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Weight gain and nutrition

  • Weight gain

    Your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) can be used to help set your weight gain goal.

    To determine your BMI during pregnancy, take these steps:

    1. Calculate your pre-pregnant body mass index (BMI).
    2. Find your number on the left column of the chart below.
    3. Look at the pound range to the right of your pre-pregnancy BMI.

    Pre-pregnancy BMI

    Recommended weight gain during pregnancy

    less than 19.8

    28 to 40 pounds

    19.8 to 26

    25 to 35 pounds

    26 to 29

    15 to 25 pounds

    29 and more

    at least 15 pounds

    If you have a special circumstance, such as being a teenager, being underweight, or carrying multiple babies, your health care provider will help you set your weight gain goal.

    Your weight will be checked each time you visit your health care provider.

    You may gain about three to four pounds in the first trimester and then about a pound a week after that.

    Where does the weight go?

    The table below can give you an idea of where weight goes over the course of a pregnancy. Maternal stores, however, are not the last weight to be gained. Your body stores some fat during pregnancy.


    7 to 8 pounds

    Amniotic fluid

    2 to 3 pounds


    1 to 2 pounds

    Uterine muscle

    2 to 3 pounds


    1 to 2 pounds

    Maternal energy stores (fat)

    7 to 9 pounds

    Maternal body fluids/blood

    5 to 7 pounds

    Eating wisely

    Your health care provider may recommend that you take a prenatal vitamin to help assure you are getting the nutrients you need. However, you still need to eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables.

    During the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy, your energy needs increase by 300 calories a day. That is the number of calories in a peanut butter sandwich or an orange and a large glass of milk.

    It is important to make good food choices to assure you and your baby get the nutrients you need. Eat healthful foods and limit high-fat foods and sweets.

    When you are pregnant you need larger amounts of calcium and iron.


    Calcium and vitamin D

    Your body uses vitamin D to absorb calcium. Look for sources of calcium that include vitamin D.

    Taking a daily prenatal or multivitamin with 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D helps assure you will get enough vitamin D.

    You need to get 1,300 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day. This calcium is needed to make your bones healthy.

    If you are having difficulty getting enough calcium from your diet, your health care provider may suggest taking a supplement in addition to your prenatal vitamin.

    There are 300 mg in eight ounces of milk or yogurt, or one ounce of hard cheese. Other dairy products like soft cheeses (cottage cheese or ricotta), ice milk, frozen yogurt, and ice cream are also rich in calcium.

    Low-fat versions of dairy products contain as much, and sometimes more, calcium as full-fat versions.

    Nondairy sources include calcium-enriched foods like juices, cereal (both cooked and ready-to-eat), soymilk and tofu. Other good sources are canned salmon (with bones), sardines, dried peas and beans.


    Iron supplements

    Take several smaller doses of an iron supplement rather than a single dose to avoid constipation and other intestinal distress.

    Some antacids decrease iron absorption. Your health care provider can recommend how much iron supplement you need and how best to take it.

    You need to increase the amount of iron you eat. The iron is needed to make red blood cells both for your blood supply and for your baby's.

    At about 34 weeks your baby will also start storing iron, increasing the amount you need. Try to get at least 30 mg each day.

    See foods that have iron.

    Most health care providers recommend an iron supplement in addition to eating iron-rich foods. (Check your prenatal vitamin for the amount of iron it contains.)

    Red meat, the dark meat of poultry, and shellfish such as oysters and clams are good sources of iron.

    Plant sources include dark greens, dried fruit, dried peas and beans, nuts, iron-fortified cereals, and enriched flour.

    Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients


    Vitamin C promotes iron absorption. Try to eat a food rich in vitamin C at the same time you are eating a source of iron or taking an iron supplement.

    If you are eating a large amount of soy or flaxseed products, talk with your doctor.

    Vitamin A helps develop your baby's cells, vision and immune system. Vitamin A is found in deep orange and dark green fruits and vegetables, such as mangoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach.

    Vitamin C is important in the development of the immune system and in helping iron absorption. It is found in citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit), cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwi, mangoes, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.

