Nutrition during pregnancy: the most important nutrients for mother and child

Calories and macronutrients in the diet of an expectant mother

Everyone is still talking about the fact that a pregnant woman has to eat for two. It is true that an expectant mother should take care in her diet that her growing child and she herself are provided with the sufficient amount of nutrients – twice the amount of calories must be consumed, respectively. should you nevertheless not take to itself.

Don't double down on calories

Did you know that the calorie requirement is only slightly increased during pregnancy?
On average, an expectant mother needs from ca. the 13. Pregnancy week only 250 kilocalories (kcal) more than before pregnancy. From the 25. In the second week of pregnancy the requirement increases a little bit, but also from this time on the requirement is only 500 kcal higher.
Pregnant women do not need to eat many more calories – certainly not twice as many.

Protein: an important macronutrient for expectant mothers

However, you can access valuable sources of protein. From the second half of pregnancy, a woman needs almost twice as much protein as she did before pregnancy. Include fish, meat, milk and dairy products, eggs, whole grain cereals and legumes in your diet.

Carbohydrates and dietary fibers

A balanced diet with healthy carbohydrates during pregnancy has a positive effect on the development of the unborn child. The Swiss Society for Nutrition recommends that at least two servings of fruit and three servings of starchy products (e.g., cereals, vegetables, fruit and vegetables) should be used as a source of carbohydrates. B. Bread, oatmeal, pasta, rice) to be taken throughout the day.

Prefer the healthy whole grain varieties, which contain a high proportion of dietary fiber (dietary fiber). This will not only increase your intake of vitamins, minerals and trace elements, but can also support your digestion.


Although the need for fat does not increase during pregnancy, it is important to make sure that you meet your requirements for essential fatty acids. You will learn more about omega-3 fatty acids later in this article.

The increased need for micronutrients should not be underestimated

Vitamins, like minerals and trace elements, are micronutrients. At no other time in life does a woman have a greater need for micronutrients than during pregnancy and lactation.

Despite a healthy and balanced diet, it is sometimes difficult to meet these additional requirements and thus support the healthy development of the child.

For this reason, it makes sense to take certain micronutrients or fatty acids in addition via a dietary supplement. To find out which micronutrients you should take in addition to a balanced diet during pregnancy, read this article.

Vitamin D

The need for vitamin D in this phase of life is not higher than usual, but it is still important for pregnant women to pay attention to an adequate vitamin D level. Vitamin D is not only important for bone formation, but also reduces the risk of complications during pregnancy.
To find out which vitamin D blood levels are optimal for a pregnant woman, read our article "Nutrient supplements in pregnancy".

Percentage of additional micronutrient requirements of pregnant women

The most important micronutrients for pregnant women at a glance

Vitamin A

In the first three months of pregnancy, very high levels of vitamin A can cause malformations in the embryo. This is why pregnant women should not take liver and liver products incl. Eat cod liver oil. You should not avoid vitamin A altogether, however, because vitamin A deficiency can also lead to complications for mother and child.

Vitamin C

The well-known vitamin C is responsible, among other things, for the formation of collagen. This is responsible for the elasticity of skin, bones and blood vessels. An adequate supply through the diet and any dietary supplements will benefit both mother and child. So build good sources of vitamin C into your diet. You don't even have to eat oranges every day to do this – there are even better sources of vitamin C like e.g. Hot peppers, broccoli and kiwi fruit.

Folic acid and other B vitamins

Every woman should be aware of the importance of folic acid during pregnancy before she becomes pregnant. The folic acid requirement of an expectant mother is more than 80 % higher than that of a woman who is not expecting a child. Especially in 1. In the first trimester of pregnancy, it is very important to have sufficient folic acid, because this can prevent malformations such as e.g. an "open back in the baby can be prevented

In the article "Which micronutrients should I take during pregnancy" learn what to look for when choosing a preparation with folic acid. The most important thing first: Start taking them before pregnancy.

Not only the need for folic acid is increased during pregnancy, but also for other B vitamins (thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (B6), cobalamin (B12), biotin, niacin, pantothenic acid). All perform many different important functions during pregnancy. Thus, a sufficient supply is important for the prevention of complications during pregnancy. The consequences of nutrient deficiencies for mother and child can be found later in this article.

Vitamin K

In the second half of pregnancy, your growing child builds up a lot of bone mass. Because vitamin K is also important for bone formation, you should eat foods that contain a lot of vitamin K regularly during this phase. This includes broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.


Due to the increased hormone production of the thyroid glands and the increased excretion through the urine, the need for iodine increases by 67% during pregnancy.

Iodine is involved in the development of mental and motor skills of the fetus. Even a mild to moderate iodine deficiency in the mother during pregnancy can increase the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in the child.


The body of an expectant mother must produce millions of new red blood cells to meet the increased oxygen demand. In addition, the fetus must be supplied with sufficient iron for blood formation. To fulfill these functions, a pregnant woman's iron requirements double. The mother's iron reserves are severely strained as a result, and it is difficult to meet the requirement solely through a balanced diet during pregnancy.

Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA

It is becoming more and more known how valuable omega-3 fatty acids are for humans. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are two important omega-3 fatty acids and are also very important building blocks for the development of the brain and eyes in growing children.
Did you know that a person's brain cells are formed almost exclusively during pregnancy and the first year of life? An adequate supply of the most important fatty acids is therefore essential for life. Vegetable oils, nuts and fatty fish are good sources of the important omega-3 fatty acids.


Expectant mothers need about 50 % more zinc than before pregnancy. These additional requirements can often not be met by diet alone. Important food sources of zinc include sprouted rye and wheat, nuts such as pecans or cashews, and beef, pork, or cheese.

Zinc is involved in over 300 metabolic processes in the body of mother and child. An adequate supply of zinc can protect a pregnant woman from colds and infections and reduce the risk of gestational diabetes.

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