Are you really eating for two?

Congratulations, I am sure you are excited to share your great baby-news!

eating for 2

But wait, will you really be eating for two? That phrase has been around for a long time and has been used to justify just about any eating advice given to a mother-to-be, including, “Be sure to clean your plate. Remember, you’re eating for two!” or “Oh, go ahead and have an extra scoop; after all, you’re eating for two, aren’t you?” The concept of ‘eating for two’, while probably well intentioned, has confused countless pregnant women. Let’s see what’s behind it.

While it is true that your baby is developing at a fantastic rate, initially your own stored energy is helping to support that rapid growth. If your pre-pregnancy weight was about average, your energy or caloric needs will not increase during the first three months; the first trimester.  During the next three months or second trimester, your energy needs increase by about 350 calories a day. You could cover this with an apple, a handful of walnuts and a glass of soymilk, for example. Increasing your intake by another 100 calories during the third trimester, to total 450 calories above preconception intake, will insure that your baby will grow well and that you will have sufficient energy for your own needs. These additional calories will support a total weight gain during pregnancy of 25 – 30 pounds.

If you were underweight prior to conception you will have higher energy needs. As well, if you are a teenager, your own body is still developing, in addition to the baby growing inside of you, and so your need for extra calories will be greater than outlined above. As a pregnant teen, more weight gain is quite normal and expected.

If you were overweight prior to conception, most likely you will be able to meet energy needs with fewer calories.

In all cases, your physician will be your guide as he or she monitors your baby’s growth and development.

So when they say ‘eating for two’ it doesn’t seem that they mean you should double your intake, does it?  What is definitely more likely is that it’s a reminder to consistently choose nutrient dense foods to support two humans; one who is trying to remain strong and healthy and one who is growing rapidly. If you eat a variety of whole, unprocessed vegetables, grains and fruits in smaller meals, more frequently throughout the day, you ought to be able to meet your energy and nutrient needs easily. Below is a short list of foods in 100-calorie portion sizes that you can choose from to build your meals and snacks.

  • One medium – large piece fresh fruit
  • ¼ cup dried apricots or figs
  • 2 TB raisins
  • 1 TB nut butter; almond, peanut, etc.
  • ½ oz. of most nuts; dry roasted, unsalted
  • 1-cup nonfat, plain yogurt
  • 2/3-cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup Muesli
  • 1 oz. most cereals (avoid pre-sweetened cereals)
  • 2 TB hummus
  • 1 oz. Whole grain crackers

Vegetables can usually be enjoyed raw or cooked without oil or butter, without having to count your servings. Vegetables will be rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals that are essential to your healthy pregnancy.

Be sure to read your labels for more ideas of where the nutrients are and how big the serving sizes are!

Interested in more information on Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy, Lactation, or raising an infant? Download Resources in Frequently Asked Questions or click below:
Vegetarian Diets in Pregnancy
Vegetarian Diets in Lactation
Vegetarian Infants

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Sarah Ellis, MS, RD

I enjoy working as a Community Dietitian where I focus on preventive and behavioral health. I work with individuals and groups to reduce their risks for chronic disease, using a holistic approach of plant based nutrition and stress management. During my personal time, I delight in cultivating my meditation practice, cooking with friends, and being outdoors.

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