The Pregnancy Diet: Eating for Two, Eating Twice as Nice!

Within minutes after you announce your pregnancy, you’ll hear, “You’ll be eating for two now!” And yes, you are eating for two – although not the calories required of two adult people.

Without a doubt, there will be days (especially after morning sickness) that you’ll feel ferociously hungry and you’ll want to devour not just one piece of cake, but maybe two, and a bag of M&Ms to boot. Don’t sweat it. The hormone progesterone goes a little crazy during pregnancy, which we can blame for the increased desire to chow down. Here are some guidelines to keep it all in check:

How Much Should I Gain?

The ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends the following weight gain during your pregnancy: if you are at a normal weight (BMI 19.9-26), you should gain 25-35 pounds. Overweight (BMI 26-29) women should gain no more than 15-25 pounds, while obese women (BMI greater than 29) should strive for an 11-20 pound weight gain. If you start off your pregnancy underweight, (BMI of less than 19.8) your goal should be 28-40 pounds. 

Of course, these are just general guidelines. Every expectant mom will determine what range is best for her based on her own specific conditions and the doctor’s advice.

How Much Can I Eat?

You are supporting your baby’s growth and development, plus your own maternal body. More calories are required, but probably not as much as you think. A good rule of thumb by most physicians is to take in about 300 extra calories a day as you begin your second trimester and continue your pregnancy. More calories will be needed if you’re carrying more than one baby. (If you decide to breastfeed, your extra calorie needs rises to 500).

Other factors like physical activity, carrying multiples, and certain medical conditions may warrant more calories. Chat with your doctor and decide together what is best for you and your baby.

How Does it All Add up?

Your baby’s weight factors into your weight gain, but your body is also doing its part to put on the pounds. An increase in blood volume (about 50%) as well as muscle, fluid and tissue contribute to the readout on the scale. Let’s say you were to gain about 24-32 pounds, the breakdown of that weight would look something like this:

  • Baby - 6½ to 9 pounds
  • Breast enlargement - 1 to 3 pounds
  • Placenta -1½ pounds
  • Amniotic fluid - 2 pounds
  • Uterus enlargement - 2 pounds
  • Fat stores and muscle development - 6 to 8 pounds
  • Increased blood volume - 3 to 4 pounds
  • Increased fluid volume - 2 to 3 pounds

What Should I Eat?

It’s not difficult to add an additional 300-500 calories a day while you’re pregnant, so basically, you’re just adding more of the healthy food you already eat…  right? It’s OK if you haven’t been the model of good nutrition, but now that you have a little one growing inside, you’re more aware of what’s going in your mouth. Good for you!

Some days, it will be easier than others to eat healthy. The good days should have complex carbs (grains, nuts, seeds, brown rice, whole-grain breads, and pastas), lean protein (meat, fish, eggs, legumes, and beans), lean dairy, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats (olive oil, walnuts, almonds, avocado, and flax seeds). Drink plenty of water too – about 8-12 cups. Don’t wince yet, that can include thirst quenchers like veggie juice, seltzer, fruit juice, low-fat milk, and chamomile or ginger tea. You don’t have to give up your morning coffee or tea. Just limit to 2 (5 oz.) cups of coffee or 3 cups (5 oz.) of tea.

What NOT to Eat

  • Lunch meats (cold cuts or deli meat), fermented or dry sausages, refrigerated pâté or meat spreads. (Canned versions are OK). Rare or undercooked meats or poultry. Meat must be heated to 165°. Pregnant women are twenty times more likely to develop Listeria, a foodborne illness that may cause premature delivery, miscarriage, or even fetal death.
  • Cheeses like brie, feta, camembert, blue cheese, and any soft cheese unless they are labeled “Made with pasteurized milk.”
  • Raw eggs or anything that contains raw eggs, like cookie dough or Caesar dressing.
  • All raw fish, seared or undercooked fish/shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops), tilefish, swordfish, king mackerel. Fish with elevated levels of methylmercury can cause brain damage or delayed development. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are an environmental pollutant and should be avoided too. Some fish that is lower in mercury may be safe in moderation. Talk with your doctor first.
  • Beer, wine, and hard liquor.

Currently eating for two (or three or four)? What’s on the menu? Share your typical diet with us!

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