You’re pregnant! Congratulations! I’m sure you’ve heard by now “Oh! How wonderful! Now you can eat for ______ (insert magic number)!” Or, “You’re so lucky! Now you can eat whatever you want!” This leaves you thinking, “If only this were true!” Simply smile, nod your head politely at those people, and move on (trust me; you’ll be doing this a lot).
So, what should you eat while pregnant? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! I’m not a doctor, a specialist, a vegan, a vegetarian or diabetic. If you have special dietary needs, talk to your physician and check if you would benefit by seeing a specialist like a nutritionist. Like you, I wanted to make sure I ate healthy and kept my growing babies safe. Even if you are taking an alphabet’s worth of pre-natal vitamins, you might worry you’re not eating enough to maintain a healthy pregnancy, especially if you have a poor appetite. Because the ‘rules’ of nutrition keep changing, you’ll find conflicting information on the internet. And, if you’re carrying multiples, the information is almost non-existent. Just trying to figure this out can be downright overwhelming.
While I’m not an expert, I did my research by talking to doctors and collecting information from current, reliable sources. And, as a health advocate and mother of twins, I believe I have a responsibility to share my findings with you about what you should eat during pregnancy and, I’m happy to do so.
Calories and Water
Your doctor will determine the exact number of calories and water you need daily using your height, weight and activity level. Your progress will be monitored with each follow-up. In general during a twins pregnancy you’ll need to eat 2,300-2,700 calories and drink 1 gallon (128 ounces) of water a day.
NEVER “diet” while pregnant. If you’re gaining weight too rapidly, your doctor will help you. Always check with your doctor regarding exercise, limitations, and when to stop.
Water is extremely important. Staying hydrated helps to ward off preterm labor and decreases constipation, swelling, and other bothersome pregnancy symptoms.
Foods to Avoid
While we’re focusing on what you can eat, you also need to know what to avoid (see our Listeria article). Please ask for more information and a complete list of foods to avoid from your doctor. In the meantime, avoid:
– Deli meats; hot dogs; unpasteurized, raw, or undercooked food (unpasteurized cheeses, sushi, pate’ and sprouts); all can cause dangerous food-borne illnesses and put your babies at risk. Deli meats need to be microwaved to steaming to kill bacteria; toasting sandwiches is not enough.
– Artificial sweeteners: reports are contradictory regarding safety during pregnancy. So why take a chance?
– Certain herbs/spices: Rosemary, Aloe, and Ginseng and some herbal and berry teas can start contractions.
– Alcohol: Any amount has been linked to birth defects. Be aware of foods made with alcohol too.
Tip: At social gatherings, try a faux spritzer: sparkling water garnished with fruit, i.e. lime wedge or strawberry garnish. Or add a touch of juice (cranberry, is my fave). Tummy upset? Try ginger ale with a cherry garnish. Shhhh! No one needs to know it’s virgin.
– Caffeine: it’s a diuretic. Use less than 12 oz daily (avoid if you have heartburn).
– Soft drinks or more than 8 oz juice: full of sweeteners, which may cause sugar spikes. Instead, try the faux Spritzer (noted above)
– Hot spices – can cause heartburn
– Processed foods (baked goods/pre-packaged foods) have added sugar and saturated fats.
Tips and Tricks
For morning sickness or heartburn, don’t eat big meals. Instead, eat smaller meals throughout the day. This also helps level out blood sugar. Don’t lie down after eating and be sure to drink in between meals. Experiment with safe spices, such as ginger, cinnamon, and mint to help with nausea. Try gentle foods high in carbohydrates, such as:
– Pretzels, crackers, bread
– Brown rice, noodles, broth
– Nuts or peanut butter
– Pickles, celery sticks, apple slices
– Watermelon, gelatin, popsicles
– Juice (low acid), seltzer, sparkling water, ginger ale
Eat plenty of healthy (unsaturated) fats such as…
– Pregnancy-safe fish (no more than once a week)
– Oils: olive, canola, flaxseed, vegetable
– Nuts (especially walnuts) and nut butters
– Avocados: These can help with morning sickness and help you to gain weight if needed. They’re loaded with folic acid, which helps baby’s brain growth and development.
Keep a food journal and plan ahead
Tracking everything will help you to balance out each day, and as an added bonus it makes it easier to share what you’re eating with your doctor.
Too busy to cook or prep food every day? Cook what’s needed for the week after grocery shopping (or make extra portions when you cook) and freeze or refrigerate the rest.
– Drink nonfat or low-fat pasteurized milk (1% or skim). Whole milk is okay but has more saturated (unhealthy) fat. Stick to low-fat and fat-free “pasteurized” dairy products (or dairy-free, if needed).
– Fill half of your plate with whole fruits or vegetables and eat foods rich in Omega-3s and antioxidants. Use healthy grains such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat or multigrain breads and pastas, and pair carbs with proteins to keep sugar levels balanced.
– Choose healthy/lean proteins: Chicken breast, sirloin steak, center loin pork, fish (only 8 to 12 oz. a week), beans, and nuts. Make sure to cook all meats to well done to avoid bacteria.
– It’s OK to enjoy treats sometimes, but remember; too much salt can cause swelling and increase blood pressure. These foods fill you up with empty calories, increase sugar levels, and lead to rapid weight gain as they decrease your hunger for nutritious food, but make you feel hungry again quickly. Always check portion sizes.
– Only eat at clean/reputable restaurants and avoid salad bars, buffets, and delis. Be careful of your food choices and check that everything is hot and cooked to well-done.
Eating right while pregnant will not only be good for your babies, but for you too!
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.
Lorraine Conforti is a proud new mom of twin boys and pet-parent of two cats and a dog. Being both conservative and artistic, she describes herself as “a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll.” She enjoys the arts, music, writing, and had performed in a Blues/Rock band with her Husband for several years. She is also passionate about health and fitness and has held certifications for nutrition and Personal Training, and has earned a BS Degree in Healthcare Management. For articles by Lorraine on Twiniversity, click here.
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