    Folic acid is important for normal organ and nerve development. Folic acid is found in dark green leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, orange juice, and fortified cereal and bread products. In the early weeks of pregnancy, it may help prevent some defects of the brain and spinal cord and some other birth defects. Talk with your health care provider about taking a supplement.

    Fiber helps prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. Aim for at least 25 grams of fiber each day. The easiest way to reach that goal is to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and bran. Bran cereals, dry beans and lentils each have about eight grams of fiber per serving. Many fruits, vegetables, and a slice of whole grain bread have about two grams of fiber each.

    Protein builds tissues. You will need to get all of your protein from the food you eat. Animal sources are meat, poultry, fish and eggs. Plant sources include dry beans, lentils, soy and nuts.

    Carbohydrates provide energy. They are found in breads, cereals, rice, pasta, fruits and dairy products.

    Fatty acids (fats) promote nerve and brain development and help the body store vitamins A, D, E and K. They are found in butter, margarine, oil, salad dressings, meats, dairy products, nuts and seeds. Only a small amount is needed each day, so limit these foods.

    Omega-3 fatty acids are important for your baby's brain and eye development and for your overall health. Omega-3 fats are found in vegetable oils (choose flaxseed, canola or soybean), fish (choose shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish, or light tuna) and supplements (choose supplements that contains DHA, a type of fatty acid in omega-3). Limit your fish intake to two servings of low-mercury fish a week, or 12 ounces total. Talk with your doctor before you start taking any supplement.

    Fluids Drinking fluids (water, milk and juice) is also important. If you are gaining more weight than you want, limit juice to one serving a day. Limit beverages that contain caffeine because they cause fluids loss. Aim to drink six to eight glasses (at least 64 ounces) of fluids each day.

    Choosing healthful foods


    The United State Department of Agriculture has updated guidelines that can help you make healthful choices. Visit and click on the Pregnant & Breastfeeding link under "Specific Audiences."

    The chart below gives the recommended minimum number of servings in each food group to help ensure you and your baby are getting the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy.

    Keep track of what you eat for two or three days and compare what you ate with the guidelines. You can tell how you are doing and where you could improve.

    If you need to make changes, choose one to work on. Then, after you have made that change, focus on making another.

    Food group

    Amount needed each day during pregnancy

    Grains group

    9 ounces

    Vegetable group

    3 1/2 cups

    Fruit group

    2 cups

    Dairy group

    3 cups

    Protein group

    6 1/2 ounces

    Fats, oils and sweets

    Use sparingly

    Cravings can be a normal part of pregnancy. Just be sure you don't replace healthful foods with junk food. If you crave nonfood items, be sure to talk with your health care provider. That way you can find out if eating that substance could hurt your baby.

    Serving sizes

    You will need to pay attention to serving size when estimating how well you are eating. Nutrients are described by the amount contained in a standard measurement. This serving size may be larger or smaller than the amount you usually eat.

    Bread, cereal, rice and pasta

    1 slice of bread, one-half pita, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, 1 tortilla, 4 small crackers, one-half cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta


    1 cup raw leafy vegetables, one-half cup other cooked or chopped raw vegetables, three-quarters cup vegetable juice


    1 medium-sized piece of fruit (fits into the palm of your hand): apple, orange; 1 cup of cut-up fresh fruit, three-quarters cup fruit juice, 1 cup cut-up fresh fruit; one-half cup cooked or canned fruit

    Milk, yogurt and cheese

    1 cup milk or yogurt, 2 ounces processed cheese, 2 cups cottage cheese, 1.5 cups ice cream or frozen yogurt, 1.5 ounces natural, hard cheese

    Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts

    2 to 3 ounces of cooked, lean meat, poultry or fish (size of a deck of cards); one-half cup cooked dry beans or 1 egg counts as 1 ounce of lean meat; 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or one-third cup of nuts count as 1 ounce of lean meat

    Fats, oils and sweets

    1 teaspoon butter or margarine, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 12 ounces soda or fruit drink, one-half cup sherbet or gelatin dessert, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or salad dressing, 2 medium cookies, 1 ounce chocolate bar (fun size), 1 teaspoon sugar, jam, jelly

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