The most frequent advice a pregnant woman hears is “You should eat for two”.
Many pregnant women in the first trimester might think, “I have severe nausea and vomiting and can’t manage to eat for myself and how do I really eat for two?”.
No doubt that a pregnant woman should eat nutritious food that ensures adequate nutrition supply to the developing foetus. But should she double the quantity of food intake? Or should she double the nutrient intake?
How much food does your growing baby require? Does it need as much as you do?
Let us understand what eating for two really means.
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What does “Eating for Two” mean for a pregnant woman?
When our elders say to a pregnant woman, “Eat for two”, they actually mean eat mindfully because you are not eating for yourself but also for the growing baby in your womb.
Eating for two means that a pregnant woman should be careful about her eating habits, avoid junk and non-nutritious foods, and eat wholesome food not just for her own health but also for her baby’s. Any unhealthy food habits of a pregnant woman might have adverse side effects on the baby too.
So, the correct interpretation of this advice
is to consume healthy and nutritious food that would benefit both you and your baby and does not mean that you should double the quantity of your meal.
Should a woman really eat twice the quantity of food when she gets pregnant?
No doctor would advise a pregnant woman to double her food intake. To sustain the pregnancy, your body would actually increase its efficiency in nutrient absorption and would make use of the nutrients in the foods you consume, to the maximum extent.
If you simply double your food intake, there is no proof of research that your baby will get the best nutrition and be born healthy. In fact, increasing your food quantity may lead to unwanted weight gain which increases the chances pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and premature delivery.
Also Read: 13 Pregnancy myths and facts
By how much should a pregnant woman’s food consumption increase?
In the first trimester of your pregnancy,
you do not have to eat anything extra. Your regular food intake is sufficient to provide adequate nutrition to your baby. Be careful not to consume foods which are not recommended for the first trimester of your pregnancy.
For the second trimester,
doctors usually recommend consuming 350 additional calories per day. This would roughly translate to adding 2 bananas or 3 apples or 2 rotis or a cup of rice or a veg & cheese sandwich to your daily diet.
For the third trimester,
additional calorie intake of 450 calories is recommended. This is usually met either by having 1 aloo or paneer paratha or 1 cup of veg khichdi or 1 veg paratha roll or 3 idlis with chutney.
Please note that the food items mentioned are only for reference. There are other healthy foods which will help you meet your calorie requirement. Consult a dietitian/nutritionist to get a balanced diet plan throughout your pregnancy.
Though additional calories are recommended in the second and third trimesters, the doctor may either increase or decrease your requirement depending on whether you are overweight or underweight.
It is important to be aware that adding extra calorie does not mean you can add any type of calories to your diet. The calorie increase should in the form of nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins etc. and not empty calories like fizzy drinks and juices, sugar laden sweets and fried food.
The best way to increase your calorie intake is to have healthy snacks in between your meals. Have a serving of mixed fruits or a paneer sandwich or a veg roll or sprouts bhel etc. in between your meals to meet your nutrition demands.
Also Read: 13 Foods which You Should Avoid During First 3 Months of Pregnancy
How to manage your cravings?
Yes, cravings are an inseparable part of your pregnancy. Sometimes you might feel like eating some junk food. If you really want to have junk food, there is no harm if you eat in moderate quantities, provided you have a well-balanced nutritious diet all other times.
Try to have healthy snacks as much as possible. This will not only provide the additional calorie requirements but also the essential nutrients for your body.
Problems that excess food intake can cause
Many women misinterpret that eating for two means food quantity has to be doubled. High food intake without understanding your calorie requirement can lead to many complications.
- Obesity – Intake of food higher than the required quantity can cause unnecessary weight gain during pregnancy. This can lead to obesity post-delivery and you may face difficulty in losing weight later.
- Risk of gestational diabetes – Increase in weight may put you in the risk of gestational diabetes, which in turn may make your baby grow bigger than average. Larger the baby, higher are the chances of prolonged labor or C-section delivery.
- Risk of high blood pressure – Increase in your weight will up the chances of getting high blood pressure, which will affect the growth of the baby.
So, Dear Moms-to-be, eating for two is an adage that you should always keep the health of your baby in mind before eating. It does not indicate that you should unmindfully increase your food intake. Not only a well-balanced diet is essential for you and your growing baby but it indirectly ensures that you have an uneventful delivery without any complications.
Since your baby gets affected by everything you consume, avoid excess alcohol, colas & fizzy drinks and give up smoking completely. Lead an active lifestyle and have a happy pregnancy!
Also Read: 11 Food Items to avoid during Pregnancy
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