Pregnancy: Are You Really Eating for Two?

pregnantIf you’re pregnant, you may be worried about adding too many calories to your diet. But, with everyone from your mum to your great aunt Bessie assuring you “It’s okay, you’re eating for two!” you’d be forgiven for thinking pregnancy was a time for indulging!

Is that really the case?

Unfortunately, no it’s not! Pregnancy it not a time for indulging unnecessarily in snacks of cookies and potato chips.

So, how much should you eat during pregnancy?

Calorie requirements during pregnancy are dependant on physical activity and pre-pregnancy weight.

  • In the UK, we recommend a 100-calorie increase per day for the first six months, and 200-calorie per day increase for the last three months
  • This recommendation assumes that during pregnancy activity levels fall and you become a little more sedentary. However this is not always the case.
  • In the US, an extra 300-calories per day are encouraged in the final six months.
  • Please remember, these are merely guidelines; I believe women should learn to listen their own bodies first and foremost.

I’m sure you’ll agree the recommended increase in calorie intake is pretty low in comparison to what many people eat during pregnancy.

Gaining too much weight in pregnancy can actually increase your risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. So, try to control your food portions, and tune into real hunger, rather than eating for emotional reasons.

Remember, some days you will feel like eating more than others, and that’s completely fine too.

Adding an extra 100 – 300 calories to your diet is pretty simple without overdoing it. Here’s a list of healthy snacks high in calcium, protein, wholegrains, fiber and nutrients to help you beat those cravings:

Craving something sweet?

  • 1 cup natural yogurt and 1 cup fresh or frozen berries, sprinkled with 2 tablespoons granola cereal
  • 1 cup reduced fat hot chocolate with a medium apple
  • Homemade healthy granola bars
  • 1/2 cup 100% pure orange juice, frozen and eaten as sorbet
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat milk and 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, blended with 1/2 cup natural yogurt
  • 1 cup cottage cheese with 1/2 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 handful of mixed dried fruit
  • 1 cup natural yoghurt with linseed’s and a pinch of cinnamon

Craving something savory?

  • 4 wholegrain crackers topped 3 tablespoons reduced fat hummus and sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1 handful mixed nuts
  • 1 sliced of wholegrain bread with 1 tablespoon peanut butter (note: if you have a family history of allergies research suggests avoiding peanuts during pregnancy)
  • Selection of raw vegetables with 1/4 cup low fat dressing
  • 3 handfuls of unbuttered/unsweetened popcorn seasoned with herbs
  • Small sandwich with tuna/chicken/beef/eggs etc and salad leaves
  • 1 oatcake topped with cottage cheese and fresh coriander
  • 1 small cup of homemade vegetable soup

The bottom line…

Adding a few hundred extra calories to your diet during pregnancy is extremely important, but those extra calories should come from healthy whole foods where possible, rather than fat-filled empty calories.

What are your favorite pregnancy snacks?

Check out my previous posts on pregnancy nutrition:

Photo source: simmbarb

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About Melanie
Melanie is a Registered Dietitian who started Dietriffic in March 2007. Her aim is to make good health attainable and sustainable, without guilt and torture, making her approach popular with those who desire a level-headed approach to good health. Have you got your copy of her free book yet?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Parker, M.D. June 25, 2009 at 8:35 am

Your food recommendations are a lot healthier than Doritos and Cokes! Well done.

I can’t imagine too many healthy pregnant women counting calories while pregnant. But the recommendations are good to know, and I’m sure some women follow them to the letter.

FYI, the U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends 11.4 -16 kg (25-30 pounds) of weight gain during pregancy for women starting at a normal weight (BMI 18.5-25) and carrying one child.


Steve Parker, M.D.’s last blog post..High Protein Ketogenic Diet Beats High Protein/Medium Carb Diet in Men, at Least Short-Term


Melanie June 29, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Hi Steve,
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that pregnant women count calories, but I think it’s so useful to know that you only need to add a couple of extra snacks, for example, to get what you need, rather than this idea of “eating for two.”


Steve Parker, M.D. June 30, 2009 at 3:35 am

Good points, Melanie. I would not have guessed that the “extra calories” needed would be so low. [In my defense, I'm an Internal Medicine physician and don't practice obstetrics.]


Steve Parker, M.D.’s last blog post..Which Components of the Mediterranean Diet Prolong Life?


Melanie June 30, 2009 at 6:57 am

LOL…I imagine I wouldn’t know a lot about what you do either!!


Suzannah July 2, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Hi Melanie,
Great advice for those of us who are expecting. I haven’t been perfect thus far, but I have been more conscious of portion sizes, increasing fibre intake, and trying to avoid empty calories. I gained way too much during my first pregnancy, and I remember how uncomfortable I was. I’m determined not to do the same this time!

Suzannah’s last blog post..Is Your Manuscipt Making You Fat?


Melanie July 3, 2009 at 5:33 am

Hey Suzannah,
It’s not easy, especially with everyone saying, “sure you’re eating for two!” I just laugh when they say that!! Old wives tale or what??

Anyway, best wishes…keep us updated!! :-)


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