How many calories should a pregnant woman eat?

Pregnancy is one of those times in a woman’s life when it seems everybody knows everything, and everybody is quite happy to share their vast knowledge. Add books, blogs (yes, we know we’re no exception here), articles, and the dreaded Google Search, and it’s hard to get a straight answer. One of the most common questions we get is, “How many calories should a pregnant woman eat?”


And, we have to say, it depends. There is no one-size-fits-all (one-number-fits-all) answer to this question. Pregnancy marks a unique period in your life where your body undergoes incredible transformations to support the growth and development of your baby. While the question of calories is essential, that old adage, “eating for two” might be applied to the quality of diet, but not necessarily quantity.


It’s important to have a clear understanding of how to balance your caloric requirements for a healthy pregnancy.

Do you need extra calories in the first trimester?

In the initial stages of pregnancy, your caloric needs don’t significantly differ from your pre-pregnancy requirements. Your focus should be on nourishing your body with nutrient-rich foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals. This sets the stage for your baby’s development, making a balanced diet a top priority. (Below, we have some recommendations for power nutrients!)


Do you need extra calories in the second trimester?

As your baby’s growth accelerates, your caloric needs increase. Typically, during the second trimester, the average woman should consume an extra 300 – 350 calories per day. Individual needs will vary.

Should you eat more calories in the third trimester?

Most women experience most of their weight gain between the second and third trimesters. Women who begin their pregnancy an average weight will need between 400 – 500 calories extra per day.



What are nutrients that should be consumed during pregnancy? Quality Trumps Quantity

While the need for extra calories during pregnancy is evident, the quality of those calories matters most. Opt for foods rich in nutrients, offering vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Your choices should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products.


Protein: Protein plays a pivotal role in supporting your baby’s growth, especially during the later stages of pregnancy. Your diet should include lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, beans, and tofu.

Folate and Iron: These nutrients are critical during pregnancy. Folate aids in the development of your baby’s neural tube, while iron prevents anemia. You can find folate in leafy greens and fortified cereals, while lean meats are excellent sources of iron. For vegetarian and vegan moms-to-be, it’s important to work with a prenatal dietician to ensure you’re receiving the amount of iron you need.

Calcium: Calcium is indispensable for your baby’s bone and tooth health. Incorporate dairy products, fortified plant-based milk, and leafy greens into your diet to ensure an adequate calcium intake.

Fiber: Fiber can help alleviate common pregnancy discomforts, such as constipation. Ensure you include plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet as rich sources of dietary fiber.

HydrationHydration is paramount. Water not only supports various bodily functions but also helps your body adapt to the changes brought about by pregnancy.

Mindful Eating, Cravings, Food Aversions, and More!

Eating while pregnant comes with its own set of challenges. Some women experience food aversions, appetite loss, or off-the-wall cravings. Others struggle with morning sickness (that lasts morning, noon, and night).  And, often, women struggle to get the nutrients they need. Don’t panic. You are not alone, and there are many ways to manage your pregnancy diet.

  1. Listen to your body’s cues for hunger and fullness. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re content. Pregnancy is not the time for stringent diets; it’s about nourishing both yourself and your baby.
  2. Consult a healthcare expert. Pregnancy experiences differ, and your caloric requirements may vary from the norm. Consulting your healthcare provider or a prenatal registered dietitian is essential to receive personalized guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.


How much weight should you gain during pregnancy?

Weight gain is a natural part of pregnancy, but it should remain within a healthy range. Weight gain depends not only on pre-pregnancy health status but also on whether you’re carrying one baby or are having twins, triplets, or more. There is no set number.

The CDC provides general weight gain guidelines, depending on your BMI and how many babies you are carrying. The following are general guidelines for a woman carrying one child.


  • Underweight (BMI < 18.5): 28-40 pounds
  • Normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9): 25-35 pounds
  • Overweight (BMI 25-29.9): 15-25 pounds
  • Obese (BMI ≥ 30): 11-20 pounds


BMI For Adults


Again, all dietary interventions should be individualized, and tailored to each woman’s specific needs.

How many calories should a pregnant woman eat?

Pregnancy is a time to focus on nourishing yourself and nurturing your baby. While an increase in calories is necessary, the emphasis should always be on quality over quantity. Prioritize nutrient-rich foods, maintain hydration, and consult healthcare professionals for personalized guidance. Your body is embarking on an incredible journey, and supplying it with the right nutrition is a beautiful way to support a healthy pregnancy.