Eating for Two? The Real Guideline for Nutrition During Pregnancy

The notion that pregnant women are “eating for two,” is true to a degree, but is largely misleading. The question is: Two what? 

Let’s look at this comprehensively. Yes, you are eating for you and for your baby, but let’s face it, even at the end of pregnancy, the baby will be only about 7 pounds. How much could a child that size possibly need?  In addition, food doesn’t get processed through the stomach, but rather gets passed on from the mother’s blood stream, directly to the placenta. That is to say, the food has already been digested, broken down into glucose, fats, proteins, and other nutrients before it gets to the baby. In other words, the mother just has to eat a bit more in order to pass it on to her small, but growing, baby.

The just-a-bit-more translates into an extra 100-300 calories per day.  That’s it. Considering the average woman eats 1200-2000 calories/day, then an extra 100-200 is certainly not a whole other woman. But it is an embryo, and then a fetus, and finally an about-be-born baby who, again, is still not that big compared with the adult mother.

Want to know a few examples of foods containing 100-300 calories. As you will note, we’re talking a couple of additional snacks, or one additional small meal. Not eating for two. Here you go:

-A plain yogurt with an apple, a banana, and a smattering of granola

-A tuna sandwich

-One ice cream scoop in a cone

-A slice of pizza

-A large vegetable salad with dressing

-5 oz. of lean, broiled steak

-2-4 slices of bread

The Specifics

In general you will feel hungrier, but even if you don’t, you want to get bang for your buck on calories, just as you would when not pregnant. Only this time, your nutrition affects the little one growing inside of you, too. Here are our guidelines for what to eat every day, and what to avoid.

Protein: At least 70 grams/day. Here’s a link to protein-rich foods.

Carbs: 2-4 servings/day. The key is to stick with whole grain carbs – nothing white. You’ll feel fuller because you will be getting the nutrient-rich version, not the processed version which is akin to sugar.

Raw or lightly-cooked vegetables:  As many as you’d like, aiming for at least 2 servings/day. Go for a variety of colors.

Fruits: No more than 2 per day since their sugar content is high. Best to eat your fruit rather than drink it. Instead, drink water, water, and more water.

Prenatal Supplement: In terms of recommended vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and iron, it is very hard to ensure these are received through food. Therefore, we recommend a good prenatal supplement taken daily. If your blood work shows you are low on anything specific, we may recommend additional supplements as indicated.

Water: Consider that water bottle your extra limb, always attached to you. Drink at least 8 glasses per day, more if it’s hot outside. Just keep drinking.

What to Avoid

We’ll go into this in more detail in later articles, but suffice it to say, the list of what to avoid consuming while pregnant is as follows: High-salt; sodas (soda water is great though); more than 100 grams of caffeine per day; alcohol; unpasteurized dairy products (such as some soft cheeses); raw or undercooked meat or fish; and fish containing high amounts of mercury.

Life is different during pregnancy. You will not only feel different with a growing belly,  you will also feel different hormonally. Some say they even feel like a different person. So, it stands to reason that food intake will be different too. It’s all part of the pregnancy package.