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How to navigate pregnancy weight gain and cravings to avoid pregnancy complications


What is a healthy pregnancy weight gain?

Although each mother will gain weight differently, the following post will help shed light on approximately how much weight gain is expected during 'normal' pregnancy circumstances.

The following numbers are based on the mother's BMI. As we all know, the BMI calculator is not always accurate when deciding an individual's overall health and wellness. So, take the following information with a grain of salt and know your pregnancy journey truly is unique and may not follow these guidelines to a T... which is 100% OKAY!

The following information states the rate of weight gain for under/normal weight women (according to BMI):

  • 1st trimester: ~3-5 lbs. total

  • 2nd trimester: >/= 0.5 lbs./week

  • 3rd trimester: >/= 0.75 lbs./week (try to stay below 1.5 lbs./week)

The following information states the rate of weight gain for overweight/obese weight women (according to BMI):

  • 1st trimester: ~3-5 lbs. total

  • 2nd trimester: >/= 0.5 lbs./week

  • 3rd trimester: >/= 0.5 lbs./week

Regardless of your body type, you should be looking for ~3-5 lbs. total weight gain in the first trimester with gradual and consistent weight gains from then on.

Important! No mother should be expecting or taking action to lose weight during pregnancy. You are supporting the growth of your child at this time via healthful nourishment. Weight loss is therefore not supported.

How many additional calories are needed in pregnancy?

Although there are calorie recommendations throughout pregnancy, they do vary for each individual. The following information will be based on an average additional calorie need.

Make an appointment with Mamas Maternal Health to meet with your Maternal Health Dietitian, who will be happy to help you find your individualized additional nutrient needs!

The average additional calorie needs are stated below:

  • 1st trimester: 0 additional cals/day

  • 2nd trimester: 340 additional cals/day

  • 3rd trimester: 452 additional cals/day

The additional calories that are needed for pregnancy may be less than you expected!

Self-Love Mamas!

Although these are wonderful guidelines to support a healthy pregnancy--- know that they are indeed simply guidelines.

If you consume a bit more or a bit less than the above guidelines... all is well! You and your baby are still on the right track to a healthy pregnancy.

However, if you find yourself going WAY overboard, or WAY below the above guidelines with your additional calorie intake--- it may be time to self-reflect and bring out your intuitive eating skills.

Are you eating when you're hungry? Are you done eating when you're full? Are you eating a colorful/balanced diet?

Help is here...

If you are reading this blog questioning your current dietary choices throughout your pregnancy... visit and check out our maternal nutrition and lactation coaching programs! Our Dietitians will help you understand the basis of balanced and healthful maternal nutrition through the span of your pregnancy.

Sign up on our mailing list for Mamas Maternal Health updates and weekly blog posts HERE!

What does it exactly mean when eating for 2? Or eating for 3? Or 4?

We have all heard the phrase, 'eating for two' when a woman is pregnant. This assumes the position that a woman should consume double her caloric needs while carrying a baby. However, in all reality, this is certainly not the case!

In fact, this can cause both unnecessary overeating as well as a fear of under-eating.

Did you know?

The majority of a pregnant mother's weight gain does not occur until the second and third trimester.

ALSO: Extra calories are indeed necessary -- but not to the extent that one may believe. In fact, no additional calories are needed until the second trimester.

The average additional calorie needs are stated below:

1st trimester: 0 additional cals/day

2nd trimester: 340 additional cals/day

3rd trimester: 452 additional cals/day

What about breastfeeding?:

Breastfeeding requires approximately 500 additional calories daily.


Now when it comes to multiples, that is twins, triplets, etc., additional calories will be added to this baseline…

More information...

For twins, a pregnant mother's metabolic rate is considered 10% higher than those during a singleton pregnancy.

This makes the mother's caloric needs 40% higher than when compared to their nonpregnant caloric intake.

On average, this could be the equivalent of an additional 500 calories daily in the second trimester and an additional 700 calories in the third trimester for most women.

For triplets and more, we add additional calories similarly to that of twins. This may be an additional few hundred calories per day depending on the mother.

All mothers have individualized caloric needs during pregnancy. This is due to body composition and if the mother is having a single child or twins+.

At Mamas Maternal Health, we will individualize your maternal nutrition needs to help you carry out a happy and healthy pregnancy, whether you are having one baby or triplets +!

Looking to keep up to date with Mama info and stay up to date with what’s happenin’ with Mamas Maternal Health? Join our email list HERE!

Weight Gain during pregnancy and how it affects YOU!

We talk A LOT about how what you eat and your health during pregnancy will affect your baby--but how does it affect YOU? Quite often the mindset of the 'baby health over mama health' takes over and your needs get neglected. For this reason, we wanted to talk about YOUR HEALTH! You matter too!

We know that appropriate amounts of weight gain during pregnancy are important-- but why?

The first half of your pregnancy is anabolic, meaning growth takes place. And we aren't just talking about your baby... While your baby is growing, the majority of growth is YOU!

To clarify, your baby is growing -- however, your body is creating an environment to protect your child. Your 'maternal tissues' and placenta are working to create a home and build stores for your baby.

The second half of pregnancy is CATABOLIC for you---meaning that you are breaking down tissues and stores such as energy and other nutrients.

