How Many Calories Do You Need During Pregnancy?

The most confusing and frequently asked question during pregnancy is how much to eat. One of the most important ways to ensure your fetus is getting all the nutrients they need depends on your calories intake. Making a baby and carrying it to term is very hard work for a woman's body. Pregnant women should ensure to eat a balanced diet in order to help the baby grow and develop naturally.

Eating a balanced diet can help prevent:

- Too much weight gain 
- An early birth of the baby 
- A low birth weight of the baby 
- Infections in the mother 
- Needing a C-section 
- Slow and poor healing

Every woman gains during pregnancy. This is a normal occurrence. However, the healthy weight gain during pregnancy varies from one woman to another. After research, below are the general guidelines:

- 10 to 20 pounds total pregnancy weight gain for overweight women 
- 25 to 35 pounds total pregnancy weight gain for healthy women 
- 35 to 45 pounds total pregnancy weight gain for underweight women or women carrying more than one child (twins or more)

Eating for two does not translate to eating twice as much. It means eating food that shall nourish both you and growing fetus. The number of calories you require during pregnancy depends on a few factors, which include:

- Your height 
- Your Body mass index (BMI) 
- How effectively your body burns calories 
- How active you are

Where the calories come from is also very important. For example, eating junk food can increase your calories intake, but these calories do not provide the nutrients your baby needs. As a result, your baby shall consume the vitamins and minerals it needs from your body. This can cause health issues to the mother.

Instead of junk food (which the mother might crave and should not deny herself occasionally), choose food that are:

- High in proteins 
- Low in fats 
- Low in carbohydrates or sugar

For a healthy pregnancy, it is important to eat a balanced diet with all the right nutrients and try incorporating at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. To make a baby requires more than food intake because the existing muscle bones and fat tissues are broken down for the fetus's use as well. According to studies, a pregnant woman requires approximately 300 extra calories per day (equivalent to 3 tablespoons of peanut butter per day). The total amount of calories required during pregnancy is 75,000 calories. According to the USDA, the average adult should consume approximately 2,000 calories a day.

Below is a breakdown of required calories for the average weight woman:

1. During the first trimester, a pregnant woman should consume approximately 2,000 calories per day. At this stage, the fetus does not require any additional calories because the baby's yolk sack protects the fetus and keeps it nourished. The mother should concentrate on choosing the correct nutritious foods required to keep the energy up while supporting the baby's development. An expecting mother should drink a lot of water to stay hydrated at all times. If unable to keep solid foods down, do not worry; instead opt for a healthy smoothie that will provide you with the vital nutrients (e.g. Greek yogurt, frozen fruit, and spinach, or a watermelon smoothie).

2. During the second trimester, eating becomes tolerable. Instead of junk food, try experimenting with healthier choices. Around 10-12 weeks, the baby begins to use the placenta for nutrition and begins to eat what you are eating. At this stage, healthy foods with some vegetables and fruits are a great option. Below are a few ways to make your healthy nutritious snacks tasty:

- Dip your strawberries in Greek yogurt mixed with cinnamon and vanilla. This snack has a lot of nutrients and proteins. 
- Drizzle your grapefruit with raw honey 
- Dip your banana in almond butter

3. During the third trimester, the mother needs an additional 300 calories. If you have been eating a balanced diet, vegetables, and fruits, adding the 300 calories might be tough. Begin by breaking up your meals into several small ones. Then add in some nuts, avocado, nut butter, or wholegrain to each snack and meal.

NOTE: As long as you eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated, ensure you and your baby receive all the necessary nutrients, and you gain the appropriate weight, there is no need to fret. However, remember to check with your doctor on how many additional calories you require incase you are overweight or underweight.

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