Do You Need To Eat For Two During Pregnancy?

Do you need to eat for two during pregnancy? Many times, you hear pregnant women say “you know I’m eating for two…” but is this recommendation correct? Read through and get some evidence-based information.

Nutrition and Weight gain in pregnancy are very important to the health outcomes of both mother and child. On one hand, low weight gain can lead to infants being too small for gestational age or have infants with low birth weight or worse still, still births. This increases the risk of infants to illnesses and chronic diseases later in life, failure to grow, slow mental development and death.

Too much weight gain on the other hand also leads to infants being too large for gestational age; also with many increased health risks.

What is necessary is to get good nutrition and achieve adequate weight gain in pregnancy.

In pregnancy, your energy needs are about 13% higher while your protein needs are about 54% higher. The energy and protein needs are of greater importance in the 2nd and 3rd trimester.

According to the book, the biology of the first 1000 days by Karakochuk et al 2018, pregnant women are expected to consume an additional 76,048 – 76,652 kcal during the 280 days of pregnancy. This is assuming that the expected weight gain is 12 kg. However, note that you are not expected to increase energy intake so much in the 1st trimester. The calories breakdown to about 340 kcals per day in the 2nd trimester and about 452 kcals in the 3rd trimester. This is like an additional snack or small meal.

Using this information, you do not need to ‘eat for two’ during pregnancy.  Also, note that the National (Nigeria) recommendation is that you eat your 3 main meals per day plus an extra snack or extra small meal.

Of course, keep in mind that an undernourished mother would need to gain more weight than an obese woman. Also, twin pregnancies require more weight gain than having one baby.

Adequate weight gain in pregnancy is:

If before pregnancy, you were…

You should gain between…
BMI less than 18.5
12.7 – 18.1kg
Normal Weight
BMI 18.5-24.9
BMI 24.9-29.9
6.8 -11.3kg
BMI greater than or equal to 30.0
5.0 – 9.1kg

IOM, 2009

Micronutrients of great importance in pregnancy include iron, zinc, iodine, and calcium. These are very important for growth and development. Others include folate, vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12.

To get the best of these nutrients, you need to consume a diverse diet that includes varieties of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, beans, peas and other nutritious foods. To augment your nutrient intake from foods, iron-folate tablets and in some cases calcium tablets are usually given during antenatal clinics.

In a nutshell, you do not need to eat for two. Please be reminded however that you need to eat an extra snack or small meal in addition to your 3 main meals. If you keep up with your antenatal clinic schedule, your doctors, nurses and dietitians would be able to advice you and address issues that arise during pregnancy. If you monitor your weight gain and can keep nutritious food down for the duration of your pregnancy, you will have a healthy baby and you will be healthy as well.

Don’t forget to eat better and live better.


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