Continuing our series from the Infant & Toddler Forum, this month’s article will help you achieve the recommended energy requirements during your pregnancy. The following guidelines will help ensure that both you and your baby stay healthy throughout pregnancy and beyond.

How many calories should be consumed during pregnancy?

One of the most common myths in pregnancy is that women should ‘eat for two’, so how much energy is appropriate? How much energy you need will depend on your size and weight before pregnancy and activity levels. Although you will need more nutrients during the first two trimesters of your pregnancy, your energy requirements will stay the same.

How much energy you need will depend on your body mass index (BMI) which is based on both your height and weight. You can find this out by going to your GP, or by using the BMI calculator on the NHS Choices website.* If your BMI was within the normal category (BMI 18.5–25kg/m2) before pregnancy, your energy requirement during the first and second trimesters of your pregnancy will remain about the same as before pregnancy. In this case, you should continue to eat the same size portions of food as you did before pregnancy and definitely not increase your intake and ‘eat for two’. But you should choose more nutritious foods in place of high sugar drinks, chocolate, confectionery, ice cream, puddings, cakes and biscuits and high fat foods such as crisps and other packet snacks.

Examples of appropriate portion sizes for pregnant women based on 2000k calories per day

pregnancy portion sizes guide

During the third trimester of your pregnancy, you need to increase your energy intake a little to support the growth of the fetus and to build up enough fat for use during breastfeeding. However, at this point you will tend to be less active, and so your metabolic rate will adjust to help to compensate for these increased needs.

The Department of Health recommends that you should have an extra 200 kcals per day from food in the final three months of your pregnancy. Examples of food providing this amount of calories are:

  • two slices of buttered bread or
  • a bowl of wholegrain breakfast cereal with milk or
  • a bowl of lentil and tomato soup and a bread roll

Top Tip: As well as watching your own diet, use your pregnancy as a time to make sure that the rest of the family are eating healthy foods too.

How much weight should be gained during pregnancy?

There is currently no official UK guidance on appropriate weight gain during pregnancy. However the American Institute of Medicine (IOM) provides the guidelines below.

Normally, you will gain 0.5–2kg of weight during your first trimester of pregnancy and the remainder during your second and third trimesters.

So to summarise…

  • Don’t feel like you need to ‘eat for two’
  • Instead of eating more calories, try to make your diet more nutritious
  • Follow the IOM weight guidelines to ensure the best possible health for you and your baby

You can visit our Diet and Nutrition in Pregnancy section for more advice.

There’s also further guidance and advice on healthy eating habits from pregnancy to preschool available from www.infantandtoddlerforum.org. See Factsheet:  Healthy Eating in Pregnancy.

The Infant & Toddler Forum is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition. The views and outputs of the group, however, remain independent of Danone Nutricia Early Life Nutrition and its commercial interests.

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