Pregnancy Nutrition

Nutritional needs during pregnancy increase due to the expanding muscle tissue, fat, and work of the heart. Your body needs approximately 80,000 total calories to support a pregnancy. And you need extra nutrients and vitamins like folate and calcium. In the first trimester you need to gain 2-4 pounds so your caloric needs increase slightly. But during the second and third trimesters you need to add between 300-400 calories to support you and your baby.

In general, you will be gaining one half to one pound and a half per week during the second and thrid trimester.
You may be asking yourself where all of this weight comes from and the answer is that a majority of it comes from the baby itself (7 to 8 pounds) and your increasing muscle tissue and fluid (4 to 7 pounds). Other sources of weight gain are from the placenta and amniotic fluid that protect the baby (3 to 4 pounds); increased size of breasts (approximately one pound); increased size of uterus (2 pounds); increased blood volume (3 pounds); and finally increased body fat (5 or more pounds).

How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?

The Institute of Medicine released new Pregnancy Weight Guidelines in 2009. You will need to know your BMI to see what range you fall in. You can calculate your BMI by using the formula below and entering your pre-pregnancy weight.

  • Underweight (BMI < 18.5) gain 28-40 lbs.
  • Normal Weight (BMI 18.5-24.9) gain 25-35 lbs.
  • Overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9) gain 15-25 lbs.
  • Obese (BMI > 30) gain 11-20 lbs.

Find your BMI by using this calculation:

(Current Weight) x 703


(Height in inches) x (Height in inches)

To define your specific caloric needs through each phase of Pregnancy please refer to Just plug in a few numbers to see how many calories you shoudl be consuming!

Must Have Nutrients

Below is a quick list of much needed nutrition during pregnancy.

This information is in conjunction with the American Dietetic Association’s Recommendations. Your daily recommendations:

  • Carbohydrates – 175+ grams. From juicy apples to fresh baked bread, these foods are considered carbohydrates and are your body’s primary sources of fuel. But during pregnancy your baby uses carbohydrates and proteins as its primary source of energy, while your body uses fats.
  • Fats – 30% of your daily intake. The last trimester of your pregnancy is the most rapid period of brain development for your baby and requires a substantial amount of good fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids. Your body has the ability to store these fats to deliver to the baby when needed.
  • Protein – 60-70 grams. Proteins are needed during pregnancy to make the enzymes and hormones that regulate life. Proteins also have the ability to be stored within the maternal tissues during pregnancy, especially in the last 10 weeks when the baby is growing rapidly.
    *Note – Never, never, never use a protein only (such as the Atkins Diet) pregnancy diet. This is not healthy for mom or baby!
  • Fluids – 64+ ounces. It is important to drink more fluids when exercising. And while most, if not all your fluids, should come from water, non-caffeinated beverages, juice and tea count towards your fluid intake.
  • Folate (folic acid) – 600-1000 micrograms, not to exceed 1000 micrograms. If you are taking a prenatal supplement and eating grains and greens you are more than likely meeting your daily recommendation.
  • Calcium – 1000 milligrams. This is approximately 3-4 servings of milk, yogurt, cheese or other calcium-fortified foods.
  • Fiber – 25-35 grams to relive constipation and hemorrhoids.

* If you find that you have gained too much weight at any point, don’t try to lose it or cut out significant amounts of food. Instead slow the weight gain down focusing on adding only 200 – 300 calories per day.

Vegetarian Nutrition during Pregnancy

Vegetarian moms-to-be often struggle to include enough protein in their diet; however, with careful planning a vegetarian diet can be healthy and safe. The first thing for a pregnant vegetarian to do is to inform your health care provider of your dietary habits. You may want to visit with a Registered Dietitian if you would like personalized meal planning or have specific concerns. Good protein sources for vegetarians include legumes, nuts, and seeds. The most important thing is to focus on variety and adequate calories in your diet. Vegetarians may also lack iron, calcium and vitamin B-12.

Nutrition Myths during Pregnancy

If I diet during pregnancy I will lose fat. This is true, although not recommended. A pregnancy diet should only be used if your physician recommends a minimal weight gain during your pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine came out with new weight gain guidelines based on your pre-pregnancy BMI. You can find the pregnancy weight gain recommendations in our above.

I should eliminate fast food while pregnant. This is false. During your pregnancy you are bound to have cravings! And while the moms at MIF do not recommend eating a lot of fast food, we also realize there are days you have to have fast food due to your family’s schedule. MIF recommends 2-3 fast food meals a week at most. And make sure you make healthy fast food choices during pregnancy. You want to eat a variety of foods to get in all your pregnancy nutrition. You can find a list of your “healthier fast food” choices on Lindsay’s Blog. And keep in mind if you supersize it and eat fried foods you will probably gain more than the recommended weight gain during your pregnancy. And this makes for a long journey to getting your body back afterwards.

Vegetarians do not get enough protein during pregnancy. This is false. Proteins come from many foods other than meat. Good protein sources for vegetarians include legumes, nuts, and seeds.

I should avoid fish while pregnant. This is false. The fish that you should avoid while pregnant are your bigger fish like: swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish and wild salmon. But you should consume fish while pregnant to get in your healthy omega 3 fatty acids (please refer to Nutritional Needs during Pregnancy). Some examples are: salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna and cod.

I should avoid caffeine while pregnant. This is false. In 2008 ACOG published a study indicating that over 200 mg or caffeine a day increased the risk of miscarriage in a group of more than one thousand women. 1 cup of coffee has about 100 mg and the average 12-ounce soda has 50 mg. You must drink a lot of water, and if you are having trouble getting fluids, eliminate the caffeine. As far as soda, some researchers suggest you shouldn’t drink artificial sweeteners. Now if you are going to drink regular soda keep in mind it contains about 120 calories per 12-ounce can, and these are “empty calories”.

Lindsey Brin
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