How Much Should I be Eating When Pregnant and How do I Get What I Need?

Women often wonder just how much they need to eat when they are pregnant.  Even though they have been eating all their lives the question of eating when pregnant seems particularly weighted.  No woman wants to gain too much weight but neither do they want to deprive their baby of essential nutrients.  How to balance these two concerns can create some serious anxiety.

You Aren’t Eating for Two

Forget the old adage, you aren’t really eating for two – well you are, but that second individual is awfully small and doesn’t eat nearly as much as a grown up.  The problem with the idea of eating for two is that you will eat way too much.  All you need to supplement your regular eating is about 200 to 300 extra calories per day.  As your pregnancy progresses that rises to about 500 extra calories; and that really isn’t much.

How do You Eat Now that You’re Pregnant?

The first question in designing a good pregnancy eating plan is to assess your nutritional savvy.  What do you eat on a daily basis?  Is your day filled with chips, cookies, soda and sweetened cereals?  You have a lot of work to do.  Do you eat mostly whole grains, lean meats and plenty of produce? Then it is just a matter of tweaking things a bit and you are all set.

Let’s assume you already have a good grasp on proper, healthy eating.

Basic Building Blocks for a Healthy Baby

Most of what your baby needs is going to be the same things you need; protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits and fats.  There are specific nutrients that you will need to increase such as calcium, iron and folic acid, but basically it is a matter of getting the additional calories you need soundly.

1. Proteins – Your best sources of lean protein will come from grass fed beef and lamb, wild caught fish, and organically raised poultry, pork and whole eggs.  All of these sources contain high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids which promote heart health and brain development.  Additionally, that protein will provide plenty of building blocks for little cells.

2. Carbohydrates – Carbs are not evil, no matter what you have heard.  They are the most easily available source of energy you get; the catch is to make sure you are getting complex carbohydrates that are connected with reasonable amounts of fiber.  Fiber slows the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugars and provides plenty of roughage to keep your digestion moving along.  Whole grains, whole fruits and organic vegetables are good, healthy sources of carbohydrates – just don’t overdo it.

3. Fats – Yes, fats are essential to both your health and the baby’s development.  Mono and poly unsaturated fats are your best choices, and they should come in the form of raw nuts, avocados and olive oil.  Some saturated fats are also important, you will find those in organic butter, coconut oil and your animal proteins.

4. Calcium, iron and folate – While you need more than just these three nutrients, these are particularly important.  Folate helps to prevent neural tube defects.  Calcium builds strong bones and teeth and iron helps you develop the additional blood you need to supply the baby’s needs with ease.  Fortunately, there is one food that provides all of these with ease and good taste – dark, leafy vegetables.  Spinach, bok choy, broccoli, chard, kale and any other vegetable in this family will help you get what you need of these nutrients.

Of course there is more to eating when pregnant than just piling on the leafy greens, but if you start with these principles you will have a good basis on which to build.  Remember, 200-300 calories really isn’t very much, so until you have a good idea of how much to increase your eating, keep track of your additional snacks, you will be happy you did when your pregnancy is over.


Eating when pregnant can feel intimidating and confusing.  Getting the right information requires choosing only one, reliable source and sticking with it.  At, we can help you educate yourself and enjoy your pregnancy more.


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