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Categories > Pregnancy and Childbirth > Eating right during pregnancy

Eating for two
Healthy guidelines
What to eat and when to eat it
Dieting a no-no


Weight…a minute
Weight…a minute

Alert your healthcare provider if you:

  • gain more than 3 pounds in any week during your second trimester
  • gain more than 2 pounds in any week during your third trimester
  • don’t gain any weight for two weeks or more during the fourth through eighth months


Essential nutrients for your growing baby
Essential nutrients for your growing baby

NutrientSourcesFunctionFolic acidcooked spinach, leafy vegetables, legumes, broccoli, peas, orange juice, fortified breads and cerealshelps prevent neural-tube defects, such as spina bifidProteinlean meats, fish, low-fat cheese, eggs (well cooked only), tofu, dried peas and beans, nuts and seedsprovides the building blocks of human cellsCalciumlow-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, salmon with bones, sardines with bones, collard greens, kale, tofuensures strong teeth and bonesVitamin Cgrapefruit, oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, red or green pepperspromotes proper growth, tissue repair and wound healing; contributes to development of teeth and bonesIrondried fruits, beef, sardines, spinachpromotes proper development of baby’s blood supply

“With my first baby, I just ate whatever I wanted,” says Janice, now pregnant with her second child. “To me, pregnancy was a license to eat!”

She’s certainly not alone. Many pregnant women frequently are reminded that they’re “eating for two.” That phrase is true—to an extent. After all, a fetus doesn’t need quite as much food as an adult. In fact, even in the second and third trimesters, when most fetal growth occurs, the average woman requires just 300 extra calories a day. That’s the number of calories you’d get from consuming one banana, a cup of nonfat yogurt and a glass of skim milk.

Healthy guidelines

The fact is, unnecessary pounds add unnecessary risk to your pregnancy. Excess weight makes it more difficult for your doctor to assess and measure the fetus. The baby may become so large that vaginal delivery becomes difficult or impossible. In addition, gaining excess weight puts you at risk of backache, leg pain, increased fatigue and varicose veins.

On the other hand, there are serious risks to gaining too little weight. Babies whose mothers gain less than 20 pounds are more likely to be premature. Such babies may have more difficulties at birth, stay in the hospital longer and grow more slowly than infants of normal birth weight.

Because gaining either too little or too much weight during pregnancy can cause problems, it’s important to monitor your weight gain. How do you know how much weight to gain? Experts recommend following these guidelines:

If you’re at a healthy weight before conception, aim to gain 25 to 35 pounds. Weight gain should peak in the second trimester. For example, a woman whose prepregnancy weight was in the healthy range might gain 4 pounds in the first trimester, 14 pounds in the second trimester and 10 pounds in the third.

If you’re underweight when conception occurs, you should gain 28 to 40 pounds; if overweight, 15 to 25 pounds. Your healthcare provider can help set a goal for pregnancy weight gain that’s appropriate for you.

What to eat and when to eat it

Once you’ve established a healthy range of weight gain, think about how you’ll add the extra pounds. Rather than eating more at each meal, most pregnant women are better off adding snacks between meals. For example, if you usually eat a late lunch, consider adding two 150-calorie snacks a day (one midmorning and one late afternoon). If you eat an early lunch and an early dinner, try adding three 100-calorie snacks: one midmorning, one midafternoon and one before bed.

Get in the habit of eating at the same times every day—you’ll find it easier to track how many calories you’re consuming. Another advantage to planning ahead: When you know roughly when you’re going to eat, you can take healthy snacks along to avoid grabbing junk food on the run.

Just what is a healthy snack food? Cookies and potato chips will provide the extra calories (and fat), all right, but very few of the nutrients your baby needs. Instead, opt for fresh and dried fruit, raw vegetables, low-fat dairy products and grain products (reduced-fat crackers, rice cakes, whole-grain breads and breakfast cereal).

Dieting a no-no

If at any point during your pregnancy you find you’ve gained more than you planned, don’t diet. Your baby needs a steady supply of food to get the nutrients he or she requires. Instead, accept the extra weight you’ve gained and adjust your eating habits so you don’t keep putting on extra pounds.

In addition to being careful about what you eat, try to fit some physical activity into your schedule. Not only will it help you stay within your healthy pregnancy weight range, it will also help keep you limber and aerobically fit.