What “Eating for Two” Really Means
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It’s not shocking to learn that pregnant people are hungry people. After all, building a baby from scratch requires a lot of energy from food, plus fluctuating in pregnancy hormones increases appetite, too. This leaves pregnant folks not only craving extra calories, but also wondering: Do I need to eat for two when pregnant? Should I consume twice as many calories as I did before pregnancy? Before you start doubling your daily diet, keep reading to learn what it actually means to eat for two during pregnancy.
Should I eat for two during pregnancy?
The short answer is no, you should not eat for two when expecting. One of the most common pregnancy myths is the idea you’re supposed to “eat for two” while pregnant. While your baby’s nutrition does depend on what you eat, if you eat twice your usual amount of food during pregnancy you may be putting yourself at increased risk of pregnancy complications. Instead of “eating for two,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests reframing your approach to pregnancy eating as eating twice as healthy.
Can eating for two during pregnancy be harmful?
“Eating for two” during pregnancy doesn’t automatically mean you or your baby-to-be will be at a higher risk for complications. However, exceeding the recommended weight gain—or gaining weight quickly—during pregnancy may increase your risk for:
Fetal macrosomia: Having a baby who weighs more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces at birth is called fetal macrosomia. This can cause complications, like heavy bleeding after birth.
Cesarean section: Gaining excess weight in pregnancy often leads to large babies, which increases your chances of a c-section.
Pregnancy Weight Gain Chart
If you are carrying one baby, this is typically how much weight experts recommend you gain during pregnancy based on how your weight is classified:
Standard: 25 to 35 pounds
Underweight: 28 to 40 pounds
Overweight: 15 to 25 pounds
Obese: 11 to 20 pounds
For all, slow and steady weight gain is ideal, gaining between 0 and 5 pounds during the first trimester, then up to a pound a week throughout the remainder of pregnancy. (Learn more about pregnancy weight gain.)
Eating for Two: How many more calories do I need during pregnancy?
Surprise: For the first 12 weeks of pregnancy—otherwise known as the first trimester—you don’t need any extra calories! But you’ll need to take in roughly 340 more calories each day throughout your second trimester. By your third trimester, it’s important to consume about 450 extra calories a day. Those calorie recommendations shift, however, if you’re entering your pregnancy overweight, underweight, or if you’re expecting multiples. (PS: Did you know that breastfeeding actually requires even more extra calories—450 to 500—than pregnancy?!)
How do I get the extra calories I need during pregnancy?
The best strategy for getting the extra calories you need during pregnancy is to eat a balanced diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy—all while limiting added sugars, empty calories, and saturated fats found in things like soft drinks, packaged food, fatty meats, and fried foods. Need some help thinking of healthy ways to clock extra calories during your second trimester (~340 calories) and third trimester (~450 calories)? Try these satisfying and healthy pregnancy snacks:
Half cup plain Greek yogurt + 1/3 cup raspberries = 93 calories
One large, hard-boiled egg + half cup strawberries = 100 calories
Five 100% whole grain crackers + 1 part-skim string cheese stick = 170 calories
Half a medium avocado (mashed) + 1 slice of whole grain toast = 179 calories
One large apple + half cup low fat cottage cheese = 207 calories
Berry smoothie: 1 cup of frozen unsweetened blueberries + 4 ounces of skim milk + half cup fat-free plain yogurt + 1 teaspoon honey = 211 calories
Half cup edamame + 4 carrot sticks + ¼ cup hummus = 215 calories
One cup cooked oatmeal (made with water) + 8 ounces of skim milk = 226 calories
One and ¼ cup high-fiber cereal + 8 ounces almond milk = 241 calories
Eating for Two: More on Healthy Eating While Pregnant
Expecting parents are not only dealing with elevated hunger, but pregnancy cravings, aversions, morning sickness, what’s-safe rules, and wanting to offer their baby-to-be the best possible nutritional start. It’s a lot! For help navigating eating for two, keep reading:
- A Brief Review on How Pregnancy and Sex Hormones Interfere with Taste and Food Intake. Chemosensory Perception. March 2010
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists (ACOG): Nutrition During Pregnancy
- The University of New Mexico Health: Are Pregnant Women Really Eating for Two? Not Quite
- Gestational Weight Gain and Risk of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. Obstetrics & Gynecology. September 2011
- March of Dimes: Weight gain during pregnancy
- ACOG: How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Eat Healthy During Pregnancy: Quick Tips
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Tracking Your Weight For Women Who Begin Pregnancy Overweight
- Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health: Mamas: Another Reason to Enjoy Your Avocado Toast
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.