Calories - Am I Eating For Two?
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'I'm eating for two' is a phrase often used by pregnant women. In reality, this isn't really true, and is sometimes used as an excuse to satisfying cravings with splurges on whatever particular vice that has been adopted during the pregnancy.
Strictly speaking, yes you are eating for two, yourself and your baby as opposed to just yourself. But remember that you aren't eating for two adults.
Your growing little baby will need extra nutrients and will take some extra energy to grow. Those nutrients and energy have to come from your body and your body gets them from your diet, however your tiny baby, who at its heaviest will weigh between 6-10lbs, does not need many extra calories.
In the third trimester the baby may add around 600kcal to your daily needs. However, there is a point often overlooked in articles about calorie intake and pregnancy.
Who really knows how many calories they're consuming?
Let's say you try to add 600kcal to what you eat daily. How much did you start off eating? Did you count calories on a daily basis before you got pregnant? In reality the only people who really engage in calorie counting are dieters and people who have to watch their physique for the sake of their income, like athletes and fitness models.
Even dieters don't really need to count calories. Selecting the right foods is way more important for your health, your body composition and your baby's development during pregnancy.
If you are concerned with the healthy development of your baby
Don't think about calories too much. Spend your energy thinking about the quality of the food you select instead.
Making a conscious effort to eat quality lean proteins, healthy fats and avoiding simple carbohydrates, sugars and trans fats will do much more for your baby's health than eating 'the right' amount of calories.
Calories get more importance than they deserve in the nutritional world. Getting that extra 600kcal from a chocolate cake won't be as good for your baby as getting 600kcal from salmon.
Providing your body with nutrient dense foods will help cravings and provide for your baby far better than eating calorie dense foods. Food selection is where your focus should be, not calories.
If you are concerned about your figure
When pregnant, you may want to make sure your figure doesn't go to pot. You might want to minimize the impact on your physique and not gain excessive amounts of weight over the coming months.
Understandably, you may choose to count calories to achieve this. Sometimes, this may not be the best way to do things. There are three main problems with this approach:
- Counting calories without focusing on good food choices is not a healthy figure control approach and neglects the importance of good nutrient content of the diet. This is not good for baby. You're making your child from the nutrients floating around in your body. It's an incredible feat and you want a good range of high quality nutrients to use. Lack of nutrients will lead to cravings. Now is not the time to skip lunch in favour of cake after dinner just to hit a calorie quota.
- Your calorie use will vary greatly day to day when pregnant. Your baby will grow in spurts, not a steady pace all through the pregnancy. It's impossible for you to predict when this will happen. So controlling your intake at a steady point makes no sense. Some days you will barely need anything above your baseline, other days you will be ravenous.
- Counting calories is stressful at the best of times. During pregnancy, you should be as chilled out and relaxed as possible. Making cortisol (your stress hormone) for no reason because you are hungry but don't have any room left in your daily quota is not productive during pregnancy. There is some evidence that high cortisol during pregnancy can actually alter gene expression in your growing baby.
A much better way of controlling your weight gain is simply to focus on the quality of food you select when pregnant. Focus on lean proteins and healthy fats. Avoid sugars and simple carbohydrates.
Focus your nutritional efforts on nutrient rich foods that will support you baby's growth and your own healthy figure.
Despite this, calorie counting can be an effective tool for those who are able to do it without causing stress to themselves or their baby. It can help you monitor just how much energy you are taking into your body, and coupled with nutritional knowledge, can help you to avoid serious over-eating or under-eating during pregnancy. An easy way to calorie count while ensuring you are eating high quality foods is to glance at the pie chart of food groups on the front of most food packages. If the calories and fat are both in green, or even yellow, it is a low or medium-calorie, low or medium fat meal/food product.