Eating habits while trying to get pregnant

AndieM.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200

A healthy pre-pregnancy weight is also associated with lower risk of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and cesarean delivery.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a helpful tool to assess your current weight. Simply divide your weight in kilograms (to determine your weight in kilograms – divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, a 150 pound person weighs 68 kg) by your height in meters, squared (or use an online BMI calculator).

  • If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range.
  • If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the healthy weight range.
  • If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the overweight range.
  • If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.

If you’re already maintaining a healthy weight, there’s no need to change how much you’re currently eating, but it’s a great time to establish or fine tune healthy habits. Read How can I optimize my diet while trying to get pregnant to learn more.

If you’re BMI is in the underweight, overweight or obese range, now is the time to start working towards a healthy weight. This means that you may need to alter both how much and what you are eating. It’s also important to think about how your exercise routine (or lack thereof) is influencing your weight.

How much you need to eat is extremely individualized and depends on many factors. Happy Mama Mentors can help you determine what’s right for you. On average, if your weight is within normal range, the amount of calories you need to eat is approximately 25 calories per kilogram of body weight. If you need to gain weight, your calorie needs become approximately 30 calories per kilogram. If you need to lose weight, your goal should be eating around 20 calories per kilogram. If you are especially active or inactive, these numbers may shift.

While there is typically no need to strictly count calories even as you’re trying to gain or lose weight, it’s helpful to estimate calories to keep yourself on track. You can use this calorie cheat sheet:

  • One ounce protein (poultry, meat, fish) = 35-75 calories depending on fat content
  • One cup fat-free or low-fat dairy = 90 calories
  • One cup cooked vegetables = 50 calories
  • One cup raw vegetables = 25 calories
  • One small piece of fruit or 1 cup berries or melon = 60 calories
  • One slice of bread, 1/3 cup rice or beans, ½ cup pasta = 80 calories

While you’re assessing your diet, remember that beverages count too. Now is a good time to begin to limit your caffeine intake to 200 mg a day (or less!). This amount is roughly equivalent to about two 8-ounce cups of coffee a day or twice as much black tea. See Do’s and Don’ts of caffeine in beverages and foods for all the details.

What to Do

Assess your current weight and make adjustments as needed

Calculate your BMI to evaluate your weight status. From there you can determine if you need to gain, lose or maintain your current weight.

Chat with the Happy Mama Mentors

Happy Mama Mentors can help you assess your current diet and make suggestions to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. Together, you can make guided food choices to support your body while trying to conceive and beyond.

Limit caffeine intake to 200 mg per day and limit alcohol intake

Remember to add up all sources of caffeine – from food, beverages and medications – to make sure that you’re not exceeding the 200 mg per day limit.

Schedule a pre-pregnancy appointment with your healthcare provider

If you haven’t already, schedule a pre-pregnancy consultation with your provider to discuss your specific needs and any chronic conditions in relation to pregnancy.