Jan 16, 2012

Q & A with the Dietitian

Hello friends! Hope you had a great holiday weekend and were able to get some R & R. This week on Q & A we're talking about a topic I know most pregnant moms wonder about......healthy weight gain.


Mollie wrote:

About how many calories should I be eating while pregnant and exercising? I know that the kind of food I eat is important as well, but some days it's just easier to keep track of calories (though some other simple guidelines would be great). I'm still exercising every day and ALWAYS feel hungry, but I don't want to gain more than the recommended amount.


Hi Mollie! Thanks for your question and congratulations! The amount of calories you need for pregnancy and exercise depends on your baseline calorie needs, which will change with each trimester. For a healthy woman of normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9), aim to gain a total of 25 to 35 pounds throughout the entire pregnancy. This can be spaced as follows:

       First trimester: 2-4lbs
       Second and third trimester: About 4 pounds per month

It's important to gain weight especially during the second and third trimester as this is the time the baby needs the most calories for growth. Eating a healthy diet will ensure adequate nutrient intake and optimal growth for the baby. That said, if you're hungry all the time (and trust me...I hear you!), it may be helpful to modestly keep track of what you eat. I say modestly because pregnancy is obviously not the time to worry about gaining weight and stressing about how many calories you're eating. It's also important to listen to your body so if you have real hunger, eat! Regardless, for the average woman here is an estimate of how many calories to consume per trimester (without exercise):

Sample daily calorie needs during pregnancy:

       First trimester: ~1,800 calories
       Second trimester: ~2,100 calories
       Third trimester: ~2,400 calories

Now on to exercise....

The amount of calories you'll need in addition to the above mentioned estimates will depend on the type of exercise, the intensity and your body weight. Since it is recommended to either continue your normal pre-pregnancy exercise plan (or scale it back a little, especially as trimesters progress), you probably have a good idea of what you normally burn during your workout. Use that number and add to your calorie intake for the day.

So, for example if you run 3 miles one day during your first trimester, you may burn around 300-400 calories. Add that number to 1,800 calories and you'll need about 2,100 -2,200 calories for the day.

Click here for an example of a healthy pregnancy diet that I wrote for livestrong.com.

As a side, my answers for you today are straight from the textbook. Having experienced pregnancy myself, I can say that every woman is unique and does not always fit the textbook mold. Calorie needs may vary and weight gain may vary. The most important things are to listen to your body, gain enough weight by eating a healthy diet, continue exercising and don't stress. 

I hope this answers your question Mollie and feel free to ask more if you have any further questions. Also, for the rest of my readers, feel free to send me your own nutrition questions at tiffanythedietitian@gmail.com.


  1. Thank you Tiffany!! Sounds like I am currently on a good track for 2nd trimester, calorie-wise, though I overdid it in the first tri and gained more like 6 or 7. :( It is really hard when food is the one thing that makes me feel better, and suddenly meat and veggies make me want to hurl! Oh well. I actually am seeing that I know way more about nutrition than I did 3 yrs ago and had learned some really good habits-- now that I am feeling better I am putting them back into practice!