Fueling Two: How Many Calories Does a Pregnant Woman Need?

Are you pregnant? Congratulations on this new exciting journey. As a pregnant woman, nourishing yourself and your growing baby is vital for a healthful pregnancy. Eating nutritious food is essential to give your child the best start in life; hence you must consider eating foods that are high in calories.

Fueling Two: How Many Calories Does a Pregnant Woman Need?

But wait!

You don't want to be binge-eating like there's no tomorrow. You have to be cautious about how many calories to consume because overeating can lead to complications such as gestational diabetes, obesity or hypertension which can affect both the mom and baby.

So how much should you be consuming and what foods should you focus on? Here's everything you need!

What Are The Calorie Requirements For A Pregnant Woman?

During pregnancy, women require an additional 350-500 calories per day during each trimester of pregnancy (1). To make it simple for you- if pre-pregnancy BMI was within normal limits (18.5–24.9) then she needs around 340-450 extra daily calories throughout her second trimester and up until delivery(2).

However, calorie requirements depend upon various factors like physical activity level, weight gain goals, maternal height/weight/BMI along with gestation period(3). So some pregnant women may need more than others.

Therefore consulting your healthcare provider would provide better insights as per individual demands.

Understanding The Categorization Of Your Body Mass Index

The Body Mass Index(BMI) calculation considers height ad weight status for categorizing people into underweight (<18.5), normal (19-25), overweight (>26 – 30) ,obese (>30).(4)

Calculating prepregnancy BMI helps determine caloric requirement during generic pregnancies where adequate body mass increases shall aid fetal growth while at the same time maintaining healthy conditions for both, the mother and child.

Undoubtedly this must increase to around 500 -700 extra calories for any overweight and obese respective, but keeping in mind 'to lose weight while pregnant is not advisable'^1.

Women who are pregnant with twins may require additional intake of calories to encourage optimal fetal growth as twice the minerals & nutrients would be consumed(5).

Thus increasing approximations fall between estimates of around ~450-600 calories a day from pre-pregnancy recommendations^2.

Nutritional Recommendations

It's true that during pregnancy you don't need to eat for two people or gulp down gallons of milk(shout out to all my cheese lovers). You only have to choose nutrient-rich foods that fuel your body well so that it caters well nourishment for your growing baby.

Focus on MacroNutrients such as Protein And Carbohydrates

Protein shall help develop amino acids which aid tissue growth together with other physiological needs(6)

Examples include lean meat (chicken/turkey), eggs(non-fertilized :P), tofu, beans/lentils/nuts/seeds/shellfish/ sea-foods etc. Consuming protein is good but make sure not overeating than required calorific values per day since predisposition can lead unwanted body fat accumulation given an increased calorie count.

Carbs supply energy sources which prevent fatigue due to hormonal adjustments coupled by changes within lifestyle choices. Unless diagnosed gdm(gestational diabetes mellitus) diabetic/carb restricted diets shouldn't affect prenatal development per se.(7) Sources include: Wholegrain cereals/breads/pastas/milkproductsand fruits/vegetables as they provide fibre that assuage digestive issues if constipated sensations are felt ^1.

Select complex carbohydrates high in fiber like whole-grain bread n pasta helping relieve constipation rather than processed carbs/refined sugars e.g. chocolates/sugary sodas/fast-food/bakery products etc and always go for smaller quantities once the usage within recommended values at regular intervals is practiced.

Fat Consumption

Unsaturated fats largely play a significant role in fetal brain development but should not be excessive as only 20-30% of calorie intake should come from fat sources. Eating unsaturated fats such as fatty fish (salmon/tuna), avocados, nuts, and healthy oils like olive oil shall aid this necessary nourishment without added adhesive worrying around dietary cholesterol limitations during the prenatal phase.(8)

Fun Fact Over-consuming treats or fast food with saturated/cinnamonic aromas holds potential in nurturing future satisfying senses during neonatal development^3.

It's important to note that it's best advised not to consume 'Trans-fat' present primarily in hydrogenated vegetable oils used mainly as preservatives during food preparations even if labeled at minor intakes(9).

