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“Eat for two!” Pregnant women are always misleadingly advised by their moms and grandmoms to eat for two. What about eating for three? According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a pregnant woman with twins has to increase her daily calorie intake by 600 calories. However, this doesn’t mean indulging in an ice cream tub or ordering a large pizza.
If the quantity of what you eat is important, the quality shouldn’t be compromised. Get 20 to 25% of your calories from protein, 45 to 50% from non-white carbs, and 30% from fats. Healthy nutrition dramatically affects the babies’ weight, health, and development, especially during a twin pregnancy. The secret is a healthy balanced diet rich in wholesome nutrient-dense foods to have a big dose of vitamins and minerals that meet the nutritional needs of your twins.
Protein is essential for building the babies’ muscles, organs, and skin. Besides, it’s the mother’s savior against preterm labor, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes which are very common in twin pregnancies.
Moreover, protein is also important for building uterine muscle fiber and for fueling the increased blood volume required to nourish two or more babies. Meat protein is naturally found in red meat, poultry, eggs, fish, milk, cottage cheese, and greek yogurt. You can also get protein from plant-based sources like legumes, lentils, beans, and nuts.
Iron is needed to make red blood cells for the baby and the mother, as well as to be able to pump the needed amount of blood and avoid maternal anemia. Anemia, which is also common when pregnant with twins, can reduce the amount of energy that reaches your organs, and thus the babies. The required iron intake during pregnancy is as follows:
|Trimester||Required daily iron intake|
The best sources of iron are meat, poultry, and fish. Plant foods, that have less amounts of iron, are dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, wholegrain cereals, legumes, prunes, and lentils. The problem with these foods is that the included iron is not well absorbed by the body like that in animal food. You have to eat foods that are rich in vitamin C in the same meal to improve iron absorption. This includes oranges, kiwis, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, berries, cauliflower, and cabbage.
On the contrary, caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, and soda drinks reduce the amount of iron your body absorbs. In many cases, a pregnant woman can’t get the needed amount of iron from food only and she has to take an iron supplement after consulting her gynecologist.
A woman pregnant with twins needs extra calcium for the healthy formation of bones and teeth for the mother and the babies. You can get enough calcium from dairy foods like milk, yogurt, tinned sardines, salmon, and almonds.
Talking about calcium, we have to mention that vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption because both together work in building the babies’ skeletons. The main source of vitamin D is sunshine which is not doable for many women and food sources are not reliable in this matter. Always check with your doctor if you need to take a supplement according to your vitamin D levels.
Folic acid is essential in the first trimester to lower the babies’ chances of developing birth defects. It’s also important for healthy blood and building the body’s cells. Most gynecologists recommend taking folic acid supplements (300 to 500 micrograms daily) because it’s not usually enough to rely on food sources. Rich sources of folic acid are broccoli, spinach, watercress, legumes, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for healthy brain and nerve and eye development. Besides, sufficient omega-3 can prevent early labor and lower the chances of baby asthma and allergies. You can either depend on food sources like fish, green leafy vegetables, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds. Make sure to eat low-mercury fish two to three times a week. You can also take a fish oil supplement, not exceeding 300 mg per day.
Iodine is a must for normal brain and nerve development. The natural sources of iodine are seafood and dairy food. A pregnant woman should take 150 micrograms of iodine a day or a daily supplement during the whole pregnancy period as prescribed by her doctor.
Daily servings of food group
|Food Group||Daily servings||Options for each|
|Carbs (multigrain and
high in fibers)
|10||1 slice bread
1/2 a bread roll
2/3 a cup of cereal
1/4 a cup of muesli
1/2 a cup cooked pasta, rice, or noodles
|Vegetables and fruits||9||1/2 a cup of vegetables
1 cup salad
1 medium fruit (apple
2 small fruits (plums or
30 g (dried fruits)
|Dairy||3 to 4||250 ml milk
200 ml yogurt
35 g cheese
|Proteins||4 to 5||65 g cooked meat
80 g cooked chicken or
100 g cooked fish
1 cup legumes or lentils
30 g nuts
The healthy weight to gain, when you’re pregnant with twins, differs from one person to another. It depends on some factors like your weight and body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy and any medical conditions you have. You can simply check your weight gain using the below formula.
|BMI||Weight gain range|
|18 – 24||17 – 25 kg (1.9 – 2.8 kg/month)|
|25 – 29||14 – 23 kg (1.6 – 2.6 kg/month)|
|30 and above||11 – 19 kg (1.2 – 2.1 kg/month)|
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Sources used in this article:
- Healthy Eating When You’re Pregnant With Twins – The Royal Women’s Hospital
- Meeting Your Nutritional Goals During a Twin Pregnancy – Brigham and Women’s Hospital
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