How to Eat When You’re Pregnant

pregnant woman

It’s the season of engagements, weddings, and babies (did I mention babies?). But really- I have an entire handful of good friends who are expecting.

With pregnancy comes an onslaught of information overload for expectant mothers- What vitamins you need this month, what gadgets you can’t live without, the best colors to paint your nursery, the best birthing classes, and the list goes on.

And suddenly how much and what you’re eating becomes of the utmost importance. Much more so than top-of-the-line baby monitors and those perfect “stretchy pants”. It’s a 9-month period of giving your baby the vitamins and nutrients it needs, and keeping your body healthy in the process.

A common question among new mothers is how much food they should be consuming.

I wish I could say that daily ice cream with a side of pickles (I’m being stereotypical, I know) is necessary, but sadly, not so much.

Let’s take a closer look at what you should be eating (and, how much) when you’re expecting.

To start, we’ll look at the numbers. Keep in mind these are just an average and don’t hold true for everyone, but they’re a great starting point.

The average sedentary woman only needs to consume 300 extra calories to support a baby. For the individual who is highly active and exercising regularly, an additional 500 calories will be sufficient [1].

Eating better doesn’t mean eating more – at least not much more.

So, what do those numbers look like in terms of actual food?

For the sedentary woman, that’s a couple of extra small snacks, such as a small palm full of almonds and a piece of fruit.

For the active women, it’s a large chicken salad, loaded with fresh fruit, nuts and maybe some toast on the side.

While you may rather feast on a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, the extra calories shouldn’t come in the form of sugary, processed foods. Of course I’m not saying that some treats here and there are bad, but make sure you aren’t abusing the phrase “eating for two”. Indulging your cravings is actually more beneficial than avoiding them completely –you’re less likely to go overboard and you’ll avoid feeling overly deprived. Moderation is key here.

According to WebMD, women who’re an average weight before getting pregnant should gain ~25-35 lbs. during pregnancy [1]. These numbers decrease for an overweight woman, with a suggested increase of only 15-25 lbs. For an underweight woman, an increase of 28-48 lbs. is normal.

Putting on more weight than this can result in delivering a heavier baby, which increases your child’s risk for obesity later in life.




So where does the weight you gain during pregnancy really go?

Here’s a handy graphic:



Now that we’ve covered how much you should be eating & how much weight you’ll gain, let’s discuss what foods to eat.

During pregnancy you’ll want to make sure you’re consuming plenty of the following sources [2]:

  • Protein: include lots of lean meats in your diet. A general recommendation is to consume 1 gram protein per pound of bodyweight on a daily basis.
  • Omega-3: Flax, chia, walnuts, hemp, seaweed, fish oil (non-liver) supplements.
  • Vitamin D: 20-30 mins of sun exposure per week, vitamin D fortified foods
  • Zinc: whole grains, animal foods, legumes, nuts
  • Folate: legumes, dark leafy veggies, folate fortified foods
  • Calcium: dark leafy veggies, legumes, bok choy, tofu, figs, nuts, seeds, fortified milk, fortified grain cereals
  • Vitamin B-12: animal foods
  • Iron: seeds, whole grains, animal foods, nuts, dried fruit, dark leafy veggies

So let’s face it, you’re not really eating for two… you’re simply consuming extra nutrients in the form of more protein, healthy fats, and extra vitamins/minerals. Enjoy your treats but don’t overdo it. Continue exercising at the level advised by your doctor and your post-baby body and energy levels will thank you!


Works Cited:

[1] “Weight Gain During Pregnancy: How Much Is Normal?” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.

[2] “What to Eat during Pregnancy. [Infographic] How Food Affects You and Your Baby.” Precision Nutrition. N.p., 13 Apr. 2015. Web. 12 Aug. 2015.

About Melissa

Melissa Wilson is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through NSCA and received her Bachelor’s degree from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. In addition to in-person training, Melissa is the founder of ProShape Fitness -- a healthy living company, which specializes in online fitness and nutrition coaching for individuals who want to get back into shape and adopt healthier lifestyle habits.

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