Is It Normal to Be Very Hungry During Pregnancy?

We're going to tell you if it's normal to be very hungry during pregnancy and what mechanisms can be put in place to control this sensation.
Is It Normal to Be Very Hungry During Pregnancy?
Saúl Sánchez

Written and verified by el nutricionista Saúl Sánchez.

Last update: 23 November, 2023

There’s a myth that during pregnancy, it’s necessary to eat for two. That’s not true. However, some women may feel very hungry during pregnancy to increased nutritional requirements. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon and it’s not an alarm signal, so there is no need to worry excessively.

Of course, it’s essential to ensure that nutrition during pregnancy is optimal. You’ll need to guarantee a certain surplus in terms of calories, but this point shouldn’t get out of hand. If you eat in excess, an excessive increase in body weight will be generated, which could lead to the development of complex diseases, such as those of a metabolic type.

Energy needs during pregnancy

In the first trimester of pregnancy, energy needs will hardly be altered. Even so, you may experience a significant increase in appetite. During this period, the embryo is still small enough that it hardly needs more nutrients than a normal diet provides for an adult person.

However, with the passage of time, this situation may change. It’s estimated that from the second trimester of pregnancy, it would be optimal to increase the energy intake by around 300-400 calories to ensure that the fetus develops properly. Of course, it’ll be necessary to implement this strategy through the consumption of fresh and healthy food. Otherwise, physiological inefficiencies could be experienced.

However, in addition to the increase in energy and nutritional needs, there may be another situation that affects the mother’s appetite. It’s what’s known as cravings, these being more frequent during the first months of pregnancy. They respond to a series of hormonal changes that can trigger the appetite for certain types of food.

Of course, you have to be careful with sweets. An excessive consumption of them could increase the incidence of gestational diabetes, as evidenced by research published in the journal Nutrients. For its prevention, it’s best to ensure the maintenance of a good state of body composition, avoiding excess weight. In this way, metabolic function will be optimized.

You’re not always very hungry during pregnancy

Although increased appetite and cravings can be signs of pregnancy, especially during the first months, it’s also possible to experience the opposite. Some women feel nauseous and are unable to eat large amounts of food in the first weeks of gestation, given the hormonal changes that take place in the body.

In these cases, certain dietary strategies can be implemented to control these symptoms, with the aim of allowing optimal nutrient consumption. The most practical of them all has to do with the consumption of ginger. This root has been shown to be effective in reducing vomiting and discomfort, both in pregnancy and during chemotherapy.

It’s a very safe condiment, as today it hasn’t been possible to link its intake with any alteration in the health of the fetus. It’s also versatile. It can be consumed in powder by adding it to almost any culinary preparation. For example, in meat or fish, improving their final organoleptic characteristics.

How to control excess hunger during pregnancy?

A pregnant woman eating plateful of donuts.
Controlling cravings during pregnancy is no easy task, especially when the first impulse is to eat ultra-processed foods like sweets.

If you’re one of those who feel a very hungry during pregnancy, you should know that you’ll need to control this situation to avoid an exaggerated contribution of energy. Otherwise, body weight could be increased excessively, which negatively affects the health of the mother and the fetus. That is why we’re going to give you a series of simple tricks that you can put into practice.

Eat 5 meals a day

In order to calm your appetite, increasing the number of meals a day may be a good idea. In this way, it’s possible to maintain stable glucose in the blood. Taking into account that hypoglycemia is one of the factors that trigger an increase in appetite, this measure can be very effective to avoid eating with anxiety.

Eat more frequent but smaller meals throughout the day. Try to include fresh food in all of them, thus avoiding the ultra-processed ones of industrial origin. These foods contain compounds with inflammatory capacity that can damage metabolic health, such as trans fatty acids.

On the other hand, think that healthy cooking methods should always be prioritized for foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as potatoes. Fried foods generate toxic compounds for the body that condition the proper functioning of the body. It’s always better to choose to boil them in water or to prepare them in the oven.

Increase the presence of fiber in dishes

If a compound has been shown to increase the feeling of fullness, it’s fiber. This is evidenced by research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In addition, this substance manages to improve intestinal transit, reducing constipation in pregnant women. This is a common problem during pregnancy, so the fiber will be a relief.

As if that weren’t enough, part of the fiber manages to ferment within the digestive tract, serving as an energy substrate for the bacteria that live there. This ensures that the microbiota is in perfect condition, which will increase the efficiency of metabolism and reduce the incidence of digestive diseases.

Go to bed early

Staying up late is usually associated with a higher amount of snacking. In addition, this tends to consist of unhealthy foods that are high in simple sugars and trans fats. So, going to bed early could significantly reduce cravings and total calories consumed throughout the day.

To get to sleep, it’s best to avoid exposure to screens and mobile devices in the moments before going to bed. This is evidenced by research published in the Journal of Biophotonics. Another option is to wear glasses that block blue light after dark. This won’t affect the body’s biological clock.

