Diet in Pregnancy

Diet during pregnancy is a determining factor in ensuring the good health of the pregnant woman and the embryo / fetus.



Because it is essential to establish the right calories

The total calories to be allocated in the pregnancy diet are of primary importance. In fact, there are potentially harmful conditions, related to an incorrect calorie intake, which can compromise the development of the unborn child and the psycho-physical integrity of the mother.
Without going into too much detail, we remind you that:

  1. The weight trend is an element of primary importance in verifying a correct evolution of the pregnancy
  2. Being underweight is considered predisposing to various nutritional defects and possible irreversible complications of the child
  3. Being overweight is considered predisposing to pregnancy diabetes, which can become chronic after childbirth, and to irreversible complications of the unborn child
  4. An underweight woman must consume more calories than normal (to increase total body mass to the margin of normal)
  5. In reverse. an overweight woman is required to eat less than normal (to avoid increasing further).
  6. In gestation, weight reduction should NOT be pursued in any case
  7. The calorie increase in the diet is especially important from the second month onwards
  8. If pregnancy requires total rest, the caloric increase is less than normal.

How many calories do you need to take?

On average, the daily calorie requirement during pregnancy increases by about 200 kcal. These extra calories, which can change according to the specific case, must be added to the normal daily energy requirement.
To be clear, if the normocaloric diet of a healthy woman corresponded to 2.000 kcal / day, in pregnancy the same person would have to introduce about 2.200 kcal / day.
The assessment of energy needs in pregnancy is slightly more complex than normal. The phases necessary for an empirical calculation of the caloric demand in gestation will be summarized below, exclusively for INFORMATION purposes.
It is also advisable to contact the attending physician for a personalized evaluation.

How to accurately estimate calories?

  1. Previous weight and body mass index: it is first of all necessary to evaluate the starting nutritional status, recording the weight at the moment of conception. In relation to height, weight is needed to calculate the initial BMI (according to the formula = Weight in kg / Height in meters squared). Also called BMI or BMI, this value is used to contextualize "spannometrically" the adequacy of weight in a measurement scale referring to the average population:
    • Underweight: <18,5
    • Normality: 18,5 - 24,9
    • Overweight: 25,0 - 30,0
    • Obesity:> 30,0
  2. Estimation of normal energy expenditure: indicates the amount of energy needed by the body to maintain constant weight, ensuring the supply of essential and necessary nutrients. This estimate is made as follows:
    1. Calculate the previous desirable physiological body mass index (what a healthy woman should have before gestation)
      • Consequently, calculate the desirable physiological weight and - considering age - the basal metabolic rate (MB)
    2. Estimate the level of physical activity (LAF coefficient), which for the pregnant woman must NEVER be heavy or foresee the execution of desirable intense activities (sport or fitness)
    3. Finally, get the overall energy expenditure.
  3. Prediction of weight gain. DESIRABLE: for the reasons we have seen above, it is necessary to optimize weight gain throughout the pregnancy in the following way:
    • Underweight: 12,5-18,0kg gain (15,3kg average)
    • Normal Weight: 11,4-16,0kg increase (13,7kg average)
    • Overweight: 7,0-11,5kg gain (9,3kg average)
    • Obesity: increase <7 kg
  4. Assigning the appropriate calorie increase: having clear the nutritional condition of the pregnant woman, the time has come to choose how many more calories (compared to the total energy expenditure) to assign to obtain the desirable farm increase:
    • Underweight: + 365 kcal
    • Normopeso: + 300 kcal
    • Overweight: + 200 kcal
    • Obesity: + 200 kcal
  5. In case of complete rest:
    • Underweight: + 365 kcal
    • Normopeso: + 200 kcal
    • Overweight: + 100 kcal
    • Obesity: + 100 kcal

If you want to continue to deepen the topic you can also read "How many calories in the pregnancy diet?".

Examples of increased energy

It was once said that in pregnancy you must eat twice as much; nothing could be more incorrect, even if in fact we feed ourselves more to satisfy the nutritional requirements of two organisms.
Let's give some practical examples to get an idea of ​​how many more foods should be consumed while respecting "more or less" the nutritional balance and food choices suitable for gestation:

  • 365 kcal: wholemeal pasta 60 g, tomato sauce 100 g, parmesan 20 g (1 cube), extra virgin olive oil 10g (2 teaspoons)
  • 300 kcal: wholemeal bread 75 g (3 slices), tuna in brine 50 g (1 can, drained), extra virgin olive oil 5 g (1 teaspoon)
  • 200 kcal: boiled beans 80 g, chicken breast 50 g, extra virgin olive oil 5 g (1 tsp)
  • 100 kcal: 250 g semi-skimmed milk yogurt (2 jars) or 250 ml semi-skimmed milk (1 cup).

Automatic calculator

It is possible to use the following calculation form to obtain an INDICATIVE estimate of how many calories the diet should provide during pregnancy.

Height cm
Weight Kg
Age 18-29 30-59
Work Housewife or domestic worker Saleswoman Executive Clerk Agricultural work Building work Freelance Blue-collar worker (light) Blue-collar (heavy) Student
Physical Activity None Up to 2 hours per week From 3 to 5 hours per week Over 5 hours per week

Evaluation of the weight of the pregnant woman
Additional Daily Calories for Pregnancy Calories
Standard daily calorie requirement Calories
Calorie needs in pregnancy Calories


How Much Protein Should You Take?

The pregnancy diet requires a slightly higher protein intake than is estimated for normal.
This is because the "protein deposition value" (amount of peptides actually used by the organism for biological functions) corresponds to 70% (higher than normal).
However, considering that the average population has a much higher than normal amount of protein, it is often not necessary to increase it further.
In any case, it is advisable to add 6 grams per day of peptides in addition to the normal intake, which corresponds more or less to 13% of the global energy.
To give an example, in a 2000 kcal diet, 13% of protein corresponds to 260 kcal, or 65 g; adding 6 g a protein fraction of 71 g is obtained.
6 grams of protein are contained, for example, in just under two glasses of semi-skimmed milk (150-200 ml).
To guarantee an adequate biological value (quantity and ratio of essential amino acids) it would be advisable for at least 1/3 of the proteins to come from food of animal origin.


How Much Fat Should You Take?

The percentage of fat in the pregnancy diet is equal to the normal one, i.e. 25% of total calories.
To give an example, in a 200 kcal diet, 25% of lipids corresponds to 500 kcal, or 55-56 g; of these, most must be unsaturated and only 7-10% composed of saturated, hydrogenated and trans-conformation fats.
In 90-93% of unsaturated foods, it is FUNDAMENTAL that 0,5-2,0% of essential and semi-essential omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and 4-8% of essential and semi-essential omega 6 polyunsaturated fats are included.
For their importance in fetal development, it is necessary that among the omega 3 there are at least 250 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) + another 100-200 mg of DHA per day.
In healthy women, the cholesterol content of the daily diet should be less than 300 mg / day.
There are no indications regarding phytosterols and lecithins.

Carbohydrates and fiber

How many carbohydrates and fibers do you need to take?

Once the amount of protein and fat has been established, the carbohydrate intake is simple to calculate; represents all the remaining energy.
For example, in a 2.000 kcal diet, total carbohydrates make up 1.216 kcal or 324 g (60%).
The percentage of simple sugars must be approximately 12% (240 kcal or 64 g); it can be higher ONLY if it consists of fructose and lactose naturally present in foods (milk, fruit and vegetables).
It is essential that in the case of hyperglycemia or diabetes gravidarum, the glycemic load is reduced (up to a percentage of carbohydrates equal to 45%, but only on the advice of the attending physician) and the glycemic index of meals.
In the pregnancy diet, at least 30g / day of fiber is essential; due to some normal but "annoying" changes (pressure and slight displacement of the colon) an alteration of the hive may occur.
Drinking a lot of water and increasing the fibers (especially soluble or viscous) can soften the stool by improving the regularity of the bowel movements.

Minerals and vitamins in the diet for pregnancy

How many minerals and vitamins do you need to take?

It depends on the specific nutrient.
The intake of certain minerals and vitamins does not change significantly during pregnancy; others, on the other hand, play a decisive role.
Let's see the most important, that is, those most involved in the growth of the embryo / fetus:

  • Minerals:
    • Iron: it must be supplied mainly from foods of animal origin (meat, egg yolk and fishery products) to ensure its bioavailability. Reasoning exclusively in food terms, we could say that, in compliance with the general nutritional balance, it is necessary for the pregnant woman to take as much as possible (it is almost impossible to reach 22-27 mg / day with diet alone).
    • Calcium: it is recommended to ensure about 800-1.200 mg / day (it is mainly contained in milk and derivatives).
  • vitamins:
    • Thiamine or vitamin B1: 1,2-1,4 mg / day
    • Riboflavina o B2: 1,4-1,7 mg/die
    • Niacina o PP: 17-22 mg/die
    • Pyridosine or B6: 1,6-2,0 mg/die.
    • Ascorbic acid or C: 70-100 mg / day
    • Retinol equivalent or A: 500-700 μg / day
    • Folic acid: 520-600 μg / day
    • Cobalamin o B12: 2,2-2,6 g/die
    • Calciferol or D: 1,0-1,4 μg / day.

Water in the diet for pregnancy

How much water do you need to take?

In addition to that present in food, it is advisable to drink at least 2 liters of water a day.

Foods to Avoid

Sweeteners: are they bad?

Common sweeteners in your country are considered safe.
The general recommendation is always to use as little as possible.
However it is recommended not to exceed 7 g / day.

Alcohol - is it bad?

Small amounts, equivalent to about 100-150ml of wine or beer per day, drunk AT MEAL are considered safe. However, it would be better to completely avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Caffeine and other nerves: are they bad?

The overall recommendation remains not to exceed and to evaluate the total content of stimulants in food and beverages.
Better not to exceed 300 mg / day of caffeine, that is the content of 3 coffees.

What foods should you totally avoid in your pregnancy diet?

Toxoplasmosis and Food Diseases

During pregnancy it is important to exclude from the diet raw or undercooked foods of animal origin, including sausages (due to the risk of toxoplasmosis and other food diseases that are very dangerous for the fetus, such as listeriosis).
Pay particular attention to meats purchased directly from the small farmer for personal use, as these meats are often not subject to the same controls as farm animals.

General rules for preventing food poisoning in pregnancy
  • Avoid raw meat such as salami and carpaccio; eat only well-cooked meat.
  • Reheat ready-made foods such as hot dogs, sausages and other meat products to a boil. Avoid eating products for which heating is impossible (for example, raw ham or salami).
  • Do not eat raw eggs or sauces made with raw eggs (e.g. mayonnaise)
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water after touching the above foods for at least 20 seconds. Cutting boards, plates and cutlery should also be washed thoroughly after use.
  • Avoid soft cheeses such as feta, brie, gorgonzola, camembert etc. On the other hand, you can eat hard, processed cheeses, based on milk cream, yogurt, etc.
  • Do not eat raw fish or smoked fish (e.g. salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, etc.), unless it is contained in a well-cooked dish (e.g. baked pasta). Canned fish can be eaten.
  • Avoid pates or spreads if refrigerated. They can only be consumed if sterilized (canned).
  • Do not drink raw or unpasteurized milk and do not eat foods derived from it, such as unpasteurized cheese (check the label).
  • In general, it is a good idea to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating them. Avoid contact with potentially infectious material (eg faeces of dead animals or animals). Do not use untreated manure to fertilize vegetables.
  • Wear gloves when gardening or any other activity that requires touching the ground or objects that may have come into contact with the feces of wild animals (mice, pigeons, etc.) or domestic animals (especially cats).

Other Tips

  • Although during pregnancy it is important to maintain a high fiber intake with the diet, through the consumption of a wide range of foods of plant origin, we do not recommend the use of supplements such as bran, in order not to excessively hinder the absorption of some mineral salts. Furthermore, if taken in excess, the fiber could even cause diarrhea, bloating and flatulence.
  • According to the individual predisposition, all those foods, such as legumes, which in predisposed subjects favor the appearance of bloating and abdominal colic will therefore be limited.

Increased Need

What nutritional needs do we need to take care of most during pregnancy?

As we have seen, the need for some nutrients increases significantly during pregnancy.
In particular, during this delicate and happy period of life it is important to take the right doses of folate, iron and calcium with the diet.
During pregnancy, the need for proteins and other vitamins also slightly increases, such as C (ascorbic acid), A or retinol, B6 (or pyridoxine), B12 (cyanocobalamin) and D (calciferol).
Due to the increased demand for folic acid, during pregnancy it is therefore important to include a wide variety of vegetables in one's diet, especially raw, but without neglecting the hygiene aspect.

Recommended and Adequate Intake for the Population - Your Country's Human Nutrition Society - SINU, 2014
Soccer Phosphorus and Potassium Potassium Ferro* Zinc Copper Selenium Iodine Vit.B1
(mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (μg) (mg)
1200 700 3900 27* 11 1,2 60 200 1,4

Vit.B2 Niacin
Vit.B6 Vit.B12 Vit. C Folic Acid ^ Vit.A (RE) ° Vit.D
(mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg) (mg)
1,7 22,0 2,0 2,6 100 600* 700* 1,4


* The iron intake in pregnancy, which corresponds to the lower fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality, is such that it cannot be easily covered with a balanced diet, therefore a supplement is recommended.
^ An increase in the intake of folate in the diet during the periconceptional period constitutes a protective factor against spina bifida in the unborn child.
° In pregnancy, due to the known teratogenic effects linked to possible excessive doses, vitamin A supplements should be taken only on the recommendation of the doctor, and in any case with doses that do not exceed 6 mg of RE

Increase your iron intake

Foods rich in iron

Food Iron [mg / 100g] Food Iron [mg / 100g]
Spleen, bovine 42,00 Flour, soy 6,90
Liver, pig 18,00 Soy, dry 6,90
Tea, in leaves 15,20 Lung, bovine 6,70
Unsweetened cocoa powder 14,30 Chickpeas, dried, raw 6,40
wheat bran 12,90 Cashews 6,00
Liver, sheep 12,60 Rana 6,00
Sturgeon, eggs (caviar) 11,80 Oyster 6,00
black pepper 11,20 Mussel or mussel 5,80
Wheat germ 10,00 Muesli 5,60
Mint 9,50 Lupins, soaked 5,50
Borlotti beans, dried, raw 9,00 Basil 5,50
Liver, equine 9,00 Redfish 5,50
Cannellini beans, dried, raw 8,80 Apricots, dehydrated 5,30
Black-eyed beans, dried 8,80 Heart, pig 5,30
Liver, bovine 8,80 Oatmeal 5,20
Rosemary 8,50 Rughetta or arugula 5,20
Beans, dried, raw 8,00 Dried shelled broad beans 5,00
Lentils, dried, raw 8,00 Apricots, dried 5,00
Kidney, bovine 8,00 Heart, equine 5,00
Green radicchio 7,80 Heart, sheep 5,00
Pistachios 7,30 Dark chocolate 5,00

Increase your folic acid intake

Foods rich in folic acid

250-300 µg 90-180 µg 50-89 µg 20-49 µg 1-19 µg
Bran or corn flakes
Wheat germ
Brewer's yeast 1250 µg
Red beets
Broccoli apiece
Frozen artichokes
Brussels sprouts
Green broccoli cabbage
Dried mushrooms
Bean sprouts
arugula (rocket salad)
Dried chickpeas
Dried beans
Green cabbage
Fresh beans
Fresh peas
Fresh chestnuts
Pine nuts
Red cabbage
Chiodini mushrooms
Mushrooms ovules
Porcini mushrooms
Yellow peppers
Green radicchio
Frozen vegetables and legumes
Freshly squeezed orange or grapefruit juice
Canned peas
Belgian chicory
Salad tomatoes
Peeled tomatoes
Red radish
yellow pumpkin
Canned chickpeas
Canned beans
Dried dates
Medlar, currants
Pear, plum

CONTINUE: Example of diet during pregnancy "

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