Pregnancy Diet

How To Eat When You're Pregnant

August 1, 2017

How To Eat When You're Pregnant

How To Eat When You're Pregnant
How To Eat When You're Pregnant

Food does take on a different focus when you’re carrying a baby.

So much so that going public with your pregnancy could feel like declaring open season for unsolicited comments about what you put in your body—“You must eat!” “You’re going to eat that?”—and how big or small it looks. Here’s a hearty portion of hype-free advice.

Growing babies takes calories. Please don’t count them. Just feel empowered to eat them. In general, pregnant women should eat somewhere between 2,200 and 2,900 high-quality calories a day. (Though it does depend on your height and weight.) And as the baby grows, you should eat more: about 340 more calories than normal (which is basically second breakfast) once you hit the second trimester, and an extra 450 calories (think: a pretty well-stocked smoothie or a turkey sandwich) during the third trimester. It’s often a good idea to space the calories throughout the day, in smaller portions, rather than to go for long stretches (which can exacerbate morning sickness) and then overindulge (which can cause indigestion and other issues).

Not THAT many calories. In other words, not whole-cheesecake-in-one-sitting calories. Though if, for whatever reason, it winds up being Ben-&-Jerry-as-dinner-date calories, well, it happens. There’s always tomorrow. (Just throw something green in there if you can.) In general, let your hunger (and, on the other side, your indigestion) be your guide.

You may not want to eat. There’s no one way women get morning sickness). It might feel like the flu, like food poisoning, like a rough hangover. It might feel like the scent of chicken on the stove was engineered to horrify you (and that, consequently, you’ll never eat chicken again). You may not get it, though, and wonder what all the fuss is about.

You may want things that you NEVER want. I’ve dined in some very fine restaurants, but to this day I have never enjoyed eating anything as much as the cold, second-rate, butter-slathered, NYC street-vendor bagel that I shoved in my mouth while waiting on a subway platform on March 6, 2013. And I never will.

You may want all the things. All the time. That includes 2 a.m., 4 a.m. Even if you’ve never been a snacker, when you’re pregnant, a bite or a handful of something may be just what you need to keep nausea at bay.

You may be worried about gaining weight. It’s common: Seven in 10 pregnant women do, according to a 2012 survey by Self magazine and CafeMom. But try your best to embrace it—and not to fret about how and where it comes. Holding back will only put you at risk for preterm birth, low birth weight or other complications.

You may be worried about not gaining weight. Or about “looking” pregnant. The truth is that you may gain just a few pounds during the first trimester—or none at all. “If the baby is developing along the normal growth trajectory, then the baby will take what it needs,” says Jennifer Lang, M.D., a Los Angeles–based ob-gyn and author of The Whole 9 Months: A Week-by-Week Pregnancy Nutrition Guide with Recipes for a Healthy Start. Best thing to do is to eat regularly—here are some snack ideas—and, in general, to eat fresh, nutrient-dense foods: whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies, lean proteins and dairy, for example.


Sarah J. Robbins is an independent writer, editor and content strategist whose work has appeared in Consumer Reports, Glamour, Good Housekeeping and Real Simple, among others. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids.

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