Should You Really 'Eat for Two' When Pregnant?

The conventional wisdom may be a myth. Learn about eating right for you and baby.

pregnant woman chopping food in kitchen

Medically reviewed in December 2020

Updated on April 13, 2022

Hello, my name is Nicole, and I’m a recovering over-indulger. (Everyone say, “Hi Nicole!”)

I’m also pregnant with my second child. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was overwhelmed with joy. I must admit that part of that joy was excitement about “eating for two.” As much fun as that was, it came at a price: I gained 60 pounds, had a 9-pound baby, and was stuck with an extra 30 pounds of “baby weight” long after delivery.

Here’s what I learned the hard way from my first pregnancy:

Don’t eat for two. Eat for you, plus 10 percent
“Eating for two” is one of the biggest pregnancy myths out there, especially since one of you can be weighed in ounces for the bulk of the pregnancy. A better approach: Try eating 10 percent more than the number of calories you ordinarily eat to maintain your weight. "Eating for 1.1" should be an adequate calorie intake for growing a healthy baby.

Know when to indulge
Eating for 1.1 is definitely a balancing act. That means negotiating between indulging and resisting cravings. It's above all important to make sure that, regardless of the foods you eat, you get plenty of the nutrients that are vital for their health and their baby’s healthy development. 

Exercise is a must
This one is easier said than done, especially when a big belly makes you front-heavy. But regular exercise during pregnancy helps keep you in shape for that moment you head into the delivery room (remember, they don’t call it "labor" for nothing). “Regular exercise can help you have an easier labor, birth, and recovery,” says nurse midwife Paula Greer. If you weren’t very active before pregnancy, walking or swimming may be your best bet.

I’m taking it one craving at a time. When the temptation hits to eat that second bowl of ice cream, I reach for a piece of fruit or a glass of water. And if that doesn’t work, I repeat my personal mantra: “Eating for 1.1 can be fun, while eating for two leaves 60 pounds on you!”

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