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Energy and weight


You need extra energy:

5 mins to read Nov 24, 2017
  • For the growth of the foetus and the placenta.
  • To add to your fat reserves.
  • To balance the energy used by a higher basal metabolic rate and the work you do carrying the baby.

You should increase your daily food intake by an additional 1 200 kilojoules.

Too little weight gain

Too little weight gain can lead to, or be the result of, complications. It may be associated with an increased risk of developing pregnancy hypertension or pre-eclampsia, and delivering a low birth weight baby. Pregnancy is not a time for starting a weight-loss diet, as it may lead to ketosis (burning of body fat). The by- product of ketosis can damage the foetus.

Too much weight gain

Too much weight gain increases the risk of complications during delivery. The overweight baby has a higher rate of complications soon after birth.

Increased weight distribution
Illustration of the baby inside the belly upside down.

Weight gain over trimesters
Typically a mother gains 1- 2kg by the end of the first trimester, and thereafter about 0,5 kg each week. The recommended weight gain for a healthy woman during the 40 weeks of her pregnancy is approximately 12–14 kg.
Graphic of weight gain during pregnancy. Until week 16, the expected weight gain is 3kg. Between week 16 and 26 it is normal to gain 1,2kg every two weeks. After week 26, and until week 40, weight is expected to increase by another 4,5kg.

General guidelines

  • Foods should be carefully cooked. Grilling, steaming and stir-frying are preferable to roasting, frying and boiling. Try to cook lightly to preserve nutrient value.
  • Frequent small meals are better than large meals. They are easier to digest and you will feel less uncomfortable.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods.
  • Use normal amounts of iodised salt.
  • Drink at least eight glasses of water per day.
  • Take foods containing iron with foods containing vitamin C, as vitamin C helps absorb iron. Ideally, build up your iron supply before pregnancy.
  • It is useful to keep a record of what you eat over a 24–48 hour period.
  • If you are worried about your diet, consult your caregiver.

Health Diet Pyramid during pregnancy.


Fats, oils, sugars sparingly
Meat, poultry, fish, legumes 2-3 servings
Milk, yoghurt, cheese 2-3 servings
Vegetables Fruit 3-5 servings
2-4 servings
Bread, cereal, rice, pasta 4 or more servings

Nutrients you need

Food groups  Main nutrients Amount per
Servings per
day while
Servings per
day while
Cereals, grains     4 or more 4 or more
Bread, whole
grain or
 Carbohydrate  1 slice    
Cooked cereal  Thiamin  1/2 – 3/4 cup    
Pasta  Iron  1/2 – 3/4 cup    
Rice  Niacin  1/2 – 3/4 cup    
Dry cereal    30 g    
    4 or more 4 or more
cooked or raw
 Vitamin A  1/2 cup    
 Fruits, fresh  Vitamin C  1 med, 1/2
 1 vitamin C –
citrus juice
 1 vitamin C –
citrus juice
 Juices, fresh or
   1/2 cup    
 Potato  Carbohydrate  1    
 Salad, green    bowl  1 deep-yellow/
dark green
 1 deep-yellow/
dark green
Dairy group     2–3 3-4
 Milk, low-fat  Vitamin D  225 g (1 cup)    
 Yoghurt, plain  Calcium  1 cup    
 Hard cheese  Riboflavin  37 g    
 Protein  2 cups    
Meat, other
    2 3
 Meat, lean  Protein  60–90 g    
 Poultry  Calcium  60–90 g    
 Fish  Iron  60–90 g    
 Eggs  Thiamin  2–3 per week    
 Dry beans and
 Riboflavin  1 – 11/2 cups    
 Nuts and seeds    1/2 – 3/4 cup    
 Peanut butter    4 tbs    
Fats and oil     Use sparingly Use sparingly
 Butter or
 Fat  1–2 tbs    
Total kilojoules 8 400–9 240 9 240–10 500

Harmful substances



Avoid all harmful substances that may put you and your baby at risk, such as drugs, medication, alcohol, smoking and caffeine. You should be careful about taking any of these without consulting your caregiver.

  • Avoid diuretics.
  • Coffee, tea and bran reduce iron absorption.
  • Don’t take vitamin and mineral supplements on your own – ask your doctor as too many can lead to complications.

Click here for more information on hazards to your pregnancy.