Pregnancy is one of the most joyful, overwhelming, and loving experiences of a woman’s life. You are actually growing another human inside you, how much more special can it get? But you are also scared. You are overwhelmed. Maybe you haven’t taken the best care of your health up to this point, and now it is vital to do so. Not only for your sake, but your baby’s as well. However, nutrition may have been an overwhelming and murky subject before you got pregnant, and now it seems like rocket science. How much are you supposed to eat? What kinds of foods are you supposed to eat? What should you avoid? How can you stay healthy without gaining excess weight? This article will break all that down and more, so let’s get to it!
First Trimester Nutrition
This is actually the trickiest part of your pregnancy for a number of reasons, but one of them being nutrition. Many women feel and have heard numerous times from well meaning loved ones, that you are now eating for two. Well, this is kind of true, but not the way you might think. During your first trimester you need to eat at maintenance calories.
Essentially what this means is that if you have been in a caloric deficit, below maintenance calories, then you need to bring your intake up to maintenance.
This can be done pretty much two ways. You can either track your calories to make sure that you are staying in the maintenance range, or if you already have a healthy and balanced diet, just continue what you are doing.
The key to the first trimester is that you don’t need to add calories to your maintenance.
If you already utilized a well balanced, healthy, sustainable diet then by all means, please continue to do that!
However, you can also track your calories to make sure you are staying the maintenance range.
So how do you decide what your maintenance calories are?
First, you figure out what your BMR (basal metabolic rate) is. The equation for women is:
- 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
Then, you determine what your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) is. The equation looks like this:
- If you currently exercise 6+ times per week, use: BMR x 65= your TDEE.
- You currently exercise 3-5 times per week, use: BMR x 5= your TDEE.
- If you currently exercise 1-2 times per week, use: BMR x 35= your TDEE.
- You currently exercise 0 times per week, use: BMR x 2= your TDEE.
Let’s do an example, shall we?
Female, age 26, 64 inches tall, 150lbs, exercises 4x per week.
BMR= 655+(4.35×150) + (4.7×64) – (4.7×26) = 1486.10. This is the minimum number of calories a woman with these stats should eat per day.
TDEE=1486×1.5= 2229. This is the number of calories a person with these stats would eat per day to hit their maintenance level.
Check out this great article on the importance of vitamins and minerals during your pregnancy!
Second Trimester Nutrition
Here is where the nutrition changes a bit. As your babe grows inside you, more fuel is needed to aide in the development process. Now, this is NOT a license to eat anything, everything, and as much as you want all the time. Not in the slightest. Guess what?
You should increase your caloric intake by about 300 calories per day. That might seem like a lot per day, but trust me, it isn’t! If you started out overweight when you got pregnant, you may not even need the extra 300 cals. Eat until you feel full and satisfied, but don’t go eat a half gallon of ice cream just because you are pregnant!
Third Trimester Nutrition
Your nutrition is going to pretty much stay the same during your third trimester as it was during your second trimester. However, if you feel like you are more hungry during this stage of your pregnancy, you can add an extra 100-150 calories per day to your diet.
What Would Macros Look Like?
If you are a macro counter (IIFYM anyone?) then you might be wondering how your macro ratios will change now that you are pregnant.
- Protein – Protein requirements won’t change much from your regular. If you want to make sure that you don’t lose muscle mass while pregnant (since yes, you will have to change your workouts a bit) then don’t go any lower than .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight while pregnant.
- Fats – Fats are essential for female hormone health and hunny, your hormones are going to be whacked out while pregnant. Therefore, fat is important. I would recommend hanging out around .4 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight while pregnant.
- Carbs – Since you are doing .8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight and .4 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight, the rest of your calories will go to carbs!
Example – If your maintenance calories are 2229 calories (using your TDEE from the example above), then your macro breakdown would look like this:
- Protein: 150 x .8 = 120g protein
- Fats: 150 x .4 = 60g fats
- Carbs: 120*4 + 60*9 = 2229-1020 = 1209/4 = 302g carbs
This will change as your calories increase throughout pregnancy!
Foods to Avoid While Pregnant
There are some foods that you will just need to avoid as much as possible during pregnancy. Each contains something that may be unharmful to you but could strain the health of your pregnancy or your tiny human.
Foods to avoid are:
- caffeine (no more than one cup of coffee or tea per day)
- raw fish or smoked seafood
- shark, swordfish, mackerel, or white snapper fish (they have high levels of mercury)
- raw sprouts
- unpasteurized milk or other dairy products
- deli meats or hot dogs
If there are any foods that make you feel nauseous, you are allergic to, or negatively affect you in any other way should also be avoided!
Foods to Prioritize While Pregnant
While there are some foods to avoid while pregnant, there are also some that you should prioritize! Making sure you and your baby are getting all of the nutrients you both need to stay healthy is essential.
Prioritize these nutrients:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- High quality protein
- High quality fat
Prioritize these foods to get the nutrients above:
- dark leafy greens
- wild caught, oily fish
- sea vegetables
- baked potato with skin
- red meat
- coconut water
- brown rice
- sweet potatoes
- bell peppers
- coconut oil
Wrapping Up Pregnancy Nutrition
In this article we covered first, second, and third trimester nutrition recommendations as well as maintenance calories, macros splits, and the do’s and don’ts. If you stick to the recommendations above, you will be smooth sailing during your pregnancy! Just remember that everyone is different. If you have a question about something, or you want to try something, be sure to check it out with your doctor first!