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  • Bethany Smith

The "Eating for two" Myth: Nutrition Recommendations for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Parent

“Relax, you’re eating for two.”

I heard this phrase multiple times while pregnant. I also heard…

“Don’t worry about that third piece of pizza.”

“It's ok since it’s for baby…”

“You’re pregnant, enjoy eating as much as you want.”

It’s one of the most common pregnancy myths that you’re eating for two.

But really, you’re not.

Picture this. When you give birth to a full term baby they're typically in the 6-10 lb range. A newborn doesn’t require many calories in a day. With that said, neither does a developing baby. This means that even if we run with the eating for two idea and consider both growing bodies, doubling your calorie intake still does not add up and it’s not getting us to the truth.

Allow me. The truth is… you’re growing a new human. Of course that’s going to take extra work for your body and you’re going to need more calories to sustain that. But, double the calories? No.

Recommendations do vary between different health organizations, but the general consensus is that in your first trimester you need minimal extra calories. At the most, 150 extra calories per day would be needed. That’s a serving of tortilla chips. Which if you're anything like me, you know that’s not very much. Thank goodness for the majority who have a hard time keeping things down during the first few months.

In the second trimester, as the baby grows bigger and your body continues to grow and change, more calories are needed. Now, a total of 300-350 extra calories per day (including the extra calories from the first trimester) are recommended.

As the pregnancy progresses into the third trimester, there's another slight increase. A total of 400-450 extra calories per day (Now including the first two trimesters) is recommended.

Those expecting multiples are the exception. They will often need more calories, at least double what is recommended for those carrying only one baby. In addition ones who are underweight or overweight may be encouraged to take in more or less calories than recommended. The best thing to do is to talk with your doctor or dietitian the right calorie intake for you.

It's been established that you’re not really eating for two during your pregnancy. Now, as a disclaimer, let’s talk about the quality of the added calories.

Yes, you need more calories. No, unfortunately, that doesn't mean those additional calories should be made up of cheesecake or fast food. I love Taco Bell as much as the next person but, overall, the calories we add should be nutritionally beneficial. You don’t have to skip the less healthy food all the time but, like everything we do, moderation is key. It's recommended to focus on adding healthy snacks to your diet. Additional vegetables, fruit, lean protein, complex carbohydrates, nuts/beans, and low fat dairy are all great options... But, that looks like a side of cheese fries here and there then I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

As our calories increase, in general, so should our nutrient intake. Maybe it’s vitamins and minerals or maybe it's macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat). Either way, pregnancy is not the time to cut out any food groups. A well-rounded diet is important for your health and the health of your growing baby.

What about during lactation? I wish.

During lactation, you are producing milk to feed your baby and continue to require extra calories. For most, lactation requires 350-500 additional calories per day more than non-pregnant people. Again, choosing healthy, balanced options is the best way to go about adding the calories and nutrients to your diet that you need to help produce milk. That said, those with low milk supply who are eating an adequate number of calories do not need to continue to increase calories. That is probably not the issue behind your low supply. Postpartum women who are not breastfeeding or pumping do not require additional calories.

ber of calories you’re adding during pregnancy, but don’t use it as an excuse to go overboard either. Instead make conscious, healthy choices with your food and eat a small meal or snack when you feel hungry. Try to avoid overeating as it can cause discomfort. Focus on food that makes your body feel good and trust your hunger sense and you’ll likely give your body (and baby!) just what it needs.

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