Food and pregnancy: how to eat well?

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

Nutrition plays an important role, whether for the mother-to-be or for the good growth of the baby. Here are some tips to help you take care of yourself during this period of life full of changes and discoveries.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

Sufficient energy intake

Because good nutrition is essential to allow the future baby to grow well, during pregnancy, it is better to eat twice as much as to eat for two.

Energy needs gradually increase throughout pregnancy. Thus, they are not increased in the first trimester, increasing by 150 kcal/day in the second trimester and by 250 kcal/day in the third trimester.

No need to double your intake, you just need to adjust them by increasing your intake of starchy foods during meals if you feel that you are more hungry and by adding snacks if you feel that you are hungry during the morning or later. the afternoon. Indeed, carbohydrates and, mainly complex sugars, are a source of energy and constitute the majority of the fetus’s diet.

To avoid cravings, remember to maintain a regular schedule of 3 meals/day and add snacks, if necessary. In addition, if you crave sweet products, try to include them as dessert in a meal.

Nutrient intake to help baby grow well

The requirements for certain nutrients may be increased during pregnancy. Whether to allow good growth of the fetus and also to allow the mother’s body to adapt to this period of pregnancy and to prepare for the breastfeeding period which may follow.

  • The proteins, necessary for the maintenance of the mother’s body and essential for the growth and construction of fetal tissues as well as the development of the uterus. The increase in proteins is mainly achieved through the additional consumption of dairy products (3/day), also the main source of calcium whose needs are also increased because it is essential for building the baby’s skeleton.
  • Folic acid or vitamin B9, essential for the baby’s growth. During the first weeks of pregnancy, it plays an important role in the proper development of the nervous system of the embryo.
    The necessary folate intake can be provided through food in fresh, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables (spinach, watercress, lamb’s lettuce, melon, nuts, chickpeas, chestnuts, dandelion, yeast), but are often insufficient. Your doctor or midwife will prescribe a vitamin B9 supplement, if possible at least 4 weeks before conception, and up to 12 weeks of amenorrhea.
  • Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium and is mainly produced by the body under the action of the sun’s rays on the skin. You will also find it in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) or in dairy products enriched with vitamin D. Supplementation is recommended if you are due to give birth at the end of winter or in spring.
  • The iron, essential, especially at the end of pregnancy, to avoid any risk of deficiency responsible for anemia. You will find it in dried vegetables, fish, meat. Regular blood tests are recommended in order to be able to plan supplementation, if necessary.
  • Magnesium: supplementation may be advised by your general practitioner or gynecologist.

Some points to watch out for during pregnancy

  • At the start of your pregnancy, you will be prescribed a blood test to find out if you are immune to toxoplasmosis, because contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy can be serious for the fetus. This infection is caused by a parasite present in soil, plants or meat. Cats can also transmit it. It is therefore preferable to contact your midwife, your gynecologist or your dietitian who will tell you the measures to take.
  • Just like toxoplasmosis, listeriosis (caused by the bacteria Listeria Monocytogenes) during pregnancy can be serious for the fetus. Here too, a health professional will be able to tell you the measures to take to avoid any risk of contamination.
  • Alcohol and tobacco are prohibited during pregnancy.
  • Maximum 1 soy product/day because soy contains phytoestrogens. Products enriched with phytosterols (anti-cholesterol products) are also not recommended.
  • Fish such as swordfish, marlin, siki, shark or lamprey are limited to a maximum of 150 g/week because of their potential mercury content.
  • Liver should be avoided due to its high vitamin A content.
  • Products that are too sweet should be limited because they provide a lot of energy and few essential elements for you or the baby.

And what should I do if I have some inconveniences due to pregnancy?

The most frequently encountered inconveniences are as follows:

  • Nausea and vomiting : these are especially common in the first trimester.

To try to relieve them, try to break up your diet by eating less during meals, avoiding fatty dishes, which are more difficult to digest, and incorporating snacks. Additionally, it is best to eat slowly to allow for better chewing and digestion. The appearance of nausea is favored in cases of severe hunger, so it is better to avoid skipping meals, especially breakfast.

  • Stomach acid and heartburn : they are more common at the end of pregnancy.

To relieve them:

  • Eat slowly and chew well
  • Split your meals by reducing the quantities and incorporating snacks.
  • Avoid fatty, acidic, spicy foods and coffee.
  • Avoid large volumes of water and liquids during meals. Better to drink outside of meals.
  • Avoid going to bed quickly after a meal. It is better to be in a semi-recumbent position, propped up by cushions or your pregnancy pillow, for example.
  • The constipation : first of all, pay attention to your hydration. For your transit to be regular, it is necessary to hydrate yourself sufficiently (at least 1L5/day). If you feel that your transit is slowed down, you can choose water rich in magnesium and take special “constipation” herbal teas.

Sufficient fiber intake is also necessary, so choose foods rich in fiber: fruits and vegetables, whole or semi-complete cereals, whole flax seeds, etc. be sure to move regularly (unless medically contraindicated) by walking, swimming, etc. avoid laxatives without medical advice.