It is very expected that women will gain weight during pregnancy. In fact, for most people, it is necessary for the well-being of their future baby! A healthy weight gain is ideal after getting pregnant to support fetal development, as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) states. Your growing baby, the placenta, amniotic fluid, and increased blood volume all contribute to pregnancy weight gain, amongst other things. It’s normal to see the number on the scale go up as your due date gets closer, but this may not always be a completely linear path!
Since healthy weight gain during pregnancy is related to all of these critical fetal development functions, it’s important not to put yourself on a strict or restrictive diet while pregnant. So, no, you don’t have to give up ice cream! In addition, as we have mentioned in our post about pregnancy weight loss, you should not actively seek to see the number on the scale go down during this stage of your life, nor should weight loss ever be a goal during pregnancy.
Remember, every pregnant woman will gain a different weight, which makes sense, considering we are all unique individuals. The Institute of Medicine’s pregnancy weight gain guidelines states that the higher your pre-pregnancy weight or body mass index, BMI, is pre-pregnancy, the fewer pounds you should gain during pregnancy. However, BMI is not a perfect tool, far from it, and in general, these are just guidelines!
You can avoid gaining too much weight during pregnancy by adopting simple strategies! And that’s what today’s article is here to explain. So keep reading to learn how to maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy!
How To Maintain A Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Eat a balanced and nutritionally rich diet.
It all starts with the food you feed your body and your growing baby! A balanced diet is vital during pregnancy, as being undernourished can cause fetal development problems and negatively impact your growing baby. In addition, not getting the right vitamins and minerals can lead to low birth weight, birth defects, heart complications, and even mental health conditions for your future child. So eating well during pregnancy will help you avoid unhealthy weight gain and give the best start to baby. Our goal is to help you do this in a realistic, straightforward way, but for starters, here are our favorite healthy breakfast ideas for pregnant women to inspire you.
Drinking enough water is necessary to avoid unhealthy weight gain and support your pregnancy journey! Pregnant women need to drink more water than the average non-pregnant person for many reasons; one, your baby is quite literally swimming in it. Most will need more than your typical ‘8 glasses per day recommendation! The official recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians is to drink ten eight-ounce glasses a day. Still, we have an entire post on the benefits of drinking more water during pregnancy so you can learn why it’s so crucial beyond healthy weight gain!
Try pregnancy-friendly exercise.
Although our focus is nutrition here at The Prenatal Nutritionist, we can’t discuss weight management without mentioning physical activity. There’s no reason to stop moving once you’re pregnant! Exercise is vital in helping you manage a healthy weight gain during this stage. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), starting or continuing a regular fitness routine during pregnancy is healthy as long as no dangerous movements are involved. Don’t shy away from it if you aren’t feeling sick.
Exercise has plenty of health benefits, but finding something you enjoy doing is essential. If you want to exercise regularly, find an accountable friend and do something you enjoy. Just 30 minutes a day can go a long way! On the other hand, you could do five or three days a week and opt for various pregnancy-friendly activities like yoga, cardio dance classes, pilates, and stretching. Always check with your healthcare provider to ensure everything you’re doing to stay active is pregnancy safe.
You can find a balance between sweets and carb-heavy foods.
Everybody knows it’s common to only want sweets and carbs, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. Then, when nausea hits, it is tough to stomach anything other than carbs; we get it. If possible, focus on complex, whole-grain carbs like potatoes, oatmeal, whole-grain toast, high-fiber cereals, and fruits. Between all the highly processed foods, sneaky sources of hidden sugar, and phony health foods, it can be tough to figure out what to eat and avoid.
Try to find some form of fats and protein that will accompany your carbs, like cheese with your crackers, yogurt with your fruit, and nut butter with your oatmeal. Also, eating more carbs than usual in the first trimester won’t make or break your pregnancy weight gain. For example, it is much better to eat pasta than to not eat anything at all. These foods still have tons of nutrients for you and your baby, but keep that protein in mind!
Consider weight check-ins.
Keeping track of your weight gain during pregnancy is a great way to know if you need to make any adjustments as you go, but it is NOT essential. I would not recommend this practice to those recovering from an eating disorder. Only partake in this practice if it truly benefits you; do not do it if it negatively affects your mental health. Your doctor or midwife will likely do routine weight check-ins, so if this is all you prefer to partake in, that is okay, too. Weight check-ins are helpful to some, so they know where they are with their pregnancy weight gain, but to others, it may do more harm than good.
Keep an eye on those cravings.
Cravings are part of all healthy pregnancies, there’s no denying that, and for the most part, they are totally normal. However, they can get out of hand for some people, and if they are really strong, this could indicate a potential problem. Listening to your body is recommended when it comes to cravings like needing a glass of milk for extra iodine, but when the sweet tooth feels overwhelming; this may be a sign of a blood sugar imbalance. So be aware of your cravings and be smart about when you choose to honor them. Sometimes you need to eat what you are craving and move on, but a healthy and sweet alternative will do just fine!
Don’t eat for two – that’s a pregnancy myth.
Several pregnancy food myths, like eating for two, have been accepted as a regular pregnancy thing over the years. We hate to break it to you, but this is a huge myth that needs debunking ASAP! Here’s the deal. Most pregnant women don’t even need to eat any extra food until the second trimester, but this will vary based on the individual.
A tall-tell sign you need to up your intake is feeling hungrier throughout your day. You may read ranges from 200 – 450 more calories depending on the trimester, but know this depends on YOUR weight and personal nutrition needs! You should consult your registered dietitian nutritionist to know precisely how many extra calories you might need to eat. But eating for two is definitely not an accurate recommendation!
How are you maintaining a healthy weight gain during pregnancy?
Those are our favorite strategies to keep a healthy weight gain as a future mom! Remember that both weight loss and weight gain can happen during pregnancy, and you can have a healthy pregnancy with both. As long as the baby is growing well and you’re eating a nourishing diet to meet your nutrient needs, your weight should not be the main focus!
Of course, always check with your healthcare team before making drastic changes to your diet while pregnant. If you want to know exactly what to eat to have a healthy pregnancy, check out The Prenatal Nutrition Library. An all-in-one searchable online hub for up-to-date guidance directly from a pregnancy-registered dietitian, including trimester-specific meal plans!