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How to Eat Right While Pregnant With Twins

Photograph by Twenty20

It's bad enough thinking that your figure is about to go to you-know-where and back again now that you're pregnant -- but with twins, you may as well expect that trip twice. (Sorry.) Let's take the high road with this, though. You're not just eating for two, you're eating for three. And starting out right might be half the battle to having two happy and healthy babies and a healthy mom. Proper nutrition may ensure an easier pregnancy and an optimum outcome: two thriving children. In 2009 the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill conducted a study regarding nutrition and twin pregnancies in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study states that getting into a healthy diet from the get-go may help bring your two little bundles into the world at an optimal birth weight. Now that's encouraging.

Eat, Eat and Eat Some More

Eating for three is pretty much the same as eating for two, except you just need more of it. In fact, you will need to consume, on average -- every day -- about 4,000 to 4,500 calories. Before you start jumping for joy, this can't be a diet of potato chips and cheesecake. For optimal nutrition, a carbohydrate-controlled diet is recommended, one that's high in nutrients and vitamins. Elaine Wu, a Toronto-based registered dietician, points out that "Mom should eat a healthy balanced diet according to the [USDA] Food Guide that is sufficient to support a healthy weight gain, plus a daily multivitamin [as recommended by your doctor] containing folic acid and iron to prevent deficiencies that could lead to neural-tube defects and other possible congenital abnormalities." She adds, "A woman pregnant with twins may possibly require extra vitamin B-12 supplementation in combination with the folic-acid supplements. If the mother is vegetarian or vegan, she may possibly require vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid supplements." Wu also recommends reducing caffeine and eliminating alcohol.

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Growing Once, Growing Twice

With two babies growing inside you and a diet of 4,000 calories a day, weight gain is inevitable. In fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association, your weight-gain goal within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy should be about 24 pounds. This gain reduces the risk of preterm labor and helps the placenta grow. From there on in, keeping the scales within 35 to 45 pounds of your pre-baby weight is ideal. That works out to about a pound and a half per week during the second and third trimesters. Of course, weight gain also depends on your height, body build and the weight you started at. Your health care provider will help you determine the best range for you.

Dill Pickles and Chocolate

Food cravings during your twin pregnancy are the same as that of a singleton pregnancy. Chances are, you'll have a hankering for the oddest and weirdest foods or combinations thereof. Wu remarks, "Pregnancy causes fluctuations in hormones that can cause a wide range of cravings, which every person can interpret as different tastes. This is perhaps why pregnant moms crave things they may not typically even like." So don't be surprised if you find yourself sending your significant other out in the dead of night for something sweet, salty, spicy or sour. (Shouldn't dads be included in the wonders of pregnancy?) Pickles, chocolate, potato chips, ice cream, tomatoes, lemons and cheese are all fair game on the cravings list, but a few moms may have some exceptionally different cravings for non-food items such as laundry soap, dirt, freezer frost and cornstarch. Best to talk to your health care provider before indulging in those. Otherwise, whatever your obsession, the healthier the food the better.

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You Can Do It

Stay focused. You can still have a healthy diet -- dill pickles, chocolate and all. But your food intake will be slightly higher than for a singleton pregnancy. (Remember, you're eating for three, not two.) Wu recommends increasing your intake of foods high in folic acid such as broccoli, avocados, spinach, asparagus, enriched pasta and lentils. To increase your iron intake, try foods such as beans, lentils, enriched cereals and dark green and orange fruits and vegetables. But be careful you don't overdo it. Check with your health care provider to be sure of your limits. You may also want to watch your consumption of tuna, shark, swordfish and marlin. No more than two servings per month, Wu cautions, to limit your exposure to mercury. Also include two servings per week of low-mercury fish and shellfish -- such as salmon, trout, herring, char, mussel, clam, whitefish and shrimp -- to ensure an adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids. If you have issues with swelling or increased blood pressure, talk to your doctor about decreasing your sodium intake.

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