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Calories, Exchanges, and Meal Plan Ideas - Bellybar Products

Calories, Exchanges, and Meal Plan Ideas

September 9, 2005

By Marcia Cote, RD

So, how many calories might you be eating while you’re pregnant? The recommendations from the USDA state that 2,300–2,700 calories would be a normal requirement. In my experience, bodies during pregnancy do what they need to do to get by – of course, talk with your doctor about your specific needs. But, I have seen women eat a very sensible diet and gain 60 pounds, and women who could barely eat anything still gain the requisite 25 pounds.

So listen to your body and give it what it needs — trying to stay within your core foods. After the core is satisfied, if you still feel the need to indulge, go ahead. (Note: There’s no need to count calories here — just eat as much of the food in the following plan as you need. I have done all of the counting to assemble this food plan — you just eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. That’s good nutrition!). You can print out the Planning Meals and Snacks Worksheet to help you create your own strategy.

An 1,800–2,300 calorie food plan with 50% carb, 20% protein, and 30% fat has the following numbers of servings: The lower number is to reach 1,800 calories, the upper is for 2,300 calories.

Complex Carbs (8–11 80 calories each): 
You have lots of delicious options here: 1 whole wheat medium-sized tortilla; ½–3/4 cup of most cereals, ½ bun, ½ English muffin, ½ reasonable   bagel, 1/3 cup brown rice, etc.   Fruits and vegetables are also complex carbs but they get their own food group.

Fruits (3–4 65 calories each):
Please eat whole fruits if you can for their fiber content — 1/2 cup chopped is ideal.

Vegetables (4+ 25 calories each):
I recommend cooking your vegetables “al dente”, it preserves the fiber and other nutrients – 1 cup greens, ½ cup chopped is best.

Milk (3 100 calorie servings):
Yogurt, cheese, 1% milk has approximately 100 calories per serving.

Protein (6–8 55 calories per serving):
One ounce of lean meat is a great option.

Fat (3–4 100 calories each):
A quarter of a small avocado, 1 tablespoon of sour cream, 1 tablespoon of olive oil.   All delicious condiments for a snack — perhaps on some whole grain bread or with celery.

Please consult labels and adjust portions accordingly. Make sure all of your meals and snacks contain protein or healthy fat and complex carbohydrates with fiber. I have put together some sample meal plans for you below:

Three Sample Breakfasts:

Option #1
One whole grain bagel** (2-3 complex carbs)
2 tablespoons cream cheese — try a delicious veggie cream cheese (1 protein)
1 cup of yogurt or milk — use soy products if preferred (1 dairy)
A whole piece of fruit (1 fruit)

Option #2
1–1.5 cups of whole grain cereal (2–3 complex carbs)
1 cup of yogurt or milk — use soy products if preferred (1 dairy)
A sliced banana or other fruit (1 fruit)

Option #3
2 eggs (substitute 2 whites for 1 whole egg if cholesterol is an issue) (2 proteins)
2 slices turkey bacon (2 proteins)
2 slices whole grain toast (2 complex carbs)
2 tablespoons of jam (real fruit jam is preferred)

Snack Options (please use these options for all snack opportunities):

Option #1
1 Bellybar (2 complex carbs, 1 protein, 1 EFA)
1 piece of whole fruit (1 fruit)

Option #2
½-3/4 cup of whole grain cereal (1 complex carb)
1 cup of yogurt or milk (1 dairy)
1 piece of whole fruit (1 fruit)

Option #3
¼ cup of nuts (any) (1 EFA)
Raisins or other dried fruit (1 fruit)

Option #4
Whole grain crackers (1 complex carb)
1 String Cheese (1 protein/dairy)

Sample Lunches:

2 slices bread (preferably whole grain) (2 complex carbs)
3 ounces protein (3 ounces is the size of a deck of cards) (3 protein)
1 ounce cheese (1 dairy/protein)
1 tablespoon Mayo (canola) or avocado (1 EFA)

2 cups nutrient dense greens (red and dark green) (2 veggies)
3 ounces protein/cheese (3 protein)
3 tablespoons oil-based salad dressing (1.5 EFA)
Veggies – High nutrient dense such as red/yellow peppers (1 cup = 2 veggies)
2 slices whole grain bread or 2 brown rice cakes (2 complex carbs)

Dinner Components: Note: If you combine these components, you could come up with a stir fry, burrito, soup, casserole, pizza, etc. — use your imagination.

Combination of complex carbs (e.g. tortilla, rice, beans, bread, etc.) (3 complex carbs)
4 oz protein of choice (4 protein)
1 cup veggies, sautéed with olive or canola oil (2 veggies) OR
1 cup greens + 1/2 cup veggies + 3 tablespoons oil-based salad dressing (1 EFA)

*This food plan does not take into account specific health conditions, food allergies, sensitivities, and dislikes. Please refer to for examples of different foods within nutrient categories. Please consult a local dietitian for specific advice concerning specific health conditions and therapeutic diets by going to and clicking on “find a dietitian”.

**Whole grains include the starch, germ, and endosperm of the grain which supply both soluble and insoluble fiber. Your whole grains should have 3–5 grams of fiber per serving. Your goal for fiber is 20-35 grams per day. Caution — if you have not formerly eaten much fiber in the form of whole grains, you should drink a few extra cups of liquid to aid in absorption and elimination.

***EFA- Essential fatty acids are what I call fats in this plan. I have substituted the name because of the negative feelings many have about fats. Some of these fats cannot be made in the body and are therefore essential. They include the fats in nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and all of the vegetable oils providing Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.


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