It’s true that you’ll need to eat more food while you’re pregnant. But it’s probably not as much extra food as you think. And it certainly isn’t necessary to eat twice as many calories each day—in fact, that can be harmful to you and your little one. What works best is to gradually increase the number of calories you eat to match the rate of your baby’s growth.
During the first trimester, your baby won’t need any additional calories. But your body is changing to prepare for the growth and development of baby. So, even though you may not need extra calories early in pregnancy, your nutrition needs have increased.
During your second and third trimesters, your baby’s growth will speed up, so this is when you’ll need to increase the amount of calories you eat.
Learn more about pregnancy nutrition on our Prenatal Vitamins page.
Here are the daily calorie guidelines for women who were at a normal weight before pregnancy and who exercise 30 minutes or less per day:
Calories in your first trimester
Continue your usual number of daily calories, which is typically 2,000 to 2,200* for most women during childbearing years. While your little one’s calorie needs are small now, his need for nutrients is high. So make every bite count.
Calories in your second trimester
Add about 340* calories a day, totaling 2,340 to 2,540. That doesn’t amount to much—about 1 cup of fat-free skim milk and one slice of whole-grain bread with peanut butter and jelly.
Calories in your third trimester
During the third trimester, add 450* calories a day, for a total of 2,450 to 2,650 calories. That’s about 1 cup of low-fat vanilla yogurt, ½ cup of mixed fruit, and ⅓ cup of low-fat granola.
Quality of food over quantity
You’ll sometimes hear that what you eat during pregnancy doesn’t matter and that your little one will just take the nutrients from your body to meet his needs. This is not true. If your body is low in certain vitamins and minerals, they will also be delivered in low amounts to your baby. So what you eat when you’re pregnant can make a big difference in your experience and the outcome of labor.
A nutritious diet during pregnancy builds a good foundation for your baby’s lifelong health. This is why you should focus on the quality of the calories you eat, rather than quantity.
Eating healthy foods and consuming the right number of calories for your body type and lifestyle can benefit your baby's health—and yours.
For tips on healthy eating during pregnancy, see our What to Eat & What Not to Eat article.