However, you should avoid using supplements during pregnancy such as melatonin. There isn’t enough evidence to ensure that this compound won’t cause alterations in the development of the fetus, so it’ll be necessary to propose other strategies to improve the quality of sleep.

Between meals, eat yogurt

If you have the need to snack between meals, yogurt is the best option. You can combine these foods with other edibles such as nuts and fruit. All of them will provide high-quality nutrients that are capable of helping to improve health. They’re a much better option than resorting to sweets or ultra-processed ones of industrial origin.

On the other hand, yogurts are a source of probiotic bacteria. These contribute to increasing the diversity of the microbiota, which in the medium term, has a positive effect on the functioning of the metabolism. In addition, acting on the bacteria in the digestive tract will also reduce the incidence of digestive problems, according to a study published in Advances in Nutrition.

Drink more water to be less hungry during pregnancy

One of the best mechanisms to control appetite, cravings, and the anxiety to eat has to do with the consumption of a glass of fresh water before main meals. This is stated in an article published in Clinical Nutrition Research . This strategy is widely used in the context of weight loss diets, although it can be useful during pregnancy to avoid an unwanted increase in adipose tissue.

Now, it’ll be decisive to consume natural mineral water. If sparkling water is ingested during the gestation period, stomach and digestive discomfort could increase, so it isn’t suitable. Also, avoid soft drinks and juices. Both elements contain a very high amount of simple sugar.

Keep in mind that maintaining a good state of hydration is essential during pregnancy. A situation of water imbalance could cause irreparable damage to the fetus, including miscarriage. Therefore, you’ll need to optimize your liquid intake, especially during the hottest months.

Guarantee protein

When it comes to generating satiety, proteins and fats have a much higher power than carbohydrates. Therefore, it’s best to prioritize the appearance of these nutrients in the main meals of the day. It’s always important to ensure that the ingested proteins are of high biological value, with all the essential amino acids and a good digestibility score.

For this, it’s optimal to resort to foods of animal origin. They’ll be able to provide a large number of nutrients, so the risk of experiencing a deficit during pregnancy that puts the proper development of the fetus at risk will be reduced. However, if an inefficient contribution is suspected, the need to supplement should be consulted with a specialist.

How much weight can you gain during pregnancy?

A pregnant woman holding her belly.
While it’s clear that body weight will increase with advancing pregnancy, diet will determine how much of this increase will be due to the accumulation of fatty tissue.

Finally, you should know that during pregnancy, women tend to gain 26 pounds on average. A lower increase in weight could indicate that the development of the fetus hasn’t been completed correctly. A higher increase could be determined by a negative change in the mother’s body composition, something that isn’t positive for health.

In order to stay on average, it’ll be necessary to follow an optimal dietary pattern that provides nutrients while keeping energy intake under control. Controlling excess hunger through the mechanisms outlined will be essential to ensure that everything goes well.

It’s normal to be very hungry during pregnancy

As you’ve seen, being very hungry during pregnancy is totally normal. The nutritional requirements are increased and a series of hormonal alterations are experienced that can affect the regulation of appetite. For this reason, the diet will have to be adjusted to avoid nutritional deficits, while ensuring that you won’t overeat.

Keep in mind that to ensure that the fetus develops optimally, you’ll need to combine a proper diet with other good health habits. Getting a good night’s sleep will be decisive. Regular exposure to sunlight will also stimulate development and avoid vitamin D deficiencies. Finally, and as much as possible, it’ll be important to practice gentle physical activity.

  • Mustad, V. A., Huynh, D., López-Pedrosa, J. M., Campoy, C., & Rueda, R. (2020). The Role of Dietary Carbohydrates in Gestational Diabetes. Nutrients12(2), 385.
  • Stanisiere, J., Mousset, P. Y., & Lafay, S. (2018). How Safe Is Ginger Rhizome for Decreasing Nausea and Vomiting in Women during Early Pregnancy?. Foods (Basel, Switzerland)7(4), 50.
  • Warrilow, A., Mellor, D., McKune, A., & Pumpa, K. (2019). Dietary fat, fibre, satiation, and satiety-a systematic review of acute studies. European journal of clinical nutrition73(3), 333–344.
  • Wahl, S., Engelhardt, M., Schaupp, P., Lappe, C., & Ivanov, I. V. (2019). The inner clock-Blue light sets the human rhythm. Journal of biophotonics12(12), e201900102.
  • Dimidi, E., Christodoulides, S., Scott, S. M., & Whelan, K. (2017). Mechanisms of Action of Probiotics and the Gastrointestinal Microbiota on Gut Motility and Constipation. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)8(3), 484–494.
  • Jeong J. N. (2018). Effect of Pre-meal Water Consumption on Energy Intake and Satiety in Non-obese Young Adults. Clinical nutrition research7(4), 291–296.

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