Many women think that once they are pregnant they finally have an excuse to eat whatever and as much as they want. Wrong! Pregnant women only need, on average, 300 additional calories per day, and not until they reach their second trimester. It’s true that you need to increase the amount of nutrients, vitamins and water you are consuming, but you don’t need to double your food intake. By doubling the amount you eat, you are not only asking for a rapid increase in weight, but it could also be unhealthy to you and your baby.
When I was pregnant with Keenan, I was unusually hungry! At times, I felt like I couldn’t eat enough, but instead of gorging myself, I thought about why I was hungry. Was I not getting enough protein? Was I not drinking enough water? I continued to eat normally (pre-pregnancy) throughout my first trimester, but I made sure I ate quality lean protein with every meal and snacks (if I had one) and continued to guzzle as much water as I could throughout the day. This helped curb my hunger tremendously. For example, instead of having oatmeal or cereal with berries for breakfast, I ate non-fat Greek yogurt mixed with berries, flax seed and Kashi Go Lean cereal. This usually helped me stay satisfied until lunch time, but if I started to get hungry a little before noon, I would eat a piece of fruit or about 12 almonds (100 calories worth).
Once I reached my second trimester, I added 2 additional snacks of 150 calories, each, into my day: One in the mid afternoon, and one after dinner (usually something sweet, because I craved dessert!). I didn’t count calories throughout my pregnancy, but I eye-balled the portions, which gave me a rough estimate of the calorie content. In addition, if I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t force myself to eat my snack. I made sure to listen to my body and ate when I was hungry, but for the most part, I was always ready for my snacks!
By eating healthfully and adding the additional calories in the second trimester, I gained 11 pounds the first trimester, 8 pounds the second trimester and another 8 pounds the third trimester, for a total of 27 pounds. I started out at a normal weight (pre-pregnancy), so I gained the normal amount of weight that is recommended (25-35 pounds). You might be thinking that I was fixated on the amount of weight I gained, but I definitely wasn’t! I made sure to eat what I craved (in moderation), whether that was dessert or french fries (I wanted them all the time), and accounting for those little splurges for the additional calories on those days. I certainly didn’t deny myself what I wanted! My main goal was to eat healthfully, making sure to get as many nutrients as possible for our little one, thus increasing my weight the healthy way (not gaining too much and too fast, which makes it harder to lose the weight post-baby). In addition, I worked-out 4-5 days a week consistently throughout my pregnancy, which helped to slow the rate of weight gain and keep me and baby healthy, and to ultimately have a speedy and easier delivery.
In the end, it’s important to remember that “eating for two” while pregnant is a myth. You only need to eat 1-2 additional snacks each day, or simply increase the amount of food you consume at one or two of your meals to equal the 300 additional calories per day (starting in the second trimester). Eat healthfully, but don’t deprive yourself if you really want the piece of pie or extra helping of pasta (on occasion). Lastly, remember to enjoy your pregnancy and not be so fixated on the number on the scale. What matters most is that you and your baby are healthy!