How much should you eat during pregnancy?

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If you’re like me, you’ve already seen a few of your friends go through the process of pregnancy and giving birth. The fascinating, wonderful and frustrating thing is that each time with each person is somehow completely different. I know mothers who delivered beautiful babies in water baths without so much as a whiff of pain medication; I know mothers who suffered in agony for hours before succumbing to a C-section. All of them produced wonderful, mostly happy children–they just didn’t take quite the same route to get there.

How much should you eat during pregnancy?

I also know mothers who managed to keep their bodies relatively trim during pregnancy (save for those much-need essential kilos ]) and one very close friend who added almost 40 kilos. Every mother is a bit different and as a result it’s sometimes hard to know what is a reasonable expectation.

As one of those mamas who falls somewhere in the middle of these extremes, I spent quite a bit of time searching for answers. It is possible to gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy without going overboard and having to suffer through long, unpleasant bouts of dieting after the birth. Here are a few things that I learned along the way.

  1. Yes, you can fight pregnancy cravings. This is one case where evolution is really against us. Once upon a time, when food was perpetually scarce for our primate ancestors, it was especially vital that pregnant females received enough calories. As a result, when we’re pregnant our bodies are programmed to be hungry pretty much at any time of day. Some women experience exceptionally weird cravings–instead of the old cliche of pickles and ice cream, I found myself dunking Bangkok’s deep-fried bananas in peanut satay sauce–while others have none at all. The best way to keep yourself from eating three plates of mango sticky rice in one go is to plan small, protein- and fiber-rich snacks throughout the day to stay sated.
  2. What you eat makes a big difference. Remember that you’re not just eating for yourself here. While many women see pregnancy as the perfect excuse to load up on junk food that they would normally avoid, those extra calories need to provide crucial nutrients for your child. Instead of immediately going for desserts, try to make sure your additional pregnancy calories come from relatively healthy sources. No, this doesn’t mean forcing yourself to eat nothing but kale for months. Just shoot for a healthy balance of whole grains, relatively lean proteins, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  3. You probably don’t need as many extra calories as you think. There’s a whole lot of conflicting advice out there about how much an expecting mother actually needs to eat in a day. The reality is that while we do need extra calories, we really don’t need that many. The average mom-to-be only needs an extra 300 calories a day, plus maybe an additional hundred or so in the final stretch. To put that in perspective, that’s maybe one small portion of stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts, three or four moo pings, or one decent-sized mango sticky rice. Granted, this is for the average mother. Someone expecting twins, for instance, might need as many as 3,500 calories a day. As always, talk to your doctor and see what they say is right for you.

Photo Credit: bortescristian via Compfight cc

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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