“Double for me please, I’m eating for two!”
We’ve all heard the above saying and the outcome of that can be pretty rewarding *temporarily.* It is legitimate that you are growing a new human as well as a whole new organ; aka the placenta. So It makes sense to think that as your body is carrying two separate heart beats, you must fuel yourself for two.
But in reality, your growing baby doesn’t actually need the amount of calories that you do. So the “eat for two” is just a cliche-ridden myth. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean you don’t need any extra calories (you do!). But it differs from woman to woman. Generally speaking, all you need is one extra nutrient dense snack per day.
I won’t give you specific numbers because that’s not what I want to focus on. I don’t believe you should ever count calories as there are more important aspects during pregnancy to direct your energy to. If you are eating mindfully by listening to your hunger and fullness cues, your body will do all the work! Meaning, however many more calories you specifically need during your pregnancy, your body will let you know and you shouldn’t need to think about it.
So yep, your caloric needs do not heighten as you may have previously thought. HOWEVER, your need for certain nutrients increases significantly! I can’t stress this enough. Extra calories aren’t going to help your baby thrive as much as extra nutrients. Some of your needs increase up to 50% more than before you were pregnant. Including these nutrients in your diet at the recommended levels can keep you feeling better, keep the baby healthy, and reduce pregnancy complications.
Blood sugar peaks and crashes, roller coaster of emotions, low iron status, intense cravings, and fatigue are all aspects you can change by nourishing yourself properly each day. (click to download your FREE guide on how to improve fatigue!) Be wary of just googling RDAs (Recommended Daily Allowances) for recommended intakes during pregnancy. These are merely suggestions and have not been updated in years. Not to mention, the study that took precedence in setting the amounts used men and then mathematical equations to estimate pregnancy needs (I’d question the accuracy on that?!) The more recent studies have found that pregnancy needs are actually MUCH greater than what the RDAs are set at. But what’s also worrisome is that most women aren’t even meeting the RDAs to begin with..
Let’s break down a few of these nutrients just to give you a clearer picture. There are many others besides this list; reach out to me for more information!
Choline is required for brain development, placental function, and preventing neural tube defects. 94% of women do not meet the recommended amount of 450 mg/day. Eggs (with yokes) are one of the best sources of choline. If you aren’t getting enough choline from your diet, make sure your prenatal has adequate amounts. Pro tip: if your prenatal is just 1-2 capsules per day, it’s likely not enough choline. Choline is a larger micronutrient that takes up space. Many prenatal companies won’t include the recommended amounts because of this (!!).
DHA is also needed for brain development as well as a major proponent of eye development. It’s extremely important in the first few years of life for your child. DHA intake is also beneficial for you! Low intake during pregnancy increases the odds of suffering from maternal anxiety and postpartum depression. DHA is found in fatty fish, grass fed meat and eggs but you may need a supplement form to get the recommended amounts. DHA works synergistically with choline by enhancing how much DHA is incorporated into cells so have both in adequate amounts is advantageous.
This is found in full fat dairy products so if you can tolerate them, they are essential during pregnancy. Vitamin K2 supports metabolism and may increase insulin sensitivity to help maintain normal blood sugar. It also helps shuttle minerals to baby’s bones and teeth. If your intake is too low, your body will borrow from your own tissues causing you to become depleted leading to other health problems. Don’t worry if you can’t tolerate dairy products. Supplemented Vitamin K2 is recommended for most pregnant women if it’s not in your prenatal!
A quick note that quality counts! Higher quality of foods have significantly more nutrients than conventional grown foods. They also have less traces of pesticides and other chemicals. Grass fed beef, pasture raised chickens, wild caught fish and organics are your best options. But the nutrients are still there and important to consume regardless of how it was raised or produced.
The major take away I want you to gain from this post is that don’t worry about that calorie number. Instead, focus on consuming more nutrient dense foods. Your body is going through crazy changes and needs to be fueled properly. If you have any questions, I’m always available!
P.S. If you still want to use the “Well, I’m eating for two” for an occasional extra ice cream, I won’t tell 😉
Nichols, Lily. Real Food for Pregnancy: The Science and Wisdom of Optimal Prenatal Nutrition., 2018. Print.
Nichols, Lily. “Why Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines Need To Be Updated.” Lily Nichols RDN, https://lilynicholsrdn.com/prenatal-guidelines-updated/.
Mosees, D., Hoyt, C. (Host). (2020-Present). Whole-Hearted Eating [Audio podcast]. Dana Monsees Nutrition. https://www.realfoodwithdana.com/68-body-image-real-food-for-pregnancy-with-lily-nichols-rdn/