How many extra calories do I need?
Far from of eating for two it's currently recommended that pregnant women only need to up their calorie intake in the last trimester and then just by 200-300 calories a day. However, as the food you consume needs to nourish both you and your baby throughout your pregnancy, it's very much an issue of quality rather than quantity.
Generally, most pregnant women need to consume somewhere between 1800 and 2500 calories a day although the exact number will depend both on your pre-pregnancy weight and how active you are on a daily basis. Your doctor will be the best person to advise you of your specific needs during pregnancy as they will be most familiar with your personal circumstances.
What if i'm expecting twins?
Mums-to-be who are expecting twins or other multiples should aim to consume an additional 200-300 calories a day per baby throughout the later half of their pregnancy.
What is 200 calories?
It can be difficult to know how much extra you should be eating so, to make it easier here are a few examples of foods that fall in the 200-300 calorie range:
What should I be eating?
- 2 pieces of wholemeal toast with butter
- 1 yogurt and an apple or banana
- 1 small jacket potato with grated cheese or a small portion of baked beans
- 1 portion of houmous with crudites
- 1 handful of nuts
- 1 small bowl of wholegrain cereal with milk
- 1 banana with oatcakes
- 1 glass of fruit smoothie
While you don't need to consume double the calories, in effect you still are eating for two as the nutrients you consume have to be shared between you and your baby. For this reason it's really important that you eat a balanced diet and try to include as much of the 'good stuff' as you can.
The easiest way to do this is to include a variety of foods from different food groups in your diet every day. This includes
- Protein - It's recommended that protein from lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy produce, beans and pulses should make up approximately 10% of your daily calories as it's an essential component in cell growth and blood production.
- Carbohydrates - Carbs should make up about 55% of your daily calorie quota as they help to give you the energy you need to grow a baby and get on with your busy life too. Try to include plenty of different coloured fruits and vegetables in your diet every day and go for wholegrain pastas, bread, cereals and rice as these contain a plenitude of essential vitamins and minerals and also help to keep you feeling energetic for longer.
- Calcium - It's important to eat plenty of foods that are rich in calcium as this will help prevent your own stocks being diminished. Make sure you include plenty of low fat dairy produce in your diet as this will help your baby to develop strong bones and a healthy nervous system. Spinach, sardines and salmon are also a good source of calcium.
- Iron - Keeping your iron levels up is really important as this mineral plays an important role in the production of both your own and your baby's red blood cells so including plenty of red meat, green leafy vegetables and fortified cereals in your diet will help make sure you don't develop anemia. Try to combine iron rich foods with those high in vitamin C for maximum benefit.
- Vitamin D - This vitamin helps your baby develop strong teeth and bones and is found in dairy products and cereals.
- Folic acid - Folic acid is particularly important in the first trimester when your baby's nervous system is developing and while it is recommended that pregnant women take a supplement, eating foods rich in folate is also a good idea. Green leafy vegetables, beans, pulses and nuts are all rich in folic acid.
While it can be tempting to reach for the biscuit tin when you're feeling drained and tired it's a good idea to cut down on sugary foods wherever possible. The 'empty calories' you get from junk food will not only make it more likely that you''ll gain 'excess' weight but will also do little in the way of providing you and your baby with the nutrients you need. So, while you shouldn't deprive yourself the odd treat, it is a good idea to go for the healthier options whenever you can.
It's also a good idea to eat regularly as this will keep your energy supplies topped up, help you to digest your food more efficiently (reducing the likelihood that you'll suffer with heart burn and bloating) and make sure your baby is absorbing food properly. Eating smaller meals more often will make it easier to resist the temptation of 'pick me up' junk food and will be kinder to your stomach if you're feeling nauseous.
How much weight should I aim to put on?
It's important that you put on weight while you are pregnant and current recommendations suggest that between 10-12kg (22-28lb) is a 'healthy' amount. This will however vary depending on your pre-pregnancy weight as those who were underweight will need to aim for more weight gain than those that were overweight. (click here
for more information)
Pregnancy is not the time to be calorie counting as while there are risks associated with putting on too much weight, there are equal risks if you don't gain enough weight. Instead focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet and listening to your body. This way you should be able to get all the nutrients you and your baby need and still be able to enjoy your food!
Did you rethink your diet when you found out you were pregnant? Have you found yourself eating for two? Why not share your stories and experiences with other members on the AskBaby forums.