Counting Calories During Pregnancy: What to Know

Posted On: April 8, 2020 By CIW

Reviewed by: Casey Sieden MS, RD, CDN, DCES

When you’re pregnant, it’s natural to want to do the best you can for your health and your baby’s. One area where women tend to spend some of their time worrying, however, is regarding what happens in the kitchen. The truth is that your eating patterns will change during pregnancy because of a variety of factors, but it’s important to find the balance between becoming preoccupied with it and not caring at all. Here’s what to know about one of the most common questions women find themselves asking during pregnancy— counting calories. 

Is it safe to count calories during pregnancy? 

With all the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy, combined with doctor’s appointments and preparing for your baby’s arrival (possibly while still working and possibly taking care of other children) pregnant women have a lot to keep track of! One fewer thing that most pregnant women need to keep tabs on is counting calories. While calorie counting may be necessary or recommended for certain women (for example, those who have difficulty gaining weight or twin pregnancies) it’s likely not necessary for most pregnant women to be counting calories daily for their entire pregnancy. Calorie counting is a “safe” practice, but for many women it can lead to unnecessary preoccupation with food choices and a focus on weight that may not be warranted in pregnancy. Rather than counting calories, objective measures such as a woman’s weight trend during pregnancy, the baby’s weight and measurements, and an assessment of the woman’s overall diet quality can be much more useful indicators of health than the calories consumed. 

How many calories do I need during each trimester? 

As recommended by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the first trimester does not require consumption of any additional calories above a woman’s baseline calculated needs. It is recommended that she consume an additional 340 calories in the second trimester, and 450 additional calories during the third trimester. For help determining your baseline caloric needs, you should meet with a registered dietitian who can take into account your specific health history and any factors that might affect your pregnancy. 

What should my daily meal plan look like? 

Every woman will be different when it comes to meal planning during pregnancy! Generally speaking, a pregnant woman should aim for 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day. Meals should be comprised of 2-3 cups of vegetables, about 4-5 ounces of lean protein, about 1 cup of starch (ideally whole grains, legumes, or a starchy vegetable), and a source of dietary fat (specifically poly or mono-unsaturated fats.) Women are encouraged to consume 2-3 servings of fruit per day and 1-2 servings of dairy. You should also prioritize foods rich in iron, vitamin D, choline, folic acid, calcium, and iodine. If you’re looking for help creating a more specific meal plan, you can meet with a registered dietician to ensure you and your baby are getting everything you need. 

Schedule an Appointment 

It can seem overwhelming to try and eat right during pregnancy, but the most important thing is to partner with a team of maternal fetal medicine specialists who can guide you through the right steps. To meet with our team and our registered dietician, we invite you to contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form. 

Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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