By: Natasha Lowe Osho MD, NASM CPT, Pre/Postnatal Performance Training Specialist
Eating for two is a common misconception about nutrition during pregnancy. In fact, this belief will most likely lead to unhealthy weight gain. Instead of “eating for two” based solely on the number of calories, let’s discuss “eating for two” based on making quality food choices. Given that the body uses food to support both mom and baby, it is important to focus on eating the right amount of quality food.
Our diets play a key role in managing weight. You have probably heard the saying “weight loss happens in the kitchen” or you “can’t work off a bad diet.” This is so true! When I first got serious about getting healthy and exercising, I would literally spend time in the gym or with my trainer then go to McDonald’s or Chick-fil-a to grab dinner on the way home. I had two excuses to justify my actions.
- Excuse #1: I was a busy doctor who barely had time to exercise, but at least I was doing it.
- Excuse #2: I felt like I was making “quality” food choices because some trips to Chick-fil-a involved grilled chicken and salads.
I was so wrong! My dad always says, “when you know better, do better.” So, my better came when I learned about food quantity AND quality. How can we make better nutritional choices to help our body support both mom and baby?
Nutrition must be addressed both in terms of quantity and quality of food choices. Most pregnant women only need an additional 300 calories per day. That’s the equivalent of an extra snack depending on what food you choose. For expectant moms with twins, its 600 calories per day. For expectant moms with triplets, its 900 calories per day. If you experienced some weight loss in early pregnancy due to food aversion or nausea/vomiting, you don’t have to overeat to “make up ground.” Remember, you only need about 300 calories more each day. The body is an amazing machine and if you power it with the right foods, it will take care of everything! How can we make balanced and nutritious food choices?
According to MyPlate, there are five major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. Portion sizes can vary from person to person based on stage of pregnancy and activity levels, but generally the following is recommended:
- Fruits = 1.5 cups per day
- Vegetables = 2.5 cups per day
- Grains = 5-6 ounces per day
- Protein: 5-6 ounces per day
- Dairy: 3 cups per day
If you are like me, I need to make this as simple as possible. Harvard University’s Healthy Eating Plate offers a simple way to improve quality and quantity of food choices. They recommend two easy steps:
- Step 1: Dividing your plate into four quadrants for portion control.
- Step 2: Making quality food choices.
According to the Healthy Eating Plate, aim for the following:
- Vegetables and fruits = ½ plate (Chose a variety of colors. These are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.)
- Grains = ¼ of plate (Whole grains such as whole wheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta are preferred over refined grains such as white rice, white bread, and ready to eat cereals.)
- Protein = ¼ of plate (Limit the amount of red and processed meats. Remember nuts, seeds, and beans count as protein.)
- Healthy plant oils should be used in moderation (examples are olive, canola, soy, corn, sunflower, and peanut oil.
Pregnancy is an incredibly unique experience from person to person. We can strive to achieve healthy weight gain by being aware of portion sizes and making quality food choices. Our body knows exactly what to do to support both mom and baby, so make sure it’s powered by good nutrition.
Disclaimer: This article is meant to provide general nutrition advice for a healthy, low risk pregnancy. If you have specific nutritional needs, please discuss an individualized plan with your healthcare provider.
ACOG Frequently Asked Questions, “Nutrition During Pregnancy,” June 2020
Natasha Lowe Osho MD is a Board Certified OB/GYN, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Personal Trainer, Pre/Postnatal Performance Training Specialist, and Owner of Bump Fitness Club. Bump Fitness Club is a boutique fitness studio offering Prenatal and Postpartum Small Group Strength Training, Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga, and Nutrition guidance. Bump Fitness Club was started to help women have healthier pregnancies. Our mission is to provide a safe, supportive, and supervised environment to encourage exercise during pregnancy with the goals of helping women perform their daily activities, build strength and stamina for the physical demands of labor and delivery, and assist with postpartum recovery while building relationships and providing encouragement throughout the pregnancy journey. For more information, visit bumpfitnessclub.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.