Dietitians Dish: Adapt your eating habits while pregnant

By Lindsay Adams
May 7, 2013 at 12:07 a.m.

Although energy needs are increased during pregnancy, and individuals should gain some weight, we've surely all heard the phrase "don't eat for two" during pregnancy.

Gaining too much weight or not enough weight during pregnancy can both present risks for you and your baby. With this conflicting advice, it is sometimes confusing to know just how much extra you should - or shouldn't - eat.

The latest weight gain guidelines published by the Institute of Medicine are based on your body mass index prior to pregnancy. Numerous websites online can help you calculate your BMI.

If you are in the underweight category, as evidenced by a BMI below 18.5, recommended weight gain for a full-term pregnancy is 28-40 pounds.

For a BMI of 18.5-24.9, which is the "normal" range, recommended weight gain is 25-35 pounds for full-term pregnancy. For overweight individuals (BMI between 25-29.9), weight gain should be approximately 15-25 pounds, and for obese individuals (BMI of 30.0 or above), the recommendation is 11-20 pounds of weight gain for a full-term pregnancy.

Naturally, individuals pregnant with twins should gain more weight during pregnancy. Weight gain recommendations for individuals pregnant with twins are 37-54 pounds for individuals with a normal pre-pregnancy BMI, 31-50 pounds for overweight individuals and 25-42 pounds for obese individuals.

Although needs may be slightly different based on individuals, no extra calories are recommended during the first trimester, and typically, weight gain of no more than 5 pounds during this time is needed.

During the second trimester, an extra 340 calories per day are recommended. For the third trimester, 450 extra calories more than what you consumed prior to pregnancy is suggested.

Although it may be tempting to increase consumption of french fries and Blue Bell to get these extra calories, they should be obtained from a general, well-balanced diet (but you are allowed to splurge every once in a while). Aim for three cups of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods per day to obtain adequate calcium and vitamin D.

Stay away from raw or unpasteurized dairy products. It's also best to avoid soft-serve yogurt, soft cheeses like brie or blue cheeses like gorgonzola. Shoot for three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day (limit 100 percent fruit juice to only one cup per day, if any).

You should eat about 5 to 7 ounces of grains throughout the day such as whole grain breads, cereals, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, etc. Try to choose grain products that are fortified with iron, which will help make sure your iron needs are met, in combination with your prenatal vitamin.

You also want to eat about 5 to 6 ounces of protein per day such as lean meat, fish or turkey. You should avoid raw or uncooked meats, fish, poultry and eggs, and you should avoid fish with high mercury levels (like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish).

Limit lower mercury fish such as shrimp, canned light tuna (albacore tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna), salmon, pollock and catfish to only 12 ounces per week.

Avoiding alcohol and tobacco intake and limited caffeine consumption during pregnancy are recommended. Talk to your doctor about a good prenatal vitamin for you to take. Preventing foodborne illness during pregnancy is very important, so be extra careful to practice good food safety habits.

As always, exercise is still important during pregnancy unless you are told otherwise by your physician. The general activity guidelines for exercise during pregnancy is about 30 minutes of moderate exercise most or all days of the week.

So treat yourself from time to time during pregnancy, but increase your intake gradually based on the above recommendations and try to follow a healthy, balanced diet. Your baby will thank you for it someday.

Lindsay Adams is a registered dietitian with DeTar Health System. Send questions or comments to



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