How Much Should I Eat While Pregnant?

AngelaRD, LDN, CBS

Read time: 4 minutes

What to know about how much to eat while pregnant

  • How many additional calories are needed to meet pregnancy weight gain guidelines
  • The benefits of meeting your calorie and nutrient needs during pregnancy
  • Easy snack and meal ideas to meet your increased calorie needs

Growing a baby is hard work, and your body needs adequate calories and nutrients to do the job well. A nutrient-rich diet during pregnancy is associated with improved fetal health and a healthy birth weight.1  Most women have a suggested weight gain of about 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.1,2 While this seems like a lot, you actually don’t need to eat that much more than normal to meet this healthy weight gain!

What does it mean to “eat for two?”

It may be tempting to follow the old adage and “eat for two,” but keep in mind that the fetus is very small during the gestation period and eating twice your normal amount is not necessary.3 Instead, focus on “thinking for two.” Pay more attention to filling your diet with quality, nutrient-packed foods to help meet you and your baby’s increased vitamins and minerals needs.4 In fact, additional calories aren’t even needed in the first trimester.3

Read more: Healthy Weight Gain in Pregnancy and Why It’s Good

How many calories do I need while pregnant?

  • If you were a healthy weight before you became pregnant, you will need about 340 additional calories per day starting in your second trimester and about 450 additional calories per day during your third trimester.
  • If you were under- or over-weight prior to getting pregnant, those numbers will go up or down accordingly.
  • Women carrying twins should consume about 600 extra calories a day.
  • Women carrying triplets should take in about 900 extra calories a day.5,6,7

Gaining the right amount of weight can help decrease risks of pregnancy complications and offers lasting benefits for you and your baby.8,9

Read more: Managing Weight Gain during a Multiple Pregnancy

Nutritious meal and snack ideas during pregnancy

First trimester: Focus on nutrient density

What do all of these numbers mean in terms of how much you should eat? Well in the first trimester, continue to eat the same amount of food as before you became pregnant, with a special focus on eating high quality, nutrient-dense foods. With you and your baby’s nutrient needs increasing, a well-balanced diet is important.10,11

Think about packing your day with whole, minimally processed foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, proteins, beans, low fat dairy, nuts and seeds.10,11

Remember, your caloric needs do not increase during the first trimester (unless you’re carrying more than one baby).7

Read more: Key Nutrients to Support a Healthy Pregnancy

Read more: Meal Plan to Manage Morning Sickness

Second trimester: Follow your increasing hunger cues

In the second trimester, your appetite is likely increasing and you should start adding about 340 calories to your daily diet.7

This might sound like a lot, but 340 calories does not equate to very much additional food. In fact, you may find that increasing your food intake by this amount happens naturally by just responding to your hunger cues. You can incorporate more calories by slightly increasing the size of your meals or adding an additional quality snack.

Here are healthful snack and meal ideas that will add about 340 calories to your daily diet:

  • String cheese with whole grain crackers and an apple or serving of grapes
  • 2 whole grain rice cakes with 2 tablespoons nut butter and banana slices on top (optional: sprinkle of cinnamon)
  • ½ an avocado mashed on a whole grain English muffin with 1 sliced hard-boiled egg on top
  • ½ cup trail mix
  • 6oz low-fat plain Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons peanut butter (or chopped walnuts) and blueberries mixed in
  • 2 scrambled eggs with cheese on a piece of 100% whole grain toast with sliced tomato

Need help with quick and healthy meal ideas? Come chat with our team of registered dietitians, fellow moms, and lactation specialists, available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 8 pm (EST) and Saturday – Sunday 8 am – 4 pm (EST). Chat now!

Read more: Meal Plan: Key Nutrients of Pregnancy

Third trimester: Lots of growth for baby and increased calories for you

In your third trimester, add around 450 calories to your daily diet.5

You may find that it’s becoming harder to eat as much as you used to in one sitting due to your rapidly growing baby. Enjoy small, frequent meals or add in additional snacks to keep yourself comfortable while continuing to get all of the nutrients you and your baby need.

Here are some nutritious snack and meal ideas to add 450 calories to your diet:

  • ½ cup trail mix with 1 cup of unsweetened yogurt (or non-dairy yogurt)
  • 1 sweet potato with ½ cup black beans, ¼ avocado, melted cheese and salsa
  • A peanut butter (or other nut butter) and banana sandwich made with 1 banana, 2 tablespoons nut butter and 2 slices 100% whole grain bread
  • Turkey sandwich with 2 ounces turkey from a roasted turkey or turkey breast, 1 slice of cheese and two slices of 100% whole grain bread

Read more: Healthy Snacks for Pregnant Women

Should I track my calories?

Nope! As long as your weight is on track, it is not necessary to track exact calories. Instead, increase the amount of food you eat slightly in the second and third trimesters by responding to your hunger and fullness cues.

If you have any concerns about your weight gain or how much you’re eating, speak to your health care provider. These calorie recommendations are general guidelines, but you may need to eat more or less depending on your specific situation.

Learn about: Foods and Ingredients to Avoid While Pregnant

Let’s Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday through Friday, from 8am–6pm ET, and Saturday and Sunday, from 8am–2pm ET. Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic check out the following articles:

Healthy Snacks During Pregnancy

Healthy Weight Gain in Pregnancy and Why it’s Good

Meal Plan for Increasing Whole Grains

How to Include More Beans/Legumes in Your Diet

Food Safety During Pregnancy

Taste Imprinting While Pregnant and Breastfeeding