Gaining some weight during pregnancy is healthy and necessary. However, it is possible to gain too much extra weight while “eating for two.” Some women let their healthy diet and exercise habits go out the window during pregnancy, using the pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever they want.
This has no benefits to the health of the unborn baby and can result in extra pounds that are difficult to shed after the baby is born. Bad eating habits are associated with complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and a difficult delivery.
This guide will provide some helpful ideas for managing eating habits and weight during a pregnancy.
Know Your Target Weight
Determine how much weight you need to gain during your pregnancy. It is not necessary to gain extra pounds over a set goal that is appropriate for each stage. Monitoring your weight by stepping on the scale at the same time each day can keep you on target and prevent you from gaining too many unwanted pounds.
Many people find that mornings are the best time for measuring their weight because fluid and food intake are less likely to have an impact in causing the number to vary.
Talk to your doctor about how much weight you should gain based on your current weight and stage of pregnancy. You will need to gain extra weight if you are carrying twins or multiples than if you are carrying one baby and if you are underweight prior to the pregnancy.
Your doctor can also tell you if you are on track for weight gain depending on which trimester of the pregnancy you are experiencing.
Know How Many Extra Calories You Need
Eating for two is a misleading saying, because you don’t really need to consume that many more additional calories during pregnancy. At the beginning and middle stage of your pregnancy, you will only need 100 to 300 extra calories per day, which is the equivalent of one healthy snack.
Toward the end of your pregnancy, you will need up to about 500 extra calories per day, which is the equivalent of an extra meal or a couple extra healthy snacks per day.
Consume Natural Foods
When adding extra calories, it’s a good idea to make healthy food choices a part of your pregnancy diet rather than eating foods high in sugar and saturated fats. It’s better to gain weight from healthy food sources rather than packing on the pounds by eating foods that are high in calories and fat but low in nutrients.
Pick natural food sources, such as lean meats, fruits, vegetables, milk, legumes, and nuts. When consuming food containing grains, such as breads or pasta, it’s a good idea to pick whole-grain choices rather than foods with refined white flour and sugar.
Make sure to get some healthy fats as part of your balanced pregnancy diet. Healthy fats are found in olive or coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, and certain types of fish, such as salmon. Eat foods that are high in sugar sparingly, as these foods cause your insulin levels to spike, which can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Pay Attention to Nutrition Labels
It’s a good idea to keep track of how many calories you consume each day, as knowing how many calories you need is not helpful unless you are keeping track of what you are eating. There are many applications and programs designed to help you keep track of calories easily that can be downloaded to a computer, smartphone or tablet.
Taking a prenatal multivitamin each day can help ensure you get adequate vitamins and minerals.
Prepare Food Ahead of Time
Preparing meals and snacks before you get hungry is a key strategy for maintaining healthy eating habits. It’s a good idea to create a meal plan at the beginning of the week and cook meals ahead of time when you know you will be busy during the week.
When cooking a healthy meal, it’s a good idea to freeze portions to eat later when you are busy. A meal can be taken out of the freezer the day before you need it and put into the fridge to thaw overnight so it is ready to reheat the next day.
Women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to have an easier labor and delivery and avoid a c-section than women who don’t exercise during pregnancy. Many exercises that you have been doing prior to pregnancy will still be safe to do, especially at the beginning of your pregnancy.
If you were not regularly exercising before pregnancy, it is safe to initiate light to moderate exercise such as walking during pregnancy. The most safe pregnancy exercises include walking, swimming, low-impact aerobics, and utilizing indoor cardio machines such as a stair stepper or an elliptical machine.
Listen to your body when it comes to performing the exercises that you used to do prior to pregnancy. Pregnancy can cause fatigue and make some exercises much more difficult to perform. You can most likely perform a very similar exercise routine to what you are accustomed to doing by reducing intensity and modifying difficult exercises.
Pregnancy exercises are not appropriate for some women who are experiencing a high risk pregnancy. If you have had prior miscarriages or your doctor has warned you about the possibility of miscarriage during your pregnancy, you should talk to your doctor before engaging in an exercise routine.
Women who experience bleeding or spotting should also talk to their doctor to make sure that exercise is safe during pregnancy.
Other Health Factors Affecting Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Factors such as stress and lack of sleep can cause extra weight gain. It is just as important to manage these factors during as it is to eat a well-balanced diet. Pregnancy can add extra stress as you prepare for the baby’s arrival, so it is important to find ways to manage this early on during your pregnancy.
Stress can sometimes cause the release of hormones that can be harmful to the pregnancy and the baby’s health. Healthy diet and exercise habits can be helpful for reducing stress, and you may want to add other stress-reducing habits to your routine, such as prenatal yoga or meditation.
Pregnancy can also cause health-threatening conditions like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Your doctor will test for symptoms of these conditions and others at your regularly scheduled checkups. These can be managed with careful monitoring and a healthy diet and exercise plan.
In summary, if you have been living a healthy lifestyle prior to pregnancy, you will only need to make minor changes to have a healthy pregnancy. If you were not paying attention to your diet or exercising before pregnancy, it is a good time to start monitoring what you eat and begin moderate exercise.
Though people say you can “eat for two” while pregnancy, you really only need to add a couple snacks or an extra meal each day to ensure that you gain only the weight that you need to gain during your pregnancy.