Guest Post: Alison Tierney on Pregnancy Nutrition


We are excited to bring you experts that will help us provide the best information for expecting mamas-to-be. 

Today, we have Alison Tierney of Wholesome Nutrition, LLC. She is insanely knowledgable and the Wholesome Blog has become one of our favorite places to get nutritional information and recipes.  We'd highly recommend checking out Alison and her AMAZING work! She has already told us she will be doing Expecting and Empowered when it is time for baby #2 to join the family :)

SO many women have questions about what to eat during pregnancy. We've all heard the old adage that you are "eating for two", but what are the actual recommendations?! How do you keep yourself and your growing baby nourished and safe?

Alison was kind enough to write this blog post to help clear this up! 


Pregnancy Nutrition

I very clearly remember the morning I found out I was pregnant—who doesn’t? We had been trying to get pregnant for over a year. Despite the many ovulation tests, negative pregnancy tests, and constant prayers for a baby to come into our lives, the second I saw the positive test I thought to myself, “Whoa, am I really ready for this?” Chances are, your reaction was similar. Praise to God, yet trembling hands. Ready or not, here he or she comes! Luckily, as a registered dietitian, I was confident and truly excited about diving into the world of maternal nutrition myself! Even if I was nervous about the many other aspects of my life that would change as a result of that moment, I knew I had the knowledge to do right for myself and my baby in this ballpark. 

Maternal nutrition and lifestyle choices during pregnancy can largely impact the health of both mother and child. Adopting a healthy lifestyle, if you haven’t already prior to conception, is highly encouraged to reduce the risks of birth defects, suboptimal fetal development, and chronic health issues for both mama and baby.

Weight Gain

Often times, the first thought regarding health during pregnancy is related to weight gain. Ample weight gain is crucial for optimal development of the fetus. Yet, excessive weight gain may result in short- and long-term risks for mom, and research as suggests, for baby too.

The Institute of Medicine recommends the following weight gain guidelines:

Pre-Pregnancy BMI Chart.jpg


If you are not sure of your pre-pregnancy BMI, you can calculate it here.

Although these are recommended guidelines, remember they are guidelines. When I first noticed I was on pace to gain more weight than the guidelines, I sort of freaked out a little bit. Keep in mind that everybody and every pregnancy is different. Strive to look at these numbers only as guidelines rather than the end-all-be-all. If you have concerns with your weight gain, whether to little or too much, be sure to address it with your OB.

We think you looked PERFECT Alison :)

We think you looked PERFECT Alison :)


Calorie Intake

Nourishing your baby requires additional energy, but is not equal to “eating for two”. As much as some of us would enjoy taking seconds at each meal and eating a second slice of cake at parties, this approach to eating during pregnancy is likely to promote excessive weight gain. Aim to eat according to your true hunger. Some days you might find you are hungrier than others and taking a second helping during dinner might just be what your body needs. Very infrequently do I recommend patients count their calories, but to help you grasp the increase in calorie needs during each trimester of pregnancy, the following is recommended, per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

•   1st Trimester: Equal to pre-pregnancy calorie intake.

•   2nd Trimester: Additional 340 calories in addition to pre-pregnancy intake.

Equal to: 2 slices sprouted grain bread + 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter

•   3rd Trimester: Additional 450 calories in addition to pre-pregnancy intake.

Equal to: 1 large banana + 2 Oatmeal Cookie Energy Bites

Essential Nutrients & Supplements


Aiming to meet our nutrition needs through food is always optimal, however, some women may need to take a prenatal supplement. For many, a prenatal supplement is recommended related to insufficient intake of folate which is essential for a developing fetus to prevent neural tube defects. In the first four weeks of pregnancy, prior to many women knowing they are pregnant, folate is required to help prevent this devastating birth defect. Therefore, it is important for women of childbearing age to have adequate levels of folate. What foods contain high levels of folate? Greens, other green vegetables, beans, citrus fruits and other whole plant-based foods. The National Institutes of Health recommend women intake 400 mcg/day or 600 mcg/day for pregnant women.

When it comes to supplementation, is it is important to know not all prenatal supplements are created equal. If a prenatal supplement is recommended to you by your physician or you are unsure if you consume adequate amounts of folate (or other nutrients), look for a supplement which contains folate, rather than folic acid. Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate most commonly found in prenatal supplements, has been linked to increased cancer risk. 1, 2, 3. This a link to a common brand which uses folate, rather than folic acid.


The most common nutrition deficiency during pregnancy is iron deficiency. A woman’s iron need increases from 18 mg/day to 27 mg/day when pregnant. This increase is related to the drastic increase in maternal red blood cell production4. Unfortunately, iron deficiency during pregnancy can lead to increased risk of maternal and infant death, premature birth, and low birthweight 5. Other than the well known sources of iron found in red meats, iron can also be found in beans & legumes, potatoes, whole grains, tofu, broccoli, and rice.

Other Considerations


Caffeine can cross the placenta, meaning it can be delivered to the baby but how this may effect the baby remains unclear. With that being said, it is recommended to limit one’s consumption of caffeine to no more than 200 mg per day during pregnancy. The average 8-ounce cup of coffee contains roughly 95 mg of caffeine, compared to 47 mg in tea and 33 mg in a 12-ounce soda.

 Food Safety

Although we should always be considerate of food safety, food safety is of higher importance during pregnancy as mama and baby are higher risk for food poisoning. The best way to protect against food poisoning is to cook your foods to their proper temperature. The FDA provides a good chart here if you aren’t sure. Additionally, one should avoid unpasteurized foods such as soft cheeses (brie, feta, and blue cheese) and unpasteurized juices.

Healthy On-the-Go Snacks

Whether this is your first pregnancy or your a seasoned mommy, chances are you have your hands full. When we are busy, often times our healthiest habits are the first to go. In effort to keep your eating on the right track and keep your growing babe nourished, healthy on-the-go snacks are a must. Check out some of my favorites:

•       Breakfast Oat Squares

•       Larabars

•       Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

•       Oatmeal Cookie Energy Bites

•       Almond Butter with Sliced Apples

Oatmeal Cookie Energy Bites

Oatmeal Cookie Energy Bites

During my own pregnancy, I frequently stopped and thought to myself, “Wow, my body is growing life.” Rather than focusing on the stress related to having so much responsibility for nourishing the life of our baby girl, I instead chose to focus on the opportunity I had to nourish our baby girl.

Take the opportunity to eat according to your true hunger while focusing on whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts & seeds. And yes mama, it is okay to treat yourself occasionally!

Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body—and your baby!

-Alison Tierney 


1 Mason JB, Dickstein A, Jacques PF, et al. A temporal association between folic acid fortification and an increase in colorectal cancer rates may be illuminating important biological principles: a hypothesis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2007, 16:1325-1329
2 Mason JB, Dickstein A, Jacques PF, et al. A temporal association between folic acid fortification and an increase in colorectal cancer rates may be illuminating important biological principles: a hypothesis. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2007, 16:1325-1329.
3 Stolzenberg-Solomon RZ, Chang SC, Leitzmann MF, et al. Folate intake, alcohol use, and postmenopausal breast cancer risk in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2006, 83:895-904.
4 Aggett PJ. Iron. In: Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH, eds. Present Knowledge in Nutrition. 10th ed. Washington, DC: Wiley-Blackwell; 2012:506-20.
5 World Health Organization. Iron Deficiency Anaemia: Assessment, Prevention, and Controlexternal link disclaimer. World Health Organization, 2001.
Huge thanks to Alison for coming on the Expecting and Empowered blog!