From increased hunger and nausea to an array of food cravings and aversions, pregnancy brings a host of changes that can affect a woman’s diet. Fortunately, the medical guidelines for nutrition during pregnancy can help bring clarity to a confusing time — and promote better health for mothers and babies.
A great place to begin your education on diet throughout gestation is with a better understanding of the increased caloric needs and recommended weight gain during pregnancy. Experts report there’s no need to add calories during your first trimester, and the amount of weight you should gain overall depends on your body mass index (BMI) prior to pregnancy.
Not ‘eating for two’
“Contrary to the popular phrase that pregnant women are eating for two, in general, for women who are a healthy weight prior to becoming pregnant, caloric needs increase about 350 to 450 calories per day in the second and third trimesters to help grow that baby, but that’s it,” said Amanda Magrini, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician with Northern Nevada Medical Group. “The more commonly used marker to monitor healthy intake is weight gain in pregnancy.”
When pregnant with one baby, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a total weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds for normal-weight women with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 prior to pregnancy. For women who are overweight, obese or underweight before becoming pregnant, the total recommended weight gain differs.
“If a woman is underweight going into pregnancy (BMI under 18.5) the expected weight gain is approximately 28 to 40 pounds,” Magrini said. “If she is overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9) her weight gain is expected to be 15 to 25 pounds. If she is obese (BMI greater than 30) her weight gain is expected to be 11 to 20 pounds.”
Sticking to these weight-gain guidelines can be important for both mother and baby.
According to a Mayo Clinic report, gaining either too little or too much weight during pregnancy can increase the risk of complications and may affect your baby’s health after birth. In addition, putting on too much weight while pregnant can make it more challenging to reach a healthy weight after the baby is born.
As far as what to eat throughout gestation, this guideline boils down to eating from all five food groups, drinking plenty of water and avoiding foods and beverages that could pose a risk during pregnancy.
“The best diet for pregnant and breastfeeding women is six servings of whole grains, three servings of dairy, five servings of fruit and vegetables, one-to-three servings of lean protein, and eight or more glasses of water each day,” said Amy Condon, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Renown Medical Group Women’s Health. “During pregnancy, expectant mothers should stay away from raw and undercooked meat and eggs, meat spreads, smoked seafood, soft cheeses and packaged meats unless they are heated. Limit fish at risk of containing mercury or heavy metals, such as tuna, to once weekly.”
Condon added that mothers-to-be should keep their caffeine intake at no more than 200 milligrams a day and avoid alcohol, unpasteurized milk and unpasteurized juices.