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Is it safe to count calories during pregnancy?

While you don’t want to overeat the wrong foods during your pregnancy, you also don’t want to diet and deprive your growing baby of essential nutrients and nourishment.

pregnant woman eating fruit

So just what is the safest and healthiest way to approach your diet during these nine months?

What to do when the weight piles on

There’s no denying that when you’re pregnant, you need to ingest more calories than you usually would in an average day to keep up with the demands of your growing bub. But it can be difficult for moms-to-be when the weight piles on… and on… and on!

“I am so frustrated [by] the amount of weight I’m gaining with my pregnancy!” claims Lia Rose, who, at 18 weeks pregnant, has gained 22 pounds. “My friend gained 65 pounds with her last pregnancy and is still 28 pounds over her pre-pregnancy weight 10 months later. I’m just so afraid of getting stuck with a bunch of extra weight that I can’t lose!”

It’s this line of thinking that causes many pregnant women to watch what they eat, but the truth is, your most important consideration shouldn’t be how many calories you should eat in a day, but what type of calories.

Worried about weight gain? Refocus on these perks of being pregnant >>

Foods to stick with

In other words, avoid the temptation to boost your calories with snacks of Coffee Crisp and Aero bars, and aim to up your intake of veggie-ful quiches, pastas, salads and fruits instead.

Pregnant women should aim to eat

  • Four to five servings from the bread, cereal, rice, pasta and noodles group, such as two slices of bread; one medium bread roll; 1 cup of cooked rice, pasta or noodles; or 1 cup of breakfast cereal.
  • Five servings of vegetables, such as 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables, 1 cup of salad vegetables or one small potato.
  • Four servings of fruit, such as one medium apple, 1 cup of diced fruit pieces or canned fruit, 1/2 cup of fruit juice or 2 tablespoons of sultanas.
  • Two servings of dairy, such as 250 millilitres of milk, two slices of cheese or one small carton of yogourt.
  • One to two servings from the meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes group, such as 80–100 grams of cooked meat, fish or chicken; two small chops; two slices of roast meat; 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans; 1/3 cup of almonds; or two small eggs.

What are your calorie needs during each trimester?

If you’re serious about monitoring the amount of food you eat each day, then it pays to know what calorie intake you should aim for. According to the infamous pregnancy bible What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, it’s important to keep the old pregnancy cliché of “eating for two” in perspective. “One of the ‘two’ that you’re eating for is nowhere near your size — just pea-like, in fact, in the first trimester — so you’ll only need to eat an average of about 300 calories a day,” the authors suggest. “Perhaps more, if you’re very active.”

Health Canada provides guidelines on the number of calories an average woman aged 19 to 30 should consume each day:

  • 1,900 calories (sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity)
  • 2,100 calories (low-active lifestyle with some physical activity)
  • 2,350 calories (active lifestyle with at least 2-1/5 hours per week of moderate exercise)

Women aged 31 to 50 should trim around 100 calories per day off these guidelines.

However, when you’re expecting a baby, you can add additional calories to your diet:

  • First trimester — 300 calories per day
  • Second trimester — 350 calories per day
  • Third trimester — 500 calories per day

Keeping healthy after bub arrives: Post-pregnancy diet tips >>

remember

You have a little wiggle room to play with, and when you feel like having the odd chocolate bar or second helping of dessert, you should indulge! Just make sure it’s not an everyday occurrence, and keep your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy, nutritious options to help you make the best diet decisions each day.

More pregnancy tips

10 Common pregnancy fears and how to get over them
Baby on board: Pregnancy bloggers we love
7 Tips for dealing with morning sickness

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