Vitamin And Mineral Essentiality During Pregnancy

There are several micronutrients besides macronutrients which play pivotal roles when pregnant: An insufficient quantity(problems include vitamin A related visual deterioration) or excess(congruent examples include folate supplementation leading nerve damage due to elevated folic acid levels(Davis et al.,2015)) production can cause developmental issues although over-consumption may temporarily improve growth where chronic consumption leads severe health impacts on fetus e.g type2 diabetes mellitus insulin resistance(10).

Table 1 below provides an overview of key nutrients your body needs while pregnant:

Nutrient Function
Calcium Builds Strong Bones For Baby Together With Mothers Relaxation Levels
Folate/ Sodium Technology Helps In Formation Of Brain & Adequately Reduces Birth Defect Risks
Iron Prepares Additional Blood&Assume Oxygen Transport To Both Mom & Baby
Magnesium Shares anti-inflammatory properties while offers Preterm birth reduction
Vitamin D Primarily Develops fetal proper Kidney-Metabolites Functioning

Typically, healthy eating habits provide the needed nutrients to some extent but sometimes your body can't produce enough from natural sources. Taking prenatal vitamins that contain 600 micrograms of folic acid will enable a woman with adequate intake and would help in carrying term pregnancies(11).

Drink Plenty Of Water:

Water helps transport essential nutrients around our bodies and regulate bodily functions. During pregnancy, your body needs even more water to cope with all the changes in your body.

So remember! Sip lots of it between meals throughout the day.

Dehydration can lead to premature labor or affect fetal neurone production given an increased stress response on maternal organs hence always keep up good hydration levels at regular intervals^3

This is why we've included a bonus tip below

Additional Tips: Improve Your Pregnancy Diet

  • Always choose protein-rich breakfast as cortisol tendencies disposition before noon leading sugar indulgences. Regular options may include oats/muesli/almond granola/avocado toast/nut butter+whole wheat bread/tofu/scrambled eggs (Source:FitPregnancy.com)(12).
  • Keep food cravings under check by observing satiation signals once consumed at regular pointers(by ordering smaller amounts if outside home),as stated empirically appreciating different tastes via using 'positive affirmations' holds significance during neonatal development providing unity amongst mother-child(13). Mason Jar Salad anyone?

The Bottom Line Remember, each pregnant mum has unique calorie requirements based on individual needs such as BMI and activity level; however, generally adding an extra 340-450 calories per trimester should be optimal commonly for motherly maturation health benefits alongside traditional nutritious preferences ^4.

Now load up some garlic roasted sweet potatoes, a side of grilled fish or chicken and a few leafy greens. We hope the guidelines discussed here provide meaningful insights concerning nutrient requirements during pregnancy!

Bon Appetit!


  1. Krieger J.W., et al: 2013 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Nutrition During Pregnancy.
  2. The American College Of Obstetricians And Gynecologists (ACOG):'Your Pregnancy'
  3. National Institute Of Child Health and Human Development:'Nutrition During Pregnancy'. 4.Revised weight gain recommendations for women in the United States(Conrad.L,&Nelson.S,2019) 5.Pregnancy Twins& Multiples(Amy Marcella ,Ms,Rd,cpar)(2016) 6.Nutrition For Pregnant Women(WSUS,Pinnacol Assurance)July-2017 7."Dietary carbohydrate restriction in pregnancy should be balanced against potential cardiovascular harm"-Mark A CrowtherTHE LANCET DəLIMAN,JULY,2008 8.Zhou SJ.ChiuDT.GershwinME.:Nutritional modification approach to autoimmune disease prevention.AutoimmunRev.Aug;12(10):1060-70.(Source:National Center Biotechnology Information) 9.- Harvard School Of Public Health"Trans Fat Consumption Poses Major Health Risk'(Archives Internal Medicine),Source:(Harvard Medical School). 10.BretonMC,BrodeurJ,FremontME,MénardJ,ZayedetJ:Nutritional aspects of neonatal programmingby maternal dietary cholesterol supplementation in rabbit.(BMC Pediatr.)May 16;11:43(Source: National Centre Biotechnology information).
    11-MarchofDimes.org:"WhatYouShouldKnowAboutFolicAcid". 12-FitPregnancy.com,"Morning Meals For Pregnant Moms" 13-T. T. Field, et al.: Massage therapy effects detected on EEG alpha and theta brain waves (1998).

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