In the second half of pregnancy, your baby is RAPIDLY growing and because of this reason, you have to keep up your nutritional stores. Most of the weight gain that we see, the 1-2lbs a week-- is FOR your baby. The extra calories that you are taking in are meant to replenish your nutrient stores. This is an ANABOLIC (growing) state for your BABY-- and YOU are fueling it!

Growing a small human is exhausting! Many people don't realize how much their nutrition goes into pregnancy and how much it affects overall mood and energy levels.

How can you stay on top of all of this growth and replenishing your stores?

For example, at 28-30 weeks, many moms feel EXTRA tired due to a number of reasons. Mind you, this is NOT unusual.

At this point, there is increased blood plasma production that requires Mamas to increase their water to 3 liters/day. It is also important to be aware of minerals such as iron due to this increased blood volume in the body! Iron is also important because it aids in protein and energy levels in the body.

This is just one example of how to optimize your energy levels and mood during pregnancy SIMPLY through your nutrition.

What can happen if you aren't optimizing your nutrition?

It has been found that 5-10% of women develop hypertension during pregnancy (when they previously did not have it).

We have also seen that less than 45% of women gain optimal amounts of weight during pregnancy. This means that less than half of women either gain too much or too little during pregnancy...

Nutritionally, women that consumed higher amounts of processed meats and fried food had an increased risk of preterm birth by 50%. Women who consumed higher amounts of red meats, refined grains, and processed foods had an increased risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension by 20%!

On the flip side, women who followed a Mediterranean diet found a 44% risk reduction of the development of gestational diabetes.

Lastly and MOST IMPOTANTLY, women that had nutritional coaching during pregnancy with a dietitian -focusing on proper weight gain and nutrition during pregnancy- reduced their risk of preeclampsia by 33%, gestational hypertension by 70%, gestational diabetes by 48%, and preterm birth risk by 32%!

Let us remind you, diagnoses such as gestational diabetes or hypertension, typically go away after birth. However, many see a return a few months to a few years later.

These diagnoses during pregnancy increase your risk of developing future complications that could affect you for the rest of your life. Optimum nutrition and health during your pregnancy is NOT JUST FOR YOUR BABY! This is for both of you!

These (above mentioned) women were able to achieve optimum nutrition levels and weight gain during pregnancy through INDIVIDUALIZED nutrition coaching...

So what are YOU waiting for? Do NOT take a back seat for your health.

The actions you take for 40 weeks of pregnancy, either HELP or HURT both you and your baby in the long term. What kind of future are YOU looking for?

Are cravings normal during pregnancy? How can I combat them?

Let's talk about cravings. Many people think that cravings are something that needs to be controlled, while others think they come from your body telling you important information.

We believe, especially during pregnancy, that cravings are connected to the latter option, otherwise called 'intuitive eating!'

Intuitive Eating is described as the body's innate capability of knowing what it needs. The principal idea is that your body can tell you what/when you need to eat if you listen to it. For some, this sounds crazy, but when broken down, it makes sense! We promise…

Newborns present the perfect example. They have an innate sense of when they are hungry and when they are full. While breastfeeding, they show us when they are hungry and pull away from the breast when they are full. As babies, they will often make surprisingly good food choices and stop when they are full. It is only when outside influences set in (parents, siblings, TV, preschool workers, etc) that they begin to lose the ability to follow those intuitive signals…

If anyone has ever tried a diet, you know that the #1 thing craved is carbohydrates in a very simple form. Why is that? Because your body is HUNGRY! It needs energy and what is the quickest way for your body to get that? Though simple carbohydrates.

This is the reason that many diets do not work. You drive yourself to the point of food restriction that your body takes over and then feels the need to eat all the things you were deprived of! This ingestion of abundant simple carbohydrates causes you to gain back the weight you lost and then some… NO BUENO!!

So, what can you do about your cravings during pregnancy?

Well, since you are growing a baby, it is important that you have enough calories as well as vitamins and listen to your body!

If you are craving pickles maybe your body needs salt. If you are craving ham, maybe your body needs protein and thiamin. If you are craving donuts, maybe your body needs carbohydrates!

Try to pay attention to the type of cravings you have---satisfy them and then try to incorporate more foods that are similar.

A.k.a if you are craving an In-N-Out burger and fries (paying homage to some of our California roots(; ), go get it for yourself and then begin adding more carbohydrates or protein to your meals.

This could be toast and eggs at breakfast, sweet potato fries at lunch with garbanzo beans, rice, and chicken at dinner. The options are endless!

So what about the really weird cravings? Cravings such as dirt, chalk, soap, etc are another story.

These cravings need a bit more precaution because we don't recommend women to go around eating these things… no we don’t want new Mamas eating dirt *sweaty smiling emoji*.

These cravings may indicate mineral deficiencies or even anemia and are very serious. For this instance, a trip to your doctor is recommended to test to see what is the underlying problem that needs to be solved!

Want to learn more about these odd cravings? Email us at and let us know what you’re craving! We’d love to help sort it out with you!

That's being said---making sure that you are taking your prenatal vitamins with minerals is a good way to prevent pica (an Iron deficiency that causes bizarre cravings) as well as eating a balanced diet….

Until next time!

Mikayla and Cassie

Mamas Maternal Health Registered Dietitians/Lactation Counselors

Reference: Brown, J. (2007). Nutrition Through the Life Cycle. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

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Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation

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