Nutrition during pregnancy

Nutrition during pregnancy

During pregnancy it is important to continue to eat a healthy balanced diet. For women with a normal pre-pregnancy weight, a weight gain of 11-16 kg over the pregnancy is normal and an extra 200 calories per day in the last three months of pregnancy is advised. No extra calories are needed until that point.

Aim to eat a healthy diet (which everyone should be eating, not just pregnant women). This should include a variety of foods including:

  • Starch-based foods (such as bread, cereals, potatoes, rice, and pasta).
  • Fruit and vegetables (wash them well)
  • Plenty of fibre, which can be found in wholegrain breads as well as fruit and vegetables.
  • Protein foods such as meat, fish, pulses, chicken, etc, every day. Choose lean meat, cut the fat off red meat and the skin off chicken.
  • Dairy foods, such as yoghurt, milk and cheese.

Try to avoid adding fat and sugar.

Include foods with plenty of iron, calcium and folic acid – a growing baby needs these nutrients right from the start of the pregnancy. Iron is mainly found in red meat, pulses, dried fruit, green vegetables and fortified cereals. Dairy contains a lot of calcium, such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. (Low-fat milk, cheeses and yoghurts usually contain just as much calcium as the full-fat varieties.).

Try to drink 1,5 – 2 liters of water a day and avoid drinking more than 1 or 2 cups of coffee (with caffeine) a day. Smoothies are healthy but also contain a lot of (natural) sugars, one glass a day is advised.

What is safe to eat and drink?

WATER – we advise to drink at least 1,5 – 2 liters of water a day to stay hydrated.


EGGS – you can eat all variations of prepared eggs! Hard boiled, soft boiled, raw eggs in fresh mayonnaise etc. Of course you’d rather not catch the salmonella virus, however it can’t be passed on through the placenta so the baby stays safe.


CHEESE – soft cheese made from pasteurised milk (all hard cheese are also safe to eat) gouda – cheddar – peccorino – manchego – parmezan cheese – etc.


FISH – you can eat all sorts of fish, also raw fish like sushi and haring. However, make sure the fish is fresh. Therefor only buy your fish at the fishmonger or sushi restaurant and eat it that same day.


FRUIT & VEGGIES – 200g of veggies and 2 pieces fruit a day. Vary between the sorts and wash them well

What to avoid?

RAW MEAT – avoid raw red meat (steak – roast beef – ossenworst – filet americain – carpaccio – steak tartare) as this can contain toxoplasmosis. This parasite can cause complications in your pregnancy. It can be found in raw meat and on the droppings of young cats. So, only eat your meat cooked properly/’well-done’ and wear gloves when working in the garden or when cleaning the cat litter.


CHEESE – soft unpasteurized / au lait cru cheese camembert – brie – roquefort – gorgonzola – etc. This can cause listeria which is a germ that usually doesn’t cause problems in non-pregnant people. However, pregnant women are more likely to become infected with listeria and it sometimes causes miscarriage, stillbirth or infections in the baby after birth. However not all soft cheese like camembert and brie are unpasteurized! Most of them are safe to eat. Check the packaging.

NB: Listeria can be found in more than unpasteurized cheeses. Also be careful with:

  • Undercooked meats. This may occur in some pre-cooked meats and pre-prepared meals. Make sure all meat foods are cooked until piping hot.
  • Pâtés – including vegetable pâtés.
  • Vacuum packed salmon or other prepackaged fish. If you get your fish from the fish shop its fresh and you can eat it.
  • Unpasteurised milk. Note: goat’s milk is often unpasteurised, and goat’s milk products such as cheeses are often made from unpasteurised milk.
  • Raw vegetable and fruit salads should only be eaten when fresh and well refrigerated.


FISH – don’t eat prepacked or vacuumed fish raw. When properly heated however, it’s safe to eat.


VITAMIN A – don’t take any vitamin A supplements and don’t eat too much organ meat (i.e. liver or paté). If you have a healthy diet you will get enough vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can be harmful for the baby. So, avoid liver and liver products such as liver pâté and cod liver oil supplements.


CAFEÏNE – coffee, tea (with theïne), cola, energy drinks like red bull. Max 1 cup of coffee a day


Ideally take folic acid tablets from at least one month before you get pregnant, and continue taking them until at least the end of the 12th week of pregnancy – even if you are healthy and have a good diet. Folic acid is a naturally occurring vitamin found in spinach, sprouts, broccoli, green beans and potatoes. Some breads and breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid. Because of the substantial benefits of folic acid, some countries routinely fortify staple foods, such as wheat, corn flour or rice, with folic acid. You need a good supply of folic acid when you are pregnant to help with the development of the baby. If you take folic acid tablets in early pregnancy you reduce the risk of having a baby born with a spinal cord problem such as spina bifida. You can buy folic acid tablets from pharmacies.

Vitamin D is needed for growth and supplements are recommended for all pregnant women, breast-feeding women and breast-fed babies. The dose if you are pregnant or breast-feeding is 400 units (10 micrograms) daily. Some experts think that women who get little or no sunshine on their skin need a higher dose, such as 800 units (20 micrograms) daily. This is because most of the vitamin D that we get is made in the skin with the help of sunlight.

Are you a vegetarian? make sure you eat enough products containing vitamin B and iron, e.g. wholegrain products, potatoes, beans, eggs and dairy.

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