Eating for two is a myth causing diet dilemma for new mums

The wrong way round: UK mums over indulge during pregnancy but restrict calories post birth

Over half of pregnant women (51%) may be consuming more than the recommended amount of calories whilst new mums are restricting their calorie intake, despite recommendations that breast feeding mums require additional calories.

New mums appear to be caught in a calorie conundrum; with two fifths (41%) mistakenly believing the “eating for two” myth during pregnancy.  Furthermore they’re unaware of the extra calories needed after their baby is born to help them breast feed successfully - contrary to the rapid weight loss often seen following pregnancy in celebrity mums.

Eating for two or eating for you?

Contrary to common belief, the ‘eating for two’ theory is just a myth. Pregnant women actually only require on average an additional 200 calories per day and only during the final three months of pregnancy.  However:



•             Over half (51%) admitted to increasing their calorie intake every day, throughout their pregnancy

•             More than three quarters (81%) were not aware of the recommended additional calories they actually needed, with more than one in ten (13%) incorrectly thinking it was over 400 calories a day

•             Over half (60%) were confused about what the recommended additional 200 calories actually equates to, with nearly one in five (18%) incorrectly thinking it was as much as another meal




Jane Ogden, Professor of Psychology at the University of Surrey, comments: “Though keeping an eye on food intake is healthy and should be encouraged, often women’s desire to conform to what they see as the ‘ideal’ body shape can mean that ‘calorie counting’ can take precedence over maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. When a woman becomes pregnant, the pressure to be slim, and therefore the need to count calories, disappears. Women tend to eat more than they normally would because, put simply, they think pregnancy gives them the green light to ‘eat for two’. Women should be eating to appetite during pregnancy but often this is just too much of a psychological shift from the calorie counting that has ruled their lives pre-pregnancy.”

Nearly half (45%) of mums admit they put on more weight than the guideline weight gain of 10-12.5 kg (22-28 lbs) during their pregnancy, and one third (33%) said that they found it ‘impossible’ to return to their pre-baby weight post birth.

Eating for two when your baby arrives!

Conversely, post pregnancy calorie intake for breast feeding mums should be significantly higher than pregnancy intake.  In fact, guidelines recommend around 500 extra calories a day depending on the age of the baby and how much milk they are taking.

The misconceptions surrounding diet only seem to heighten once baby has arrived.  The research showed nearly one quarter (24%) of women started trying to lose their baby weight within a month of having their baby, with more than one in ten (12%) admitting they were eating less calories than before they were pregnant.

Anne Sidnell, SMA Nutritionist, explains: “A healthy diet is really important for new mums and those breast feeding. Being a new mum is exhausting and, if mum is breast feeding, it takes a lot of energy to produce a good milk supply - eating well will also make sure enough nutrients are passed to the baby in the milk. Getting breast feeding established is demanding, so regular balanced meals are important to keep energy levels up and ensure general health and well being.”

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