a child is planned (e.g. immediately after stopping the pill).
If you eat plenty of spinach, broccoli, rose cabbage, cauliflower, egg yolk, endive, asparagus, wheat germ and wholemeal cereals, you will take up most folic acid. Oranges, bananas and mangos also contain plenty of it. Nevertheless, it is best to discuss with your doctor whether you should take an additional preparation.
For the development of babies in the womb, the trace element plays an important role in controlling growth, bone formation and brain development. Since a deficiency also increases the risk of malformations or miscarriages, DGE advises expectant mothers to consume 250 micrograms of iodine daily.
The easiest way to get a larger amount of iodine is to taste sea fish, milk and dairy products as often as possible.
Weight gain during pregnancy
Speaking of extra kilos: If you eat according to these guidelines and our tips for the best foods, you need hardly worry about being overweight. You will gain weight, but not because you consume too many calories.
It is considered perfectly normal for expectant mothers to gain an average of 10-16 kg in weight during pregnancy. However, this supposed “overweight” is not the result of a wrong diet, but is directly related to the pregnancy:
- The uterus can weigh up to 1.5 kg and is increasing in size.
- Also about 1.5 kg come from amniotic fluid and placenta.
- Approximately the same amount results in the increased blood volume, which mainly supplies the unborn baby with oxygen.
- The breast gains up to 500 g in weight as it prepares for breastfeeding.
- A further 2 kg (sometimes even more) brings water accumulations in the body on the scales.
- To ensure that the body gets enough energy for the “work” of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding, it collects about 2 – 3 kg of additional fat reserves.
- Finally, the weight of the unborn child is added, which normally amounts to 3 – 4 kg.
- A larger weight gain damages mother and child. A frequent consequence of maternal overweight is gestational diabetes. This can also affect the unborn child.
Diet in pregnancy? No way!
Genuine overweight is considered a certain risk factor during pregnancy because, for example, it puts a double burden on the heart and circulation. As a rule, however, it already exists when a woman becomes pregnant. Medical doctors therefore recommend that women who wish to have a child and are planning a pregnancy lose weight in good time before they do so.
As soon as the test is positive, it is too late to do something for the figure: Diets to lose weight are absolutely taboo for expectant mothers, because it is not guaranteed that mother and child get all nutrients in sufficient quantity.
Even overweight is then still better than a possible malnutrition by diet. The best thing, however, is to eat a good and balanced diet. If you follow the tips and recommendations here and for the best foods, it works almost automatically and you need have no worry that your child is missing something.
If your heart and circulation are healthy and your doctor has nothing against it, you can exercise naturally. In this case it is particularly important that you consume enough magnesium, because the need for exercise also increases.