Expert advice
Pregnant woman holds a bowl of dried fruits in front of her belly.

HEALTH & WELLBEING

Nutrition during pregnancy

with MAM expert and nutritionist Marlein Stasche


Eating for two during pregnancy? As far as certain nutrients are concerned, some of the requirements during pregnancy really are much higher – but calorie requirements do not increase to the same extent. In this interview, MAM expert Marlein Stasche, an experienced nutritionist, tells us which foods are important to eat during pregnancy, what you should avoid and how much weight you should gain. 

Which foods and nutrients are particularly good and important during pregnancy?


Eat 2 pieces of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables every day:
  • Choose wholegrain bread, basic muesli, wholegrain rice and wholegrain pasta instead of white flour products
  • Use olive, rape and linseed oil
  • Eat an increased amount of sea fish from waters with low levels of pollutants, even if they you are taking iodine substitutes

Does the nutrient requirement remain the same throughout pregnancy?

No. During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, 800 micrograms of folic acid per day are recommended as a dietary supplement. However, anyone who has already taken folic acid tablets before pregnancy can manage with 400 micrograms of folic acid daily throughout the entire pregnancy. 
Contrary to what many women think, the energy requirement of expectant mothers increases only slightly and then only in the last three months of pregnancy. You should aim for about 10% more calories - that’s about 200-250 kcal per day, which means roughly one sandwich or a portion of muesli more every day. 

Which foods and stimulants should be avoided during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, alcohol and nicotine are taboo.  However, even harmless foods can trigger dangerous infections at this stage. The immune system of pregnant women and the unborn child are actually more susceptible to bacteria and viruses. That’s why it is important to avoid foods that can transmit Listeria, Toxoplasma and Salmonella. 

You should observe the following rules:
  • Wash your hands (before cooking and before eating)
  • Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly
  • Don’t eat any dishes with raw or incompletely cooked eggs, meat and fish
  • Stay away from raw milk or dairy products and cheese made from unpasteurized milk

Expressed in a positive way, you can slightly vary the rule for travelling to distant countries: “Wash it, boil it, cook it or forget it!” 

Can you drink coffee during pregnancy?

Caffeine is allowed, but only in moderation. It is important to bear in mind that caffeine is not only found in coffee, but also in black and green tea as well as mate tea, cola, ice tea and energy drinks. The caffeine stimulant is also passed on to the child via the placenta and thus stimulates the unborn child’s metabolism and heart rate. Excessive amounts can make the baby restless. You should not exceed two cups or glasses of caffeinated drinks a day. 

How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?

Weight gain during pregnancy can vary greatly from one individual to another and also depends on what your starting weight was. Just keep an eye on how you react – sudden weight gains can also be caused by water retention and indicate illness. Ideally, your weight should not change much during the first 3 months of pregnancy. 
From the 4th month onwards, it’s OK to gain about 300 g each week. The optimal weight gain for normal-weight women is 10 to 16 kilograms in total. Rapid and/or excessive weight gain should ideally be avoided, as it can put a lot of strain on the tissue and can promote stretch marks

What helps with morning sickness?

First of all, the good news: morning sickness is neither a disease nor a sign of an unhappy pregnancy! It occurs in more than 50% of pregnant women between the 6th and 20th week of pregnancy 
The cause is believed to be the altered hormone level. Triggers are often odors that were previously not perceived as strong or unpleasant. It may help to eat smaller meals more frequently. Taking a walk outdoors and airing the room frequently are also beneficial for many pregnant women. As well as homeopathic remedies, there are also herbal remedies against morning sickness – it would be best to seek medical advice to find the right remedy. In any case, you don’t have to torture yourself, but perhaps just try out different methods. As is so often the case, there is no such thing as THE ultimate tip that helps every pregnant woman.

side view pregnant woman with hands on belly

Will my eating habits influence my baby?

 It is believed that mothers can influence the taste preferences of their baby even in the womb through their eating habits. Babies develop their sense of taste from around the 6th month of pregnancy. This is when they begin to perceive the different flavors of the food the mother has eaten. If the mother eats a balanced and varied diet, the baby will benefit later. It will be more open to new and varied foods. 

The mistaken belief is still prevalent that if the mother eats a low allergen diet during pregnancy, she will protect her child from allergies. That is simply wrong. Restrictions and/or doing without certain foods are not sensible and also carry the risk of an inadequate supply of nutrients. Naturally, a pregnant woman should avoid any foods to which she herself is allergic during pregnancy. 

A pregnant woman’s diet should include everything that she can tolerate. It is advisable to eat sea fish, especially salmon and herring, because the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids they contain provide protection during pregnancy against the development of allergies in the child. 


Will an iron deficiency have negative consequences for my baby?

During pregnancy, the iron requirement doubles to 30 mg per day. Approximately 50 percent of pregnant women develop an iron deficiency. The unborn child can cover its iron requirements for a certain time at the expense of the mother’s iron reserves. However, it is better to remedy the iron deficiency with a dietary supplement. 

Iron deficiency can lead to low birth weight, disrupt brain maturation and increase the risk of premature births. 

These foods contain a high level of iron: 

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Green vegetables
  • Wholegrain products
  • Nuts
  • Beetroot

Can the baby’s development be improved by certain foods?

Pregnant women do not need to eat a special diet. They can meet their additional requirements for numerous nutrients with a balanced diet, as recommended for the general population. Exceptions are the critical nutrients folic acid and iodine. If you are unsure, it is best to talk to your doctor about suitable dietary supplements.

Vegetables, fruit, wholegrain products, milk and dairy products, low-fat meat and high-fat sea fish should be eaten regularly. Calorie-free or low-calorie drinks are also recommended. A vegetarian diet with milk, dairy products and eggs (ovo-lacto-vegetarian) can cover the need for most nutrients even during pregnancy, provided you have a broad knowledge of the critical nutrients.

In the case of a vegan diet, it is essential that you take a vitamin B12 substitute. Sometimes, it is also advisable to take a dietary supplement in addition to iodine and folic acid. A blood test can provide information about which specific nutrients are missing. After that, you and your doctor can decide whether and to what extent a supplement is necessary.

Marlein Stasche, portrait

MAM Expert

Marlein Stasche
Marlein Stasche, a graduate oecotrophologist, has already written over 30 nutrition guides and bestsellers under her pen name Anne Iburg. She has her own practice for nutrition therapy in Kaiserslautern, Germany. You can find more information about the author and her current books at www.marlein-stasche